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Big Rapids, Mich. - The 105th season of Ferris State University football is officially underway as the Bulldogs held their first practice Thursday on a sunny afternoon at FSU's Top Taggart Field.
The Bulldogs, who reported to camp on Tuesday with nearly 130 student-athletes on hand, practiced for the first time on the Mondo Ecofill artificial surface at the stadium on campus. The two and a half-hour workout was spirited and much work was accomplished despite the fact players were only allowed to wear helmets per NCAA regulations.
"I thought for an opening day that the enthusiasm was great and the energy level was high," said FSU head coach Tony Annese. "It was a great afternoon and I was very pleased to be out here coaching football with guys who know what we want to achieve.
"I'm pleased and it was a night and day difference over a year ago in terms of guys knowing our system and executing. We had more athletes and more energy along with a better culture and were more enthusiastic about what we are doing," he added.
Prior to Thursday's opening practice, the Bulldogs spent time on Wednesday and Thursday morning with various team and position meetings in addition to physicals, equipment check out and more.
FSU's second practice will take place on Friday afternoon and the Bulldogs will continue single practice sessions on the turf until the first two-a-day workouts are allowed. Based on the NCAA's acclimation period, all players must wear helmets only the first two practices followed by two days of half-pads work with the first day in full gear coming on Monday and the first two-a-day session on Tuesday.
Ferris' three-week training camp period will not only feature practices and scrimmages, but also meetings, lifting, conditioning, testing, orientation sessions and more leading up to the season opener.
The Bulldogs return more than 40 letterwinners and 17 starters from a year ago when they finished with a 7-4 overall record in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) during Annese's debut campaign.
Ferris State begins its 105th season of varsity competition by facing a North Dakota State on Sept. 7 at Gate City Bank Field inside the Fargodome at Fargo, N.D. The Bison are the two-time defending Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Champions and the preseason number one team in the country. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. (ET) and the contest will be televised live by ESPN3.
The week one test will kickoff an 11-game Bulldog football slate in 2013 that features five home contests at Top Taggart Field and a 10-game GLIAC schedule. FSU will play its home opener the following week on Sept. 14 as the Bulldogs open league action in Big Rapids against the Lake Erie Storm starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
Expectations are high at Ferris State in year two under Annese. The Bulldogs posted a 7-4 overall mark in his debut season last fall (2012) and FSU ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in both rushing offense and total offense.
The Bulldogs recorded several impressive wins under Annese's direction a year ago, including beating archrival Grand Valley State in the Anchor-Bone Classic for the first time since 1999, snapping a 10-year losing streak to Michigan Tech and topping defending national runner-up Wayne State for the first time in five years. FSU also managed to win seven games for only the second time in the past decade despite facing one of the nation's two toughest schedules in Division II football during the regular-season, according to the Massey Ratings.
Besides putting together an impressive debut season with the Bulldogs, Annese and his staff also inked what is considered to be the nation's top incoming recruiting class in Division II football, according to FootballScoop.com.
Both season and individual game tickets for all 2013 home contests are now on sale and can be purchased thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office by calling (231) 591-2888 or online at StarTickets.com. For more information, please visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com.