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Big Rapids, Mich. - The reigning NCAA Division II National Finalist Ferris State University football team, which is a consensus top two team nationally in every Division II preseason poll, officially began preparations for the 2019 campaign as the squad held its first practice on Monday.
The Bulldogs' newcomers and veterans hit campus on Sunday (Aug. 11) for player check-in and meetings along with orientation activities. The Bulldogs then held their first full team practice on Monday afternoon with a spirited and high-energy session on the team's new artificial turf surface at Top Taggart Field. FSU will practice once per day under the NCAA's guidelines and restrictions.
Ferris' 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. FSU will also hold its annual Media/Photo Day on the afternoon of Aug. 30.
FSU will begin its eighth season this fall under head coach and two-time Football Gazette Regional Coach of the Year Tony Annese and is expected to contend for its sixth-straight NCAA Division II playoff appearance with the return of nearly 60 letterwinners from a year ago.
The Bulldogs will open the 2019 campaign with high expectations after a historic season last fall that saw FSU reach the NCAA Division II National Championship game for the first time in school history.
The Bulldogs are presently listed first in the country entering the year by both the Massey Ratings and the CompughterRatings.com polls. FSU was also tabbed second behind defending national champion Valdosta State by three other sources, including Lindy's Sports, Street & Smith's and College Football America.
This year marks the fourth time in the past five years the Bulldogs have been tabbed as one of the country's top three teams in at least one preseason national ranking.
The Bulldogs will begin their 111th season of varsity competition this coming fall with their sights set on making a sixth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. FSU returns 18 starters from last fall's historic campaign.
Along with reaching the national title game, the Bulldogs captured the GLIAC Championship in 2018 and won the Super Region Three title by winning their first four NCAA Playoff games en route to a historic run. The four playoff wins included FSU's first-ever National Semifinal victory at Minnesota State. Recently, SB Nation labeled FSU as Michigan's best football team of 2018 regardless of division.
Ferris State will open the 2019 season at home under the lights on Thursday, Sept. 5, against the Findlay Oilers in non-league action at Top Taggart Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Over the last five seasons at Ferris State, the Bulldogs have compiled a 60-8 overall record and claimed three conference championships, posted three unbeaten regular-seasons, captured two regional titles and reached the national quarterfinals three times. Ferris State has also accumulated three Harlon Hill National Player of the Year trophies, twice had a student-athlete tabbed as the nation's National Scholar-Athlete of the Year and won 10 postseason games.
The Bulldogs hold the nation's best record over the past five seasons and are one of only four teams in all of college football at any NCAA level to win 11 games each of the last five years along with Alabama, Ohio State and North Dakota State. FSU is also the only D2 team in the country to reach the national quarterfinals for three consecutive years and the Bulldogs' five-straight playoff appearances is the second-longest longest streak in the nation.
FSU's 15 wins this past year were the most in school history and the Bulldogs' 15-straight wins overall also set a new school record. Ferris State's 60 wins in the last five years (2014-18) marks the Bulldogs' best five-year stretch in school history.
In the seven seasons under head coach Tony Annese, the Bulldogs have become a national power on the Division II level. FSU has posted a 75-15 overall mark in the last seven years and the Bulldogs have also posted the best winning percentage of all 21 collegiate programs in the state of Michigan along with the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) since his arrival. Twice he's been tabbed as the Super Region Coach of the Year at Ferris State and this past season was named both the GLIAC Coach of the Year and the Hero Sports National Coach of the Year.
Overall, Annese has won 85% of his games as a head coach on the collegiate and prep levels and owns 300 wins to date, which is the most of any current GLIAC member head coach at all levels.