After finishing 6-5 overall and 5-4 in the Southland Conference last season, the Cardinals football team isn’t expected to be among the top football teams this year, according to a conference poll.
In fact, the University of the Incarnate Word is expected to finish ninth in the coaches’ poll and eighth in the sports information directors’ poll released in July.
But Cardinals Head Coach Larry Kennan pays the polls no mind.
“I don’t worry about stuff like that (preseason polls),” said Kennan, who is entering his fifth season as head coach. “This is a hard league. There are five or six truly great programs in the league in terms of players, coaches and facilities. There are no gimme wins in this league.”
The Cardinals have seven returning players who started at least 19 games including junior quarterback Trent Brittain, a junior criminal justice major from Eastland who led the conference in passing yards and total offense. Returning on the defensive side, which last year allowed the fewest yards per game of any Division I school in Texas, is senior inside linebacker Josh Zellars, who needs just 73 tackles to become the school’s all-time leader. Zellars, last year’s second-leading tackler, has 177 in his career.
Zellars, a senior finance major from Baytown, also was among three Cardinals named to the preseason all-Southland Conference team. The other two were senior safety Adrian Norwood Jr., a senior marketing major from Waco, and senior punt returner Jordan Hicks, a senior psychology major from Arlington.
Norwood is entering a third year as a starter at safety. He has made at least 55 tackles in each of the past two years and has five career interceptions, the most on the active roster. Hicks is a multipurpose threat who returned the first punt in school history for a touchdown last year while holding down a starting spot at wide receiver where he had 32 grabs for 375 yards and three scores in 2015.