BOWLING GREEN — The skies were gray Friday morning, spitting enough rain to wet the turf at Doyt Perry Stadium. The clouds and rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Bowling Green State University football team as it conducted its first fall practice in preparation for the coming season.
“It’s great to get out there and work with your team, especially in a year when you have so many guys back,” Falcons coach Dave Clawson said. “We had a great off-season — our strength levels have never been higher.”
BG, which opens its season at home against Tulsa on Aug. 29, returns 17 starters from last season’s team 8-5 team, which included a 6-2 mark in Mid-American Conference play and a berth in the Military Bowl.
Not everything was sunshine and rainbows as 105 Falcons worked out in helmets and shorts. Several players, including a pair of offensive starters, did not return to a Bowling Green squad picked to finish second in the MAC’s East Division.
Offensive tackle Fahn Cooper, who started at left tackle as a redshirt freshman last season, is gone. Clawson said he and the rest of the team have been aware that Cooper may not be back since the end of the school year.
“It was not a discipline issue — he wasn’t kicked off the team or told he couldn’t come back,” Clawson said of Cooper. “Like a lot of young men between the ages of 18 and 22, he has a lot of things going on in his life. He and his family thought it was in his best interest to be at home right now.”
Another loss was that of running back Anthon Samuel, who did not return after leaving school before spring semester. Friday was the first time Clawson could talk about Samuel’s departure, since he was considered a “potential recruit” in the spring.
“I never got a feeling that he was coming back,” Clawson said. “We met and spent a lot of time; if we knew for certain he was coming back, it would have been different.
“But at the point he indicated he wanted to come back, the only thing we could tell him was that the next scholarship that became available would be his. The NCAA only lets you have 85, and we were at 85.”
Clawson confirmed that the program and Samuel remain on good terms.
“It’s important that he is with his wife and son, and that decision was made in December,” Clawson said. “I think he’s happy, and feels good on all fronts with what he’s doing.
“And we wish him nothing but the best. There’s no animosity — we are big Anthon Samuel fans.”
Also, cornerback Johnny Joseph left the team at the end of the spring semester. Joseph played in four games as a redshirt freshman last season and was credited with one tackle and two passes broken up.
“Every year in college football you’re going to replace starters,” Clawson said. “Usually it’s for graduation reasons. Even with those players gone, we still have 17 starters back. There are a lot more proven players returning than lost.”
NOTES: Freshman running back Eric Harrell was taken to Wood County Hospital as a precautionary measure after he appeared to suffer from dehydration during practice. He is expected to return to the team once that issue is resolved. … Eastwood product Clay Rolf, a redshirt junior, has moved from tight end to offensive tackle.