Mostly an empty place during the cold, harsh winter months, Bearcat Stadium is about to be brimming with activity again.
More than three months removed from the end of the 2012 season, Northwest Missouri State's football team opens spring practice Monday afternoon on what's projected to be a 34-degree day with a chance of snow.
The Bearcats have practices scheduled all of next week, then take off for Spring Break before reconvening Apr. 2. They conclude spring drills with an intra-squad game Apr. 20 at Bearcat Stadium tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m.
Northwest Missouri State head coach Adam Dorrel says this year's set of spring practices will serve two main purposes.
"The number one thing you do every year is an examination of your football program," said Dorrel. "You watch cut-ups, go through some information breakdowns of what you're good at and what you're not. We add some new schemes every year based on the personnel we have. The second one which is big this year is just to solidify the two-deep. We're going to have a lot of kids this year fighting for spots that are really young."
Northwest returns the equivalent of nine offensive starters and five on defense from last year's team that finished 10-3 and lost in the second round of the playoffs to Minnesota-St. Mankato.
Trevor Adams enters his second year as the starter at quarterback, with James Franklin III and Billy Creason as the lead backs and the entire offensive line in tact with the exception of All-American left tackle Rod Williams.
Northwest graduated four of its front seven starters on defense and both safeties, but retained starting corners Brandon and Brian Dixon, starting defensive ends Matt Longacre and Rickey Bailey and linebacker D.J. Gnader, a two-year starter who led the team in tackles last year.
The only big question mark on either side of the ball is at wide receiver where the Bearcats lost their No. 1 and 2 pass catching threats, Tyler Shaw and Jordan Simmons. Other than underneath target Bryce Young, who had 36 catches last year, no other returning receiver had more than six.
"We've got some kids there that can do it," said Dorrel. "They just haven't proven it on a consistent basis. We feel real good about the tight ends we've recruited the last two years. Some are going to be redshirt freshman or redshirt sophomores that haven't played much. We really feel like they can help our program. Look for a lot of two tight end stuff. That's making us the most versatile."
Along with receiver, Northwest has position battles ready to take place on the interior defensive line, linebacker and kicker.
Another one worth monitoring is back-up quarterback.
Page 2 of 2 - Brady Bolles held that job last year along with Tyler Seals who is no longer with the team.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Zimmerman could push Bolles for the back-up spot this spring after an impressive first season on the scout team.
"I'm really excited to watch them compete," said Dorrel. "I'm excited to watch that position unfold. Trevor is a very good football player, a great leader. Brady has grown a lot in one year's time and we've got a guy in Kyle that was the freshman of the year as voted on by his peers. I think that's going to be a good battle. Brady and Kyle are truly dual-threat quarterbacks. They can beat you with their feet or they can beat you with their arm."
Dorrel says the Bearcats do not have any mid-year transfers debuting with the team this spring, a change over recent years past.
The only new face is one Bearcat fans should be familiar with.
Bryce Enyard, the MIAA Freshman of the Year in 2011, has rejoined the team after sitting out last year because of academic reasons and will compete for one of the open safety jobs.