Fresh off its best season in eight years, the Southeast Missouri football team is back to work.
SEMO held its first official practice of the spring in preparation for the 2019 season on Monday. The Redhawks will practice 15 times in four weeks. That stretch of workouts will end with the team's spring game on Apr. 13.
The Redhawks, who have 75 players on their spring roster, took the field at the Rosengarten Athletic Complex for a two-hour practice in helmets Monday afternoon.
SEMO returns 15 starters, including 10 on defense and five on offense. That group includes Omardrick Douglas (OLB), DJ Freeman (CB), 2018 Buck Buchanan Award winner and Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year Zach Hall (ILB), Bydarrius Knighten (SS), Daterraion Richardson (NT), Justin Swift (OLB) Clarence Thornton (DT), Al Young (CB), Taj Jenkins (FS), Ryan Ochoa (DT), Daniel Santacaterina (QB), Zack Smith (WR), Kristian Wilkerson (WR), Elijah Swehla (G) and Austin Crump (TE).
A big priority for the Redhawks this offseason will be the offensive line, an area which SEMO lost four starters. The Redhawks added a total of 14 offensive linemen to their 2019 class and five of those players are junior college transfers participating in spring drills. Ja'Chai Baker (6-6, 295, Iowa Western CC), Terry Cook (6-4, 295, Cisco College), Dane Nelson (6-1, 295, Ventura College), Manny Pride (6-3, 300, Laney College) and Jaden Rosenthall (6-2, 305, Butler CC) are those individuals.
SEMO finished its 2018 season at 9-4 overall and 6-2 in the OVC, and ranked #15 (STATS Media) and #16 (AFCA Coaches) in the final FCS Polls. The Redhawks beat two ranked opponents, including #4 Jacksonville State and #15 Stony Brook. SEMO snapped JSU's OVC-record 36-game conference winning streak and beat Stony Brook to get its first-ever postseason victory.
Statistically, the Redhawks led the nation in turnover margin (+1.85), turnovers gained (36), interceptions (23) and fumbles lost (1). SEMO also broke six single-season school records. The 2018 team accumulated two National Defensive Player of the Year honors, 21 All-America awards and nine All-OVC accolades. Tom Matukewicz, who begins his sixth season as SEMO's head coach was the 2018 Roy Kidd OVC Coach of the Year.
All of SEMO's spring practices are open to the public.
Follow the Redhawks on Twitter @GoSoutheast.