Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- The University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) football team returned to the practice field on Saturday afternoon, starting that program's 80th season of competition.
Head coach Bob Nielson and the Bulldogs have won two of the past four NCAA Division II championships, and he said Saturday he's excited to be on the field with a chance to win another.
"It's always a good feeling, that first day," Nielson said. "It's a chance to see the team together for the first time. There's a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm."
UMD was picked to win a fifth consecutive Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) regular season title in the preseason coaches' poll, but Nielson said he doesn't buy too much into preseason polls.
This year's team is captained by Duluth Central gradaute Garth Heikkinen along with Chase Vogler, Ben Helmer, Joe Akey, and Cameron Harper.
The Bulldogs' biggest newcomer, perhaps, is Division I transfer student Jake Bscherer from the University of Wisconsin. He is a 6-foot-7, 310-pound left tackle that comes to UMD after appearing in 37 games across three seasons with the Badgers.
UMD opens its 2012 regular season with a road game against Southwest Minnesota State on August 30, with the team's first home game coming September 8 against Winona State.