The Southeast Missouri State University football team will have a new quarterback for the first time since 2009, and the player wasn't the team's first choice.
Now the reins have been handed to redshirt-freshman Scott Lathrop.
"Scott's just a good, competitive guy," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "We liked him way back in high school. [He's very] competitive and just knows how to win."
The Redhawks have 12 players with starting experience returning on offense, including running back Levi Terrell, who has recovered from a broken collarbone he suffered against Tennessee State that ended his season a year ago. Terrell ran for 312 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season.
"We're not going to change much," Samuel said. "Our offense is versatile enough that we can do stuff to fit the style of our quarterback and the rest of our personnel."
The Redhawks had the fewest passing yards and completions of all OVC teams last year. The team returns its two leading receivers, D.J. Foster and Spencer Davis, who led the team with three receiving touchdowns apiece.
"I feel like I got the guys around me that I can get the ball to them, and let them make the plays," Lathrop said. "I'm going to make plays myself, but I feel like I got some talent around me, and it's going to help me out quite a bit along with a great offensive line."
Senior and former All-OVC first team offensive tackle Evan Conrad was named to the College Sporting News Preseason All-America Team and to the Sports Network Preseason All-American second team. Offensive tackles Ben Schmidt and Dominic Maldonado and offensive guards Colt McCauley and Pete Niggeman have starting experience.
"I think getting me out of the pocket helps my vision a lot," Lathrop said. "I'm not the tallest guy, but getting me out will help out a lot because I'll be able to see everything. And even if there is nothing there I can take off and get whatever I can."
"We got a lot of people stepping up," Peiffer said. "Our D-line is playing better this year. All around we know the defense better, and everybody is just flying around, and we are having fun right now. "
Southeast's defense allowed the most rushing yards in the OVC last season and second fewest passing yards. Opponents attempted 221 more rushes than passes against Southeast.
Southeast finished 3-8 overall and 2-6 in conference play last year. In 2010, the team won the OVC, finished with a 9-3 record and was eliminated in the second round of the FCS playoffs by Eastern Washington 37-17.
The Redhawks were picked to finish seventh in OVC this season by the coaches and sports information directors of the member schools.
"I really don't know how people are going to look at us," Peiffer said. "They ranked us seventh, but that doesn't matter. Yeah, they will see the starting quarterback going down, but they've got to think too that we have people who can back him up."