CONWAY -- There weren't many new faces Thursday morning as the University of Central Arkansas football team took the field for practice.
A handful of transfers, some freshman looking to make an early impression and a few players making the transitions to new positions -- but most of the Bears' 2022 squad returned to kick off fall camp Thursday, just as Coach Nathan Brown drew it up.
"I thought our old guys, the guys that have been here, looked great," Brown said. "I mean, they played fast, had a good pace of play, made a lot of plays and then the bottom line is that's what you're looking for when you have this many guys back on your roster is retention. And I thought we had that this morning."
UCA returns 18 of 22 starters from a team that finished 5-6 last season. Looking forward to a new season, a new conference -- the United Athletic Conference -- and some of the highest expectations of his six-season tenure as head coach, Brown said this group is picking up where it left off.
"I don't think there's any question that we're well ahead of where we were a year ago," Brown said. "And that's a testament to us retaining our players. And that's not easy to do in the college football landscape the way it is now. But our guys get it. We're probably three or four days into an install sheet where today would be an install one with a young group. And that's something we're excited about as coaches.
"That's a double-edged sword. We're also holding those guys to a higher standard and they've got to understand that."
The Bears open the season against Oklahoma State at Stillwater, Okla., on Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. Central. The teams have met once, with the Cowboys taking a 32-8 victory on Sept. 12, 2015.