The Samford Bulldogs finished their 2021 spring football season on April 17 with a bout against the #23 Mercer Bears in Birmingham. The Bulldogs won the game convincingly, 44-20.
This win gave the Bulldogs a 4-3 final record, pushing them to above .500 for the first time since 2018. This was head coach Chris Hatcher’s first season above .500 without current NFL quarterback Devlin Hodges.
The Bulldogs overcame several challenges this season, one of them being an abbreviated seven-game schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, the Bulldogs only played teams within the Southern Conference.
Another challenge for Samford this season was acclimating a new offensive and defensive coordinator to the team in the same season. Hatcher brought in Nick Benedetto from the University of Sioux Falls to lead the defense, and promoted Mitch Stewart, the former wide receivers coach, to lead the offense.
Though much of the Samford game plan looked similar, there were some significant improvements on both sides of the ball.
The Samford defense is infamously known for having one of the weaker secondaries in the conference, giving up copious amounts of passing yards in almost every game. This year, Benedetto was ready to change the culture.
Benedetto’s squad only allowed 27.3 points per game, compared to 37.8 last year. They also recorded eight interceptions and 21 sacks on the year. The defense looked fresh and recharged each and every game under Benedetto.
An amazing surprise this year has been the leadership and dominance of quarterback Liam Welch. Welch threw 12 touchdowns this season and 373 yards per game.
Welch’s incredible spring season was recognized when he received the 2021 SoCon Offensive Player of the Year Award. This award comes after being on the bench for four seasons, and finally breaking into his anticipated role as starting quarterback for the Bulldogs.
This time of year would normally be the offseason with summer training soon to come. This year; however, the Bulldogs have to gear right back up and prepare for the fall season.
“I think this win shows our team what we are capable of doing,” Welch told Samford Sports after defeating Mercer. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but this is a good sign.”
On April 9, the 2021 fall season schedule was released, giving fans and players a look into what the next season holds. The Bulldogs will begin their season on Sept. 2 against Tennessee Tech of the Ohio Valley Conference. They will also travel to Gainesville, Florida, on Nov. 11 to take on FBS opponent Florida.