TOPEKA (KSNT) – It’s hard to improve on a 9-2 conference season, but Washburn football is focused on the season that still ended too soon.

The Ichabods proved they could hang on to close games this past season, such as the walk-off against Fort Hays State and upsetting then-No. 2 Northwest Missouri. However, their season ended after the first NCAA playoff game.

The 2022 squad has a lot of those returning players, including AP All-American JJ Letcher, Kevin Neal and Grant Bruner. The ‘Bods also have a healthy mix of new players, who help keep things fresh and exciting for the vets.

“We’ve got a lot of new energy,” Neal said. “A lot of people from different areas. I think that’s helped our overall team morale. Getting to know everybody has been super cool, and the team-building groups. I think that’s going to help us a lot in our chemistry for this year.”

Quarterback Kellen Simoncic isn’t new to the team, but he is new to holding the starting role. Simoncic started one game in 2021 while Mitch Schurig was recovering from a concussion. He also came into the game against Northwest Missouri just four drives in to complete the upset.

“We’ve been working a lot, from the spring, to the summer to now,” Letcher said. “We’ve been working a lot. Our communication and our chemistry has gotten a lot better since he first became that starter for us, so I’m looking forward to it. I know he’s looking forward to it. We’re just ready to get out of camp and play our first game.”

Washburn’s season begins Thursday, Sept. 1.