The countdown has officially begun for Bakersfield College's football opener.
Twenty-one. That's the number of practices the Renegades have remaining before the Sept. 6 season opener at Riverside.
The first official practice was held Thursday afternoon, with about 110 of the 115-person preseason list of players.
"We have a lot of good competition going on and as you know, competition breeds success," said BC coach Jeff Chudy, who is starting his 11th season.
The Renegades went 5-5 last season (3-3 in the National Northern Conference) and were ineligible for postseason play stemming from sanctions handed down by the league and California Community College Athletic Association stemming from rules violations in 2012.
BC is postseason-eligible this season.
"I like where we're at right now," Chudy said. "We're ahead of the game from where we were a year ago in terms of the competition going on, the competition for spots, teamwork stuff and attitude."
Helmets were issued to the players prior to Thursday's practice.
The players were all dressed differently, with various colored shorts, T-shirts and tank tops.
That changes today when all players will be issued practice gear, Chudy said in a post-practice meeting with the team.
"I'm just excited to get out here and run around with my teammates," said sophomore running back Curtis McGregor, a stalwart on the 2012 state championship team with 931 rushing yards and seven touchdowns who did not play last season after returning to his home in Texas. "It really feels good to be out here. I've been trying to work hard."
Logan Soto, a freshman tight end from Tehachapi, said he was excited to get his helmet.
"I'm ready. I can't wait," Soto said. "I got my helmet today and I can't wait to get pads."
The CCCAA won't allow teams to wear full practice gear until the fourth practice. For BC, that's the second practice Saturday. The CCCAA only allows two-a-day practices on Saturday in the preseason.
But teams are allowed to conduct physical education classes in the off-season for football players and also allows summer school football classes.
Chudy said "95 percent" of BC's players participated in a 13-week class starting in late January plus the summer school class.
"There's a sense of urgency now," Chudy said. "Everything until this point, whether it was our summer school class or spring class, was basically focused on conditioning, becoming a better athlete in the weight roon, working on our flexibility, our mobility, our strength, our speed.
"Now everything we're doing is fundamental development working toward our first game Sept. 6."
Chudy said he has been very pleased with the chemistry shown by this season's squad.
"There have been some years in the past where that was going to be an issue and you're trying to force camaraderie and the teamwork aspect.
"These guys have really bought into the way we do things. ... These guys (returnees) have done a great job of helping new guys out and teaching them what the expectation level is. That's a plus so far."
BC will hold an intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 23 that will play a huge role in determining who will likely start and play extensively in the season opener.
"That's a huge deal for us. That right there will separate some guys," Chudy said.
Two other players who have returned to Bakersfield missed Thursday's practice, reportedly for personal reasons -- freshman running back D.J. Martin, a former Stockdale standout who was recruited to Eastern Washington but did not play last season, and sophomore wide receiver Marquise Johnson, who had a team-high 10 TD catches and averaged 23 yards per reception on BC's state championship team in 2012.