Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer began his Tuesday press conference precisely at the stroke of noon as a crowd of reporters and writers gathered around.

    The Bengals open their season Saturday as Dixie State visits Holt Arena, and there were plenty of questions regarding expectations for the 2013 season just waiting to be asked.

    But they would have to wait.

    Eight minutes had passed before an amped up Kramer finally took a break to hear his first question.

    “We’re obviously excited about watching some new guys play, and we’re excited about watching some older guys, who have been in the program for a long time, greatly improve their athletic proficiency,” he said. “We also have a couple of returning guys that are also some of the best in the conference. So, I’m excited to watch us play at 3:05 on Saturday.

    “It can’t come soon enough.”

    But why? After a dismal 2012 season that saw ISU’s defense set history — in a bad way — what could there be to have the Bengals’ third-year coach so passionate about beginning the year? Part of it, at least, has to do with the newness of his coaching staff and the schemes it installed.

    “The biggest change, of course, in our whole, entire program is on defense,” Kramer said. “It’s a complete renovation. It’s a destruction of what we’ve built. It’s a complete reconstruction of what we want to be.”

    Kramer hopes that this “renovation,” plus a host of players who are bigger, faster and stronger can turn the tide. He wants more than just a serviceable defense, but one that can help his team win games.

    “Our defensive front has never really been dominant here,” he said. “I think we have bigger size and better players in that front now. We go deeper.”

    Kramer specifically brought up 308-pound Tyler Kuder, a nose tackle who has made his mark during camp.

    “Tyler ... is a guy that I’ve talked quite a bit about,” he said. “He gives us good size in the middle. He’s got great speed and good quickness off the ball. He’s really been a force throughout the (fall).”

    PJ Gremaud, Mitch Beckstead and Trevor Spence will also help stem the tidal wave of running backs that torched the Bengals a season ago. Kramer says he will use 13 linebackers this season.

    “The sideline path will be well-traveled by that linebacking corps,” he said. “We’re not just going to sink four guys onto the field and say, ‘OK. Stay out there the whole time.’”

    As much as Kramer is aware of what his players can do, it’s the unknown factors that have him antsy to begin the year. When it comes to the wholesale changes on one side of the ball, his glass is half full.

    “As we look forward to our third season as a staff here, the changes that we have made in response to the growth within our program, I think, are pretty substantial,” Kramer said.

    Idaho State and Dixie State kick off from Holt Arena Saturday at 3:05 p.m.

    Notes: Senior Brendon Garcia has won the placekicking job over freshman Zak Johnson, Kramer announced Tuesday. Aaron Prier and Dan McSurdy will return kickoffs, while Luke Austin will return punts. Prier, McSurdy and Xavier Finney are listed as co-starters at running back. All three are expected to get playing time.