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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Big Sky Football Preview

Cal Poly Team Preview:

The Cal Poly Mustangs have experts mystified. Looking at the various polls, Cal Poly has been ranked 14th in the FCS by The Sports Networks while Sporting News ranks Cal Poly as fifth in the FCS.

Expected by coaches and the media to finish fourth in the Big Sky Conference, one spot lower than their third-place ranking last season, Cal Poly will need to improve upon their 9-3 overall and 7-1 league record if they expect to win the conference this fall.

The Mustangs have the talent to repeat a top-three finish in the Big Sky. Cal Poly had the top-scoring offense in the Big Sky last year, averaging 36.7 points per game. With a star running back and a solid passing attack, the Mustangs should once again put up points.

On defense, the Mustangs have the ability to shut teams down. They were third in the Big West in scoring defense, only giving up an average of 23.7 points per game. With many of their players returning, Cal Poly should be able to maintain this rock-solid defense.

Offensive Star Players:

Junior running back Kristaan Ivory will be a key offensive player for the Mustangs. Rushing for a total of 2,059 yards, with 95 receptions and 263 tackles in three seasons at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, Cal Poly recruited Kristaan Ivory in 2011, with high hopes of his continued success as a Mustang.

Ivory played all 11 games for Cal Poly as a true freshman in 2011, mainly as a special teams player. However, Ivory’s role increased his sophomore year, where he filled in as a backup to running backs Deonte Williams and Cole Stanford. He earned 728 total yards and eight touchdowns in 2012.

Defensive Star Players:

Cal Poly’s defense looks strong coming into the 2013 season, with two of its stalwarts in defense leading the charge. Junior linebacker Nick Dzubnar is expected to improve upon his already stellar performance of 107 total tackles last season. This season he will move to middle linebacker, and is on the College Football Performance Awards watch list for linebackers.

Joining Dzunbar on defense is two-year team captain and senior Sullivan Grosz, who is expected to start at defensive tackle for his third straight year. Putting up huge numbers as a Mustang, Grosz has 118 career tackles. Last season, he led the team with 58 tackles and six sacks. Grosz is once again expected to once again put up big numbers his senior year.

— Sloan Boettcher

Sacramento State Team Preview:

Dropping from their fifth-place ranking last year, the Hornets are expected to come in sixth according to coaches and the media in the Big Sky Conference. Although Sacramento State is projected to drop in rankings, they have added new offensive line coach Bill Laveroni, who has coached multiple hall of famers and worked at Cal, Vanderbilt and for the Seattle Seahawks.

With the offensive line’s starting five averaging 6-foot-5 and 298.6 pounds, the Hornets have potential to have a tough offensive line which can lead the running game and protect the quarterback. Although the solid offensive line is a good starting point for the Hornets, they will need to perform well on both defense and offense if they want to see success this coming fall.

The Hornets sustained their first loss of the season in their 24-0 opening loss against San Jose State on Aug. 29. Although they lost, the Hornets kept the Spartans within reach throughout the four quarters with standout performances from Garrett Safron — who passed for 192 yards — and Ezekiel Graham, who rushed for 49 yards.

Offensive Star Players:

After redshirting his freshman year, the Hornets’ junior quarterback Garrett Safron played five games during his 2011 season, sharing playing time with quarterback Tommy Edwards.

Eventually winning the starting position, Safron came into his 2012 season with his position locked up. He started every game in 2012 and was named as a honorable mention to the all-Big Sky team. Setting multiple single-season records for Sac State, Safron is expected to experience continued success out on the field coming into the fall.

Safron threw for 2,540 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also ran for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Safron’s ability to be a dual-threat quarterback will definitely help keep opposition defenses guessing.

Defensive Star Players:

Sacramento State’s standout defensive player, senior Osagie Odiase, has deservedly earned his starting spot at defensive back. His consistency throughout the 2012 season was a big part of his being named to the second team all-Big Sky team last season.

Starting all 11 games last year, Odiase finished the season with 65 total tackles, ranking him second on the team. He also led the team with three interceptions, eight pass breakups and 47 solo stops.

Odiase’s consistency was evident as he recorded a tackle in all 11 games. The Hornets will need to draw upon that consistency if they wish to improve upon last year’s 6-5 record.

— Sloan Boettcher

Southern Utah Team Preview:

Finishing last season having a .500 winning percentage in the Big Sky and a 5-6 overall record, the Thunderbirds have plenty of room for improvement. Pre-season rankings for the Big Sky Conference by the media and coaches predict Southern Utah to come in ninth this year.

A three-place drop from last year’s sixth place ranking gives them the largest projected drop in ranking from 2012 to 2013 of all the teams in the Big Sky. Although the drop in ranking could be discouraging for SUU, with three preseason all-Americans and preseason all-Big Sky performers heading into 2013, there is still hope for a big year out of the Thunderbirds.

Senior placekicker Colton Cook and senior offensive lineman Gavin Farr each earned a variety of all-American honors. Offensive star player and wide receiver senior Fatu Moala was named to the all-Big Sky Conference first team as well as the all-American second team.

With solid players returning this fall, coach Ed Lamb hopes to prove the media and coaches’ ranking wrong, improving upon last year’s record.

Offensive Star Players:

A walk-on player in 2009, senior wide receiver Fatu Moala earned his way onto the team and redshirted his first year as a Thunderbird. His first big season came in 2011 where he played 10 games and started in seven. He caught 26 passes for 370 yards in 2011. 2012 was a standout season for Moala, who received second-team all-Big Sky honors after leading the Thunderbirds’ offense with 65 receptions for 801 yards and nine touchdowns.

With three 100-yard receiving games, and big games against Montana, Eastern Washington and North Dakota in 2012, Moala is expected to do big things for SUU as one of their senior starting wide receivers.

Defensive Star Players:

Young sophomore Leshaun Simms starts again at defensive back for the Thunderbirds this season. After redshirting his freshman year in 2011, Simms played 10 games with nine starts in 2012, missing only one game due to injury.

Simms totaled an impressive 37 tackles and 22 solo tackles, and co-led the team with three interceptions. He will be a key factor in stopping opponents in the passing game. The Thunderbirds struggled greatly stopping the pass as they gave up 261.5 passing yards per game.

Simms will need another good season to help improve the pass defense for Southern Utah. With two more years of eligibility, he is expected to continue to grow and succeed for Southern Utah.

— Sloan Boettcher

Montana Team Preview:

Montana looks to be a team on the rise. It has plenty of playmakers on defense, a preseason All-American quarterback, and an up-and-coming running back. The Grizzlies have the talent to be a top-three team in the Big Sky, maybe even winning the conference.

Montana struggled last year with redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Johnson having to sit out due to personal issues. He will definitely improve a passing attack which struggled greatly last season and was one of the weak points for the Grizzlies.

Alongside Johnson will be junior running back Jordan Canada. Last season as the backup running back, he ran for 622 yards along with four touchdowns. This season, as he sees more carries, he should have a more productive campaign.

On the defensive end, the Grizzlies are loaded with players who have the ability to make big plays and will definitely cause problems for opposing offenses. With such a strong offense and a talented defense, Montana will be the team to watch in the Big Sky.

Offensive Star Players:

Sitting out a year would be problematic for most players. However, for Jordan Johnson, he is coming into this season with even more expectations. As a preseason All-American and Walter Payton candidate, many experts expect great things from Johnson.

This is not surprising as his sophomore campaign two years ago was an impressive one. He threw for 2,400 yards passing and 21 passing touchdowns. Johnson also ran for 506 yards during the season.

If Johnson can continue his progression, Montana will have a dangerous offense which could win games. Johnson has the ability to carry the Grizzlies to the top of the conference.

Defensive Star Players:

Montana gave up 26 points a game last year, which indicates a fairly pedestrian defense. However, when looking at the talent the Grizzlies have, they have the potential to be a dominant defense.

Senior linebacker Jordan Tripp made plenty of big plays for the Grizzlies last season as he had 95 tackles and 5.5 sacks in an outstanding junior campaign. He was second on his team in both tackles and sacks.

On the defensive line, the Grizzlies have the sack machine junior defensive end Zach Wagenmann. He had a monster sophomore year with 50 tackles, including 13 for a loss. But most importantly, Wagenmann had 11.5 sacks. Look out for Wagenmann as he wreaks havoc on opposing offensive lines this season.

— Kenneth Ling

Northern Colorado Team Preview:

Mediocrity is going to sum up the Northern Colorado Bears’ season. An above-average offense and a below average defense will cause the Bears to struggle to win games this season.

The offense, which will be led by senior quarterback Seth Lobato and senior running back Tromaine Dennis, should be a pretty strong one.

Dennis will provide a veteran presence and some much needed sting in the Bears’ running game. The Bears — aside from Dennis — struggled greatly in the running game, as evidenced by the measly 173 yards rushing gained by the rest of the team. He will keep pressure off of Lobato.

Defensively, the Bears will struggle. Last year, the Bears gave up an abysmal 411.1 yards per game along with 29.5 points per game. Northern Colorado also lost three of its top-five leading tacklers from last season.

With a shaky defense and an offense which is carried by its two star players, Northern Colorado will definitely struggle to win games. The Bears will need to definitely bring their A-game every game this year in order to win games in the Big Sky.

Offensive Star Players:

Entering into his senior year after an impressive junior campaign, senior quarterback Seth Lobato is ready to start where he left of last season. Lobato is not afraid to throw the ball, as evidenced by his 254.3 yards per game average last season, third in the conference. He finished last year with 2,797 yards passing and 19 touchdowns thrown.

Lobato’s production was crucial in any success Northern Colorado had. His 21 total touchdowns led the way for the Bears. Lobato, with three rushing touchdowns, was the only player besides Dennis to score a rushing touchdown for the Bears last season. In order for Northern Colorado to succeed, Lobato must play well.

Defensive Star Players:

Senior defensive end Gavin Miller was one of the bright spots on the mediocre Northern Colorado defense. He was able to provide some pressure on the quarterback, as he was second on the team with three sacks last season. This was almost 20 percent of the Bears’ total sacks. He had the most tackle for losses on the team, with 8.5. All in all, Miller had a good season on a team which really struggled on defense. If Northern Colorado has any hope of improving its defensive, Miller will need to produce even more than he did last year.

— Kenneth Ling

North Dakota Team Preview:

North Dakota plays an exciting brand of football. The offense scores in bunches but the defense give up points in bunches. Overall, this leads to entertaining games but not winning football. This was evidenced by its 5-6 record overall last season, which included a disappointing 3-5 record in the Big Sky.

On offense, North Dakota can score with the best of them, averaging 33.5 points per game last season, fourth in the Big Sky. They will be led by its senior star wide receiver Greg Hardin and the stellar group of receivers who caught a total of 30 receiving touchdowns last season. Points should not be scarce for North Dakota.

On defense however, North Dakota will definitely need some improvement. They gave up 34.5 points per game last year and 480 yards per game, which was 11th and 12th in the conference respectively. There needs to be a serious defensive overhaul for North Dakota to win some games. However, if they can lower the amount of mistakes made on defense, North Dakota has a good chance of earning a winning record this season.

Offensive Star Players:

North Dakota’s offensive catalyst is not its running back or its quarterback, but rather its senior wide receiver Greg Hardin. His unbelievable performance against Montana last year included 13 catches for an astounding 333 yards and three touchdowns. Hardin showed he can dominate any game at any time.

Last season, Hardin caught 65 passes for 1,145 yards, earned a 104.1 yards per game average and scored 15 touchdowns, leading North Dakota. Hardin has gained national recognition for his performances and was named an All-American last season. The offense will go where Hardin carries them this season.

Defensive Star Players:

Usually when a defensive back gets noticed, it is because he gives up big plays. Not the case for junior defensive back Baylee Carr, as he was instrumental in holding together a weak defense last season.

Despite a horrendous defense, Carr managed to put together a solid season leading the team in tackles, with 55. He also managed to force a fumble. Carr was the person who North Dakota relied on to make plays on defense.

While much of Carr’s statistics were due to a porous defense, he managed to slow other teams down. He will definitely need to continue to do so if North Dakota hopes to win this season.

— Kenneth Ling

Northern Arizona Team Preview:

The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks are led by head coach Jerome Souers, who is entering his 16th season as the head coach of the program. The team enters the 2013 season with six players being voted onto the All Big Sky Preseason team, which is the most for any school out of the conference.

The team was ranked 18th in the preseason FCS Coaches poll. NAU finished third in conference play last year with an 8-3 overall record. That record is misleading however, as the team was 8-1 before a triple overtime loss to Southern Utah and a one-possession loss to Cal Poly ended their postseason hopes.

This year the Lumberjacks return a number of stars from last year, including seniors Zach Bauman and Lucky Dozier. Their favorable schedule this season should help them maintain their elite standing in the Big Sky. With home games against Montana, North Dakota, and Northern Colorado, the potential trouble games would be at Montana State, and at Cal Poly. With consistent play and maybe a bit of luck, an 8-3 season again this year is likely, with a 9-2 finish not out of the question.

Offensive Star Players:

Zach Bauman is a 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior running back who is the only player in school history to record three consecutive years of 1,000 yards rushing. He enters this season only 119 yards shy of breaking the school’s career rushing record. Bauman, a candidate for the Walter Payton Award for the second straight season, is a member of the 2013 All Big Sky Preseason team.

He has rushed for 100 yards or more in 18 games in his career. Bauman displays great field vision and possesses a quick burst through the line to find the open field. Bauman will look to use his senior status to lead his team throughout the season.

Defensive Star Players:

Lucky Dozier is a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior defensive back who is a native of Sacramento, Calif. Dozier recorded 57 tackles and had four interceptions last season, which tied for first amongst the Big Sky conference. He was selected as NAU’s defensive player of the year in 2012.

He is also a 2013 All Big Sky Preseason team pick, on the back of earning All Big Sky First team honors for his performance last season. Dozier is quick and can capably play either zone or man-to-man coverage. He also possesses a great burst when he makes tackles. Dozier’s experience and talent will help to lead the Lumberjacks’ defense this season.

— Vic Anderson

Idaho State Team Preview:

It has been a period of growing pains for the Idaho State Bengals. Completing the 2012-2013 season with a 1-10 overall record and a 0-8 in conference record, nothing appeared to go right for the Bengals.

The Bengals’ defense gave up close to 40 points against every Division I opponent they faced, and nearly 70 points to Nebraska, Montana, Portland State and Cal Poly. Controversy also surrounded coach Mike Kramer for much of the season when he allegedly pushed down and injured his own player, wide receiver Derek Graves.

The upcoming season does not look bright for Idaho State. Already projected to finish at the very bottom of the Big Sky, the Bengals are not a top-tier team.

They do, however, have an improved defense, which includes preseason All-Conference team senior linebacker Trevor Spence and 2012 freshman All-American safety Taison Manu. Idaho State can also look to the potential of their newest recruiting class which include 13 players who signed their national letters of intent.

Offensive Star Players:

For two seasons, junior quarterback Justin Arias played backup to Kevin Yost. Now, Arias is “the man” to lead the Idaho State Bengals and hopefully produce a successful season after last year’s disaster of a season.

“I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was two years ago,” Arias said. “The game has slowed down. Before, it was like I’d break the huddle and start looking at the defense. Now things are at a better pace for me.”

Although appearing in eight games and completing 36 of 69 passes for 348 yards, Arias was named to the 2011 Big Sky All Academic team.

Defensive Star Players:

In a program that has struggled for multiple years, linebacker Trevor Spence may be a hidden gem in a defense which was horrendous last season. The Bengals gave up roughly 570 yards per game last year.

Spence played in all 12 games of 2012, recording a team high 90 tackles with three sacks. He also had one interception and had a season-high 20 tackles against Cal Poly. Spence was named to the Big Sky Preseason defensive team, making him the only Bengal from the squad to earn that honor.

With the Bengals struggling on the defensive side of the ball, Spence will need to put up extraordinary numbers to keep his team in games.

— Shaun Moncada

Eastern Washington Team Preview:

Finishing 11-3 overall and 7-1 in conference, coach Beau Baldwin hopes to continue the trend of consistent winning for another year. Entering his sixth season, the Eagles bring back three All-Americans; as well as freshmen All-Americans Vernon Adams, Jordan Tonani and Shaquille Hill.

“Even though we have positions with a lot of experience returning, there is competition throughout our team,” coach Baldwin said. “It’s exciting to see the new youth and talent we have in our program.”

The road to another league title and playoff berth will take the Eagles to some of the toughest football venues in America. The Eagles will visit two teams that played in bowl games, Oregon State and Toledo, as well as traveling to two-time NCAA Football Subdivision runner-ups, Sam Houston State.

“The way you can handle a challenging schedule is improving in what we do and not [getting] caught up with one or two games on our schedule,” coach Baldwin said. “We need to improve on what we do to be successful each week. That is the best way to put us in a good position at the end of the year.”

Offensive Star Players:

Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams was a nine-game starter at quarterback last year and played phenomenally. He was the FCS Freshman of the Year on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America team and also was just one of 20 players nominated for the Jerry Rice Award, which is given to the top freshman in the FCS by The Sports Network .

In those nine games Adams played last season, he completed 60.9 percent of his passes for close to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Besides the arm, Adams has established himself as an agile quarterback, accumulating 191 rushing yards for the season. He will carry the team this year.

Defensive Star Players:

All-American senior Ronnie Hamlin will be anchoring the Eagles’ defense. He had a run of success in 2012, which included 136 tackles in just 22 of 25 games, fifth best in school history.

Hamlin has also been named one of 20 players to the Buck Buchanan Award watch list, given to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.

Hamlin’s successful run of play will be needed again, as EWU head into the season ranked third to fourth in most of the country’s preseason polls. Hamlin will need to justify the hype this season if the Eagles hope to replicate past success.

— Shaun Moncada

Montana State Team Preview:

Although losing in the quarterfinals of the 2012 NCAA Division I Football Championships, the Montana State Bobcats capped one of the most successful seasons since 1984. The 2012 season extended an impressive streak of being ranked for 43 consecutive weeks.

It is hard not to admire Montana State’s 11-2 overall record and 7-1 conference record of last season. Although averaging a modest 33.5 points per game, which ranked just fifth in the Big Sky Conference, Montana State led the conference in scoring defense, giving up only 21 points per game.

While MSU lost several integral pieces from last season’s success, 18 freshmen will hope to make an immediate impact for the Bobcats. A few of these signees include freshman running back Gunnar Brekke, who was named state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, and freshman Devin Jeffries, Montana’s Class AA co-Defensive Player of the Year.

Big Sky Conference coaches and media members have already named Montana State favorites to win the league for a fourth straight season.

Offensive Star Players:

Senior quarterback DeNarius McGee will lead conference favorites Montana State into the upcoming season. McGhee, who has thrown for more than 9,000 yards and accumulated 71 career passing touchdowns in his time at MSU, is on pace to break school and conference records. His 30 wins as MSU’s starting quarterback is among the best in the Big Sky, and he has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 37 of 38 career games.

Already named 2013 Big Sky Conference Preseason MVP, placed on the All-American Team, and landing his name on the Payton Award Watch List, McGee is poised to have another spectacular season.

Defensive Star Players:

Senior defensive end Brad Daly was not always the star player for the Bobcats. His first two seasons at Montana State were spent playing out of position and feeling the pressures of following his All-American father and brother. This prompted Daly to leave the program.

Luckily for the Bobcats, Daly returned for his sophomore year and recorded 12.5 sacks. By his third year, Daly became an every-down player, claiming starting honors at defensive end.

Now, already named Preseason All-Big Sky First Team, he currently ranks first in career sacks among all-active FCS players with a total of 18.0. Daly hopes his good form continues into the 2013 season.

— Shaun Moncada

Portland State Team Preview:

Despite having only 11 returning starters for the 2013 season, the Vikings and head coach Nigel Burton have more than a few things going for them that should help them improve on last season’s 3-8 record overall. Sophomore quarterback Kieran McDonagh stepped into the lineup as a freshman last season and ran the offense with a deep running game.

The offensive success — 217.5 rushing yards and 34.8 points per game — should continue this season because a more seasoned McDonagh can run the ball effectively or hand it off to junior Shaquille Richards and the impressive senior DJ Adams.

The Vikings’ defense, on the other hand, has lost several starters and is now run by new defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. Coach Burton can only hope that the defense will improve under Hill’s system, as the Vikings cannot afford to give up an average of 36 points a game, their average last season. While the Vikings may not get seven wins like they did in Burton’s first year in 2011, they should perform better than last season.

Offensive Star Players:

Big Sky All-Conference team running back DJ Adams is expected to lead the Vikings’ offense as a senior this season. The 5-foot-10 and 210-pound Norcross, Ga. native is a powerful yet quick back. Adams had an outstanding first season at PSU and led the Vikings in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2012.

He rushed 164 times for 967 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, while also averaging 5.9 yards a carry. Adams has five 100-yard games in 12 career games at PSU, and is ranked fourth in the Big Sky Conference in rushing and fifth in touchdowns. He will definitely be the main force in the Vikings’ running game.

Defensive Star Players:

Jaycob Shoemaker, a senior linebacker from Sacramento, Calif. is anticipated to lead the Vikings and their defense this season. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Shoemaker led the team last season in tackles with 141 and tackles for loss with 15.5.

Despite missing almost a season and a half due to a broken leg, he came back and started every game of last season. Shoemaker ranked second on the Vikings in tackles with 79 and led with 12 tackles for loss, ultimately earning him a Big Sky Honorable Mention last season. He also had two sacks, an interception return for touchdown, and three quarterback hurries.

— Jordanna Baddeley

UC Davis Team Preview:

This season will surely be one of change for the Aggies as Ron Gould takes over as head coach after the 20-year run of Bob Biggs. During his time as the running back coach at Cal, Gould produced several successful running backs and will have an easy job doing so with the talented senior Colton Silveria.

Gould inherited other offensive forces in junior wide receiver Corey Galindo, who averaged 18.3 yards per reception last season, and the Big Sky All-Conference junior fullback Dalton Turay. The Aggies’ offense should be able to take pressure off of their defense.

Despite losing the team’s leading tacklers, linebackers Jordan Glass and Byron Gruendl, the Aggies’ defense will indisputably be the backbone of the team and its success. The defensive front is led by senior Nick King, who is unyielding in rushing the passer. They also have reliable cornerbacks in the form of experienced seniors Jonathan Perkins and Dre Allen. With 15 returning starters and a new head coach, the Aggies should not be taken lightly this season.

Offensive Star Players:

Junior fullback Dalton Turay will surely be an offensive weapon for UC Davis this season. After scoring a team-high eight touchdowns during his first season last year, the Pleasanton, Calif. native was the only fullback and Aggie named to the Preseason All-Big Sky Conference team.

Turay averaged 4.3 yards a carry last year, finishing the season with 234 yards and 55 carries. He scored the team-best seven rushing touchdowns, three of which came during the second quarter in the Aggies’ 37-13 win over Weber State. Turay also caught 21 passes for 156 yards, and ran for a season-high 58 yards against nationally ranked Eastern Washington.

Defensive Star Players:

Despite suffering two injury-plagued seasons at Davis and picking up only four tackles his first two seasons, senior Nick King persevered and started all 11 games last season, emerging as one of the Aggies’ leaders in 2012.

The defensive end from Mill Valley, Calif. was aptly chosen as a team captain this season after proving himself a force on defense, having led the Aggies in sacks, with 6.5 for 42 yards, tackles for losses, with 14, and tying for the team high in quarterback hurries. He also forced two fumbles and finished with 48 tackles. King’s production will be key for the Aggies’ success.

— Jordanna Baddeley

Weber State Team Preview:

Jody Sears stepped in as the interim head coach last season and Weber State lost their first seven games and finished 2-9, their worst record since 2004. Regardless, Sears was signed to a three-year contract, and the Wildcats will undoubtedly try to quickly make improvements in his second season.

Their non-conference schedule will prove most difficult, and the opening half of the Big Sky season will not be much of a cake walk either. Although 14 starters are returning, the 2013 Wildcats will not be a senior-dominated group.

However, senior Anthony Morales is one of the conference’s top linebackers and senior Erik Walker is sure to have a stand-out season as wide receiver. Jordan Adamczyk is another senior expected to step up and should perform as the new starting quarterback.

While the Wildcats did lose offensive powerhouse C.J. Tuckett as running back, they get back a huge talent in junior fullback Bo Bolen after his two-year Latter Day Saints mission. The Wildcats will need him to pick up where he left off in 2010 if they wish to have a more successful season.

Offensive Star Players:

Erik Walker returns for his senior season at wide receiver for Weber State. In his first game of the 2013 season, the Park City, Utah native has already proved himself an offensive threat, having made seven catches for a career-high 127 yards and one touchdown.

In three years, Walker has appeared in 30 career games at WSU and has 37 receptions for 530 yards and six touchdowns. In 2012, he ended the season with 22 receptions for 403 yards and five touchdowns. Walker earned the second highest average in receiving yards per game for the Wildcats at 36.6, and should be a key for the Weber State offense.

Defensive Star Players:

Anthony Morales returns for his senior season with the Wildcats as a top returner in the Big Sky. In three years at Weber State, the middle linebacker from Edmond, Okla. has played 30 career games and had 242 career tackles, earning him a spot on the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference team.

He led the conference and was third in the nation in tackles in 2012 with 12.0 tackles per game. Morales totaled 108 tackles on the season in the nine games he played, with 48 unassisted and 60 assisted. He had 9.5 tackles for loss for a total of 26 yards. His consistent tackling will be a great asset for the Wildcats.

— Jordanna Baddeley


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