Monday, April 11, 2011

Southern Utah Thunderbirds 2010 Review

2010 Record: 6-5 (4-0), 1st Great West
2010 Postseason: None
2010 Schedule/Results: @ Wyoming, L 28-20; San Diego, W 32-3; @ San Jose State, L 16-11; @ Texas State, L 42-28; Northern Arizona, L 26-23; @ North Dakota, W 31-21; Cal Poly, W 20-7; South Dakota, W 31-13; @ UC-Davis, W 55-24; Dixie State, W 52-0; @ Eastern Washington, L 31-24


     When you consider the early season difficulty of the schedule for SUU, you have to wonder how this team survived to have a winning record. The T-Birds played exceptionally tough in some losses that could have easliy gone the other way, especially against FBS opponents in Wyoming and San Jose State. SUU lost those two games by a combined 13 points last fall. Had they won just one of those games, it could be said that SUU may have stolen an FCS playoff bid. Ed Lamb did a tremendous job as head coach to keep this team floating, and as a reward was given a contract extension that will keep him in Cedar City for some time to come.
     The offense was a firework show at times, and OC Steve Clark had some serious weapons at his disposal. It all started with a tremendous sophomore QB who was named as a finalist for our QB of the Year on the FCS level in Brad Sorensen. Sorensen had a very nice season, passing for 3163 yards while completing 66.9% of his passes. Sorensen tossed for 21 TDs on the season, a number that SUU hopes will increase in 2011, while limiting himself to throwing just 6 INTs last fall. He has amazing composure for such a young QB, and will be a senior when the T-Birds move to the Big Sky for 2012.
     Where SUU needs improvement is in the run game, where junior hometown product Austin Minefee led the team, but was limited to 730 yards in 11 games. Minefee rushed for just 5 TDs on the season, but will be back as a senior in 2011. The major issue is that there will be very little experience behind Minefee, as second leading rusher Deckar Alexander moves on after rushing for 405 yards in 2010. No other SUU back rished for 100 yards for the season in 2010.
     SUU would give anything to get Tysson Poots back in 2011, but the star receiver moves on. Poots was an electric receiver, and he shredded opposing defenses for a line of 85-1230-11 last fall. He leaves an obvious huge hole in the offense. Even worse news is that second receiver Fesi Sitake also departs after a senior season in which he was a huge factor in piloing up a line of 82-877-5 as a compliment to Poots. 3rd receiver Robert Ah Sue, is another departure for 2011, meaning that Sorensen will be throwing to a huge crop of inexperienced skill receivers.
     Defensively, SUU had one of their better seasons in recent memory. DC Justin Ena, a former BYU defender, led his unit to a huge season in which SUU held opposing offenses to 21 points or fewer 6 times. Offenses only averaged 309.7 yards per game against the Thunderbirds, and SUU only gave up 24 TDs while the offense scored 38.
     Junior safety Blake Fenn led the team in tackles in 2010 with 97, while CB Akeem Anifowoshe, a senior was second with 87. Troy Bunting (68), Erron Vonner (60), Colin Pretlow (56), Dion Turner (54), and Tyler Osborne (52) all eclipsed the 50 tackle mark giving the T-Birds a highly productive unit that made the fundamental plays that allowed SUU to defend to a solid level. Osborne was a beast up front and in the backfield, as he collected 18.5 TFLs for the season. Osborne, a LB, will return as a senior in 2011, and should be a key figure for the defense. He was joined in double figures for TFLs by Anifowoshe, a CB, who collected 12 as a blitzing specialist out of the slot. Osborne also led the team with 7 sacks on the season.
     Vonner, a junior CB, was highly active in the pass defense, as he defended a total of 14 passes in 2010. He will be the leader in the secondary in 2011, as this group only allowed 193.5 yards through the air in 2010, a very respectable number. Pretlow, Turner, and Matt Holley all contributed 9 passes defended on the season, while Trent Barney and Cameron Morgan added 8 to give the T-Birds one of the deepest secondary units in the FCS. Holley, a sophomore safety, added 3 picks to lead the team.
      SUU used two different PKs in 2010, and there were some issues as a team. SUU only connected on 16 of 25 FGs in 2010. Brock Miller, a freshman, was the leader with 12 of 17, while Ryan McNamara only hit on 4 of 8. McNamara was a junior, so they'll likely be competing for the job once more. Trent Barney and McNamara shared the punting duties, but neither averaged 40 yards or better. SUU needs another answer there.


SUU came very close to breaking into the big boys club, but an over ambitious schedule held them back in the end. The T-Birds get one more season in 2011 to prove that they belong in the FCS power club, or they will be looked at as mere cannon fodder in 2012 when they move into the Big Sky Conference. Sorensen is a huge talent at QB, but the loss of every key receiver from last season, especially Tysson Poots, will be a real impediment. It's going to be a bumpy ride this season, so hold onto your seats.

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