Monday, July 11, 2011
Big Sky 2011 Preview
Eastern Washington Eagles
2010 Record: 13-2 (7-1), Tied 1st
2010 Results: Nevada, L 49-24; C. Washington, W 35-32; Montana, W 36-27; @ Montana State, L 30-7; @ Weber State, W 35-24; Northern Arizona, W 21-14; @ N. Colorado, W 35-28; Sacramento State, W 28-24; @ Portland State, W 50-17; S. Utah, W 31-24; Idaho State, W 34-7; SE Missouri State, W 37-17; North Dakota State, W 38-31; Villanova, W 41-31; Delaware, W 20-19
Overview: The Eagles are coming off of their first title ever, and they look like a solid bet to make a run at another. Bo Levi Mitchell returns to the fold after passing for 3496 yards and 37 TDs last fall. Taiwan Jones is gone at RB, but never fear, as sophomore RB Mario Brown showed that he was capable in the playoffs. Brandon Kaufman returns as a junior after leading th conference in receiving last fall with 1214 yards and 15 TDs. Nicholas Edwards returns as well.
Defensively, EWU loses JC Sherritt at LB, which is huge. Zach Johnson looks ready to take over, however, after he averaged 8.93 tackles per game as a junior last fall. Matt Johnson will lead in the secondary once again after picking off 5 passes and recording 7 tackles per game.
Mike Jarrett will hopefuly improve at PK after just hitting 10 of his 19 FGs last fall, and Cameron Zuber will have to be replaced at punter.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Washington; 9/10 @ South Dakota; 9/17 @ Montana; 9/24 Montana State; 10/1 Weber State; 10/8 @ Northern Arizona; 10/15 Northern Colorado; 10/22 @ Sacramento State; 10/29 Portland State; 11/12 @ Cal Poly; 11/19 @ Idaho State
Montana State Bobcats
2010 Record: 9-3 (7-1), tied 1st
2010 Results: Fort Lewis, W 59-10; @ Washington State, L 23-22; Drake, W 48-21; E. Washington, W 30-7; @ Sacramento State, W 64-61; Portland State, W 44-31; @ N. Arizona, L 34-7; N. Colorado, W 37-35; @ Idaho State, W 23-20; Weber State, W 24-10; @ Montana, W 21-16; North Dakota State, L 42-17
Overview: The Bobcats had a terrific season in 2010, until the playoff date with NDSU, where the wheels just fell off of the wagon. MSU is in awesome shape again this fall, as terrific QB Denarius McGee returns to the fold after passing for 3163 yards and 23 scores as a freshman. Orenzo Davis rushed for 1126 yards, and he returns to bolster the backfield as well. The Bobcats lose Julius Lloyd, but Elvis Akpla returns after posting 43-682-4. Everett Gilbert should step into the number 2 slot.
On defense, MSU held 6 opponents to 21 points or less last fall. Aleksei Grosulak returns as the leading tackler from last fall. Grosulak recorded 88 total tackles last fall. Zach Minter returns as the new leader up front, but Dan Ogden will be missed. Darius Jones will be the leader in the secondary after defending 11 passes last season.
Jason Cunningham was the Big Sky's best kicker last fall, having nailed 20 of 24 attempts, and is back as a senior. Rory Perez will try to improve on his 38 yard average as a freshman last fall.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Utah; 9/10 UC-Davis; 9/17 Minot State; 9/24 @ E. Washington; 10/1 Sacramento State; 10/8 @ Portland State; 10/15 N. Arizona; 10/22 @ N. Colorado; 10/29 Idaho State; 11/5 @ Weber State; 11/19 Montana
2010 Record: 7-4 (5-3), Tied 3rd
2010 Results: Western State, W 73-2; @ Cal Poly, L 35-33; @ E. Washington, L 36-27; Sacramento State, W 28-25; @ N.Colorado, W 30-7; Idaho State, W 47-28; @ Portland State, W 23-21; N. Arizona, W 24-21; @ Weber State, L 30-21; N. Dakota, W 27-17; Montana State, L 21-16
Overview: Montana missed the playoffs for the first time in 18 years last fall, and the Grizzlies are sure not to let that slide. Late season losses to Weber State and Montana State doomed the Grizzlies, and the Weber State loss was likely the bullet keeping them out of the postseason. Nate Montana will likely step in at QB for the Grizzlies after transferring from Notre Dame. Montana is an unproven commodity so far, and is not a lock for the starting job. The Grizzlies also lose Chase Reynolds at RB, meaning Gerald Kemp will attempt to take over in the backfield after rushing for 224 yards last fall. Antwon Moutra and Jabin Sambrano are the leading receivers and combined for 75 receptions last season.
The Grizzlies are led on defense by the LB trio of Caleb McSurdy (112 tackles), Jordan Tripp (99 tackles), and Alex Shaw (62 tackles). They will certainly miss the play of Erik Stollin the secondary, but Trumaine Johnson looks to take over the leadership role in the back 4.
Brody McKnight is back at PK after a solid 14 FG season, but he will have to improve upon his 38 yard average in the punting game.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Tennessee; 9/10 Cal Poly; 9/17 E. Washington, 9/24 @ Sacramento State; 10/1 N. Colorado; 10/8 @ Idaho State; 10/15 Portland State; 10/22 @ N. Arizona; 10/29 Weber State; 11/5 W. Oregon; 11/19 @ Montana State
Sacramento State Hornets
2010 Record: 6-5 (5-3), Tied 3rd
2010 Results: @ Stanford, L 52-17; W. Oregon, W 31-17; Weber State, W 24-17; @ Montana, L 28-25; Montana State, L 64-61; N. Colorado W 42-7; @ E. Washington, L 28-24; @ N. Arizona, W 40-10; Portland State, W 28-15; @ Idaho State, W 45-17; @ UC-Davis, L 17-16
Overview: The Hornets finished strong last season, and finished the season looking like a team that was ready to move up and challenge the traditional powers. They lost to Montana, MSU, and EWU by a combined 10 points last season, making them the dangerous dark horse in 2011. Jeff Fleming is building himself up to be one of the better QBs in the conference, and he passed for 2044 yards and 23 TDs last fall. Bryan Hilliard rushed for 883 yards last season, but missed two games. Chase Deadder finished 5th in the Big Sky in receiving last fall, and returns for his senior season. Morris Norisse finished with a strong freshman season as well, giving Fleming two solid targets.
Defensively, the Hornets lose their best player inthe secondary in Peter Buck. The Hornets do bring back Zach Nash up front, as he comes off of a 16.5 TFL season, best in the conference. Nash has to be hoping that Jeff Badger can give him more support from his LB spot this season. Nash also added 13 sacks to his pile. Kyle Monson will have to step up to replace Buck, and he defended 7 passes last season, giving the Hornets some hope.
Chris Diniz is a huge loss at PK, as he hit on 13 of 15 FGs last fall. Augie Heath returns, but had the worst average of punters who qualified in the conference with a 36.55 yard average.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Oregon State; 9/10 @ S. Utah; 9/17 @ Weber State; 9/24 Montana; 10/1 @ Montana State; 10/8 N. Colorado; 10/22 E. Washington; 10/29 N. Arizona; 11/5 @ Portland State; 11/12 Idaho State; 11/19 UC-Davis
Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
2010 Record: 6-5 (4-4), 6th
2010 Results: W. New Mexico, W 48-0; @ Arizona State, L 41-20; @ Idaho State, W 32-7; @ S. Utah, W 26-23; @ E. Washington, L 21-14; Montana State, W 30-7; @ Montana, L 24-21; Sacramento State, L 40-10; @ N. Colorado, W 21-14; Weber State, L 27-26; Portland State, W 62-14
Overview: The Jacks fell short of what they could have been last fall, and this season does not look like a good season to break the streak of underachievement. NAU brings in a new QB in Chasen Stangel, as Mike Harrick has moved on. Stangel did play some last fall, and held his own in limited action, so all is not lost. NAU can always depend on their run game, as Zach Bauman returns after rushing for 1059 yards and 14 scores last fall. Giovanni Dixon returns as well, and he rushed for 512 yards and 3 scores. Austin Shanks looks to take over as the number one receiver this fall, and he was solid last season, but needs to become a bigger downfield threat after averaging just 9.43 yards per catch last fall. Mike Czyz will step into the number two spot.
NAU loses their top tackler in Reid Washington, and there were few playmakers last season to replace him now. Scott McKeever is the closest thing, as he led the team with 9 total TFLs last fall. Isaac Bond will try to step it up on the line, but the Jacks had heavy losses up front. NAU also loses Taelor Worrell, who led the Big Sky in passes defended with 11.
Matt Myers returns as the PK after hitting 14 of his 18 tries last fall, While Drew Zamora returns after averaging 42.19 yards per punt on the season.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Arizona; 9/10 Fort Lewis; 9/17 @ Portland State; 9/24 Idaho State; 10/8 E. Washington; 10/15 @ Montana State; 10/22 Montana; 10/29 @ Sacramento State; 11/5 N. Colorado; 11/12 @ Weber State; 11/19 S. Utah
2010 Record: 6-5 (5-3), Tied 3rd
The Wildcats will be starting over at QB, as they bring in Mike Hoke to lead them to the next level. Bo Bolen will try to pick up onhis 703 yards rushing to support his new QB. WSU lost their two top receivers from a season ago, and the unit wass thin at best. Nick Webb will be the leader on defense at LB, after he racked up 99 tackles last fall.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Wyoming
Portland State Vikings
2010 Record: 2-9 (1-7), 8th
The Vikings were horrible under Nigel Burton, but they did lead the conference in rushing. PSU starts over with a new QB, but that's actually a positive. Cory McAffery returns after rushing for 1287 yards and 10 TDs, good for 12th nationally.
Ryan Rau will lead the defense at LB, as he returns from a 83 tackle season. Deshawn Shead will lead the secondary after defending 7 passes last season.
Zach Brown is a solid kicker, but can get better after hitting 18 of 26.
Season Opener: 9/3 Southern Oregon
Northern Colorado Bears
2010 Record: 3-8 (2-6), 7th
The Bears made a change at the top, but hired Earnest Collins, who was a loser at Alcorn State. Not a smart move, but rather one that was made on the cheap, and one that was safe. Dylan Orms returns at QB after a 15 TD season in 2010. The Bears lose their two top rushers from last fall, and now Orms is the leading returning rusher. Jace Davis finished 3rd in receiving in the conference by posting 53-992-7 last fall.
The Bears also lose their two top tacklers from last fall, and are now thin up front, leaving them vulnerable against the run. Brandon Owens should be the leader in the secondary after he knocked away 6 passes last season.
The special teams are a mess.
Season Opener: 9/3 Lindenwood
Idaho State Bengals
2010 Record: 1-10 (0-8), 9th
The Bengals are starting over by bringing in former Montana State coach Mike Kramer. Kramer has been a winner, but his methods are not exactly sterling, as he wound up with several off-field issues in his earlier career by not paying attention to what was going on, according to our sources. That's a bad combo at an already lose and sinking ship like ISU. Sophomore Kyle Morris will likely be the starting QB on day one, but the run game is very thin. Rodrick Rumble will be Morris' best target available. AJ Storms led the Big Sky in tackles at LB with 146 last season. Jordan Monga and Basim Hudeen will try to give some support up front. The secondary will not be very good at all.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Washington State