Thursday, August 4, 2011

Great West 2011 Preview

Cal Poly Mustangs
2010 Record: 7-4
The Mustangs stumbled near the end of the season, and it cost them another Great West title. The major issue was at QB, where there were injury issues aplenty. Tony Smith, Andre Broadus, and Doug Shumway all played, but nobody stood out. If I had to pick a winner in the group, it would have been Broadus, who will likely have the inside track to start in 2011. The good news is that the entire backfield returns, led by Mark Rodgers, who rushed for 925 yards and 8 TDs. FB Jake Romanelli returns after rushing for another 8 TDs, and is absolutely a key piece to the option offense. David Mahr returns to round out the backfield. UCLA transfer Dominique Johnson was the primary pass catcher last fall, but has moved on. Four starters return on the line, making the Mustangs a major offensive factor in the power run game.
There is plentiful depth coming back on the defensive line, led by NT Erich Klemme, and their top 3 DEs return in that group, led by Kyle Murphy, who finished as a second teamer in the GWC. Gavin Cooper and Kenny Jackson. Jackson recorded 10 TFLs last fall, as did Cooper. CB Asa Jackson is on the Buch Buchannon watch list, and he is joined in the secondary by the return of Safety Greg Francis.
Cal Poly will make a major push to win the final league title this season before moving on to tougher (much tougher) competition in the Big Sky in 2012. They have several solid selling points to sell themselves as potential GWC Champs for 2011, barring anymore late or mid season stumbles. The only issue that I see is their early season schedule, which is a meat grinder.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ San Diego State, 9/10 @ Montana, 9/17 South Dakota State, 9/24 @ Northern Illinois, 9/8 Central Oklahoma, 10/15 Southern Utah, 10/22 @ North Dakota, 10/29 South Dakota, 11/5 @ UC-Davis, 11/12 Eastern Washington, 11/19 @ South Alabama

North Dakota Fighting Sioux
2010 Record: 3-8
The Sioux took a real beating last fall, and the QB spot was as unstable as any on the roster, with nobody really taking a strong hold on the job. Jake Landry was the "best" of the bunch, but he has moved on, leaving Brent Goska to be the next best option. Gone also is leading rusher Josh Murray, who was dismissed from the football team. Mitch Sutton will try to take his place, but is an unknown quantity, and don't be surprised to see UND go to a committee approach. WR Greg Hardin is back after grabbing 10 TDs last fall, but only 3 other UND receivers caught TD passes last fall.
LB Dan Hendrickson will be back to lead the team on defense after collecting 78 tackles last fall. Mitch Goertz will return at LB as well to give UND decent depth, but there are no stars in the group. Dominique Hawkins will be back to anchor the secondary, while Chris Harris returns as well, but he has a ton to learn coming into his sophomore season.
UND may very well struggle again in 2011, as there seems to be a lacking general talent level here. A move to the Big Sky next fall could be brutal.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 Drake, 9/10 @ Idaho, 9/17 @ Fresno State, 9/24 Black Hills State, 10/1 @ Southern Utah, 10/8 Montana Western, 10/22 Cal Poly, 10/29 @ Northern Colorado, 11/5 Sioux Falls, 11/12 @ UC-Davis, 11/19 @ South Dakota

South Dakota Coyotes
2010 Record: 4-7
Donte Warren returns after passing for 2137 yards and 18 TDs, and limited his picks to 6, and he also led the team in rushing TDs with 6. Chris Ganious rushed for 752 yards and 4 TDs. The senior will be tasked with taking the heat off of the passing attack. Will Powell returns at WR after leading the team with a line of 47-933-10 on the season. Dustin Nowotny returns as the second receiver option.
The defense was full of issues last fall, as they gave up just a shade under 400 yards per game, so massive improvements must come all over the field here. USD will battle UND for the bottom of the league. The Coyotes will be the lone team from the league not joining the Big Sky in 2012. They will be joining the Missouri Valley Conference.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Air Force, 9/10 Eastern Washington, 9/17 NW Oklahoma State, 9/24 @ Wisconsin, 10/1 Lindenwood, 10/8 Southern Utah, 10/15 @ Illinois State, 10/22 UC-Davis, 10/29 @ Cal Poly, 11/12 Missouri S&T, 11/19 @ North Dakota

Southern Utah Thunderbirds
2010 Record: 6-5
The T-Birds were an unlikely champion in 2010, and they are going to push to repeat what they did a year ago before joining the Big Sky in 2012. Brad Sorensen returns at QB after a top flight season in which he was a finalist for our FCS All-Bilo QB of the Year. Sorensen passed for 3163 yards and 21 TDs last season, and will look to push it farther in 2011. He will have to do so without his top weapons of choice in Tysson Poots and Fesi Sitake, who both move on. Jared Ursua will try to take over as the top target. Austin Minefee will return as the leading rusher from last season, and his role may be larger this fall to offset the losses in the passing game. Deckar Alexander could be a solid complimentary back.
Blake Fenn will return at LB to lead SUU again this season, as he collected 97 tackles in 2010. Erron Vonner and Dion Turner both return to back him, but they play in the secondary, so help is needed in the front seven. Tyler Osborne will do his best at LB after recording 7 sacks last fall. Osborne was good for 18.5 TFLs last season, and should be able to be disruptive once again. Cody Larse and Cody Heinrich will be expected to step it up on the line. Vonner is a solid pass defender in the secondary, as he knocked away 7 passes last season. Matt Holley returns as well after leading the team with 3 picks.
SUU could make another run at the final GWC title, as they are still miles ahead of the middle and bottom of the conference. Cal Poly and UC-Davis will be waiting, but the non-conference schedule may be one of the toughest in the country.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ South Dakota State, 9/10 Sacramento State, 9/17 Texas-San Antonio, 9/24 @ UNLV, 10/1 North Dakota, 10/8 @ South Dakota, 10/15 @ @ Cal Poly, 10/22 @ Weber State, 10/29 UC-Davis, 11/12 @ Northern Iowa, 11/19 @ Northern Arizona

UC-Davis Aggies
2010 Record: 6-5
A loss to SUU was all that kept the Aggies out of the conference title last season, so that will be the goal before moving to the Big Sky in 2012. Randy Wright started at QB as a freshman last fall, and the kid did good. Wright passed for 2432 yards and 17 TDs, while holding himself 8 picks. He has a ton of ceiling for the next three years, and UCD is an emerging threat. The Aggies had to turn to former DB Nick Aprile at RB last season, and it was hit and miss. Improvement will be needed there. Anthony Soto will be asked to step up at WR and take the reigns, but he has very little experience to go on.
Jordan Glass returns at LB after collecting 66 tackles last fall, and will be asked to step up to fill the void as the Aggies lost their top two tacklers. Glass will need help up front, however, as the Aggies were not very solid at producing pressure. Jonathon Perkins had a very nice freshman season in the secondary, as he knocked away 7 passes, but the Aggies also lack play makers and ball hawks in the secondary.
UCD could challenge the league offensively, but the defense must step up if the Aggies are to turn the corner.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Arizona State, 9/10 @ Montana State, 9/17 San Diego, 9/25 @ Hawaii, 10/8 Humboldt State, 10/15 Texas-San Antonio, 10/22 @ South Dakota, 10/29 @ Southern Utah, 11/5 Cal Poly, 11/12 North Dakota, 11/19 @ Sacramento State

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