Weber State kicks off the 2014 college football season Thursday, Aug. 28 at nationally ranked Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The game will begin at 7:40 p.m. Pacific time (8:40 p.m. MDT) and will be televised live on the Pac-12 Network.
FIRST AND 10
• Weber State begins its 53rd season of Division I football.
• The Wildcats will be under the helm of first-year head coach Jay Hill who comes to Weber State after 13 seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Utah.
• Thursday’s game against Arizona State will be just the second game ever for Weber State against a team from the Pac-12 conference. It will also be just the fifth game for WSU against a team from a Power 5 conference.
• Arizona State enters the season ranked 19th in the country in the AP preseason poll, the 21st time ASU has been ranked in the preseason polls.
• Thursday’s game will mark the fourth game ever for Weber State against a nationally ranked FBS team.
• Arizona State has forced a turnover in 29 straight games, the second longest active streak in the country.
• Weber State returns 36 players off last year’s 2-10 team.
• The Wildcats have added eight FBS transfers to join the program this season, including starting quarterback Billy Green, who transferred to WSU from BYU.
WEBER STATE OPENS 53RD SEASON WITH NEW-LOOK TEAM
Weber State will begins its 53rd season of Division I football this Thursday at Arizona State and the Wildcats will have a new-look to the team. WSU is coming off a 2-10 overall record in 2013 and a 1-7 finish in Big Sky Conference play. The ‘Cats return 36 letterwinners off last year’s squad but have a new coaching staff and new large group of new players.
JAY HILL TAKES THE REIGNS AS WILDCAT HEAD COACH
In December, Weber State named Jay Hill as the new head coach of the Wildcats, becoming the 11th head coach in school history. Hill comes to Weber State after 13 seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Utah. He comes to WSU with a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the West and has spent time working for three different head coaches at Utah.
Hill, 39, spent the last nine seasons as a full-time assistant coach under Kyle Whittingham. Prior to that, he spent four years as a graduate assistant and administrative assistant with the Utes under legendary coaches Urban Meyer and Ron McBride.
NEW COACHING STAFF JOINS HILL AT WEBER STATE
Hill also brought in a new coaching staff that comes to Weber State with a great deal of experience. Hill named Brent Myers as the associate head coach. Myers brings more than 30 years of coaching experience to Weber State.
Steve Clark was named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Clark spent six years as the offensive coordinator at Southern Utah and has also be an assistant coach at Utah and BYU.
Former BYU and NFL player Justin Ena was named the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Ena spent the last four years as the defensive coordinator at Southern Utah. He played four seasons in the NFL.
Hill also added seven other assistant coaches to the staff. Former Weber State and Utah player Kite Afeaki coaches the defensive tackles. Former Utah and NFL running back Quinton Ganther coaches the running backs, Lance Hunsaker is the Special Teams Coordinator and secondary coach, former WSU assistant Jason Kaufusi is back with the Wildcats to coach the defensive ends and Fesi Sitake is the Passing Game Coordinator and wide receivers coach. The only returning assistant coach is Colton Swan, a former WSU player, who will coach the tight ends and work as the Co-Special Teams Coordinator. Former Wildcat player Terrell Cloud has also been added as an assistant coach and Grant Duff was named the Director of Football Operations.
The Wildcats return 36 letterwinners and 16 starters off last year’s team. Among the returners is senior running back Bo Bolen, a former All-American, who has played in 35 career games at Weber State. Bolen enters the season ranked 11th in Weber State history in career rushing yards and is second in school history in career kickoff returns. Bolen was an offensive team captain last season.
Weber State also returns senior wide receiver Shaydon Kehano, a former All-Conference player, who has played in 24 career games with the Wildcats and has more than 1,200 career receiving yards.
Senior defensive tackle Connor Myers returns for his fourth year with the Wildcats. He has played in 33 career games, including staring each game of the last two seasons. Myers was also a defensive team captain last season. Senior offensive lineman Alex Land is also back for his fourth year with the Wildcats. He has played in 34 career games at Weber State.
Other returners include senior defensive end Dustin Martin, junior linebackers Luke King and Roman Valenzuela, junior cornerbacks Cordero Dixon and Adam Padilla, junior offensive lineman Joe Hawkins, sophomore wide receiver Cameron Livingston, sophomore running back Zach Smith, sophomore linebacker Spencer Unga and sophomore offensive lineman Cameron Young.
DEON’TAE FLORENCE EARNS PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENE HONORS
Weber State senior cornerback Deon’tae Florence was the only Wildcat to earn preseason All-Conference honors. Florence was named to the Big Sky Preseason team at the conference football kickoff meetings in July.
The Largo, Fla., native earned honorable mention All-Conference honors last season after joining the Wildcats in September. He played in 10 games and started four games. He led the conference in pass breakups and was second in interceptions. He recorded eight pass breakups and four interceptions, to go along with 30 tackles on the year.
WSU will welcome a large group of new players to the roster, including eight transfers from FBS schools. The FBS transfers include sophomore quarterback Billy Green, who played last season at BYU. Other transfers include senior cornerback Tyron Morris-Edwards (Utah), junior cornerback Ladale Jackson (Utah State), junior offensive lineman Tui Cricthon (BYU), sophomore cornerback Dre Snowden (Utah State), sophomore defensive tackle Jake Gallegos (Utah State), freshman defensive tackle McKay Murphy (Utah), and freshman defensive tackle Likio Pope (Utah).
Coach Hill has named his team captains for the 2014 season and the four players bring lots of experience to Weber State. Running back Bo Bolen, offensive lineman Alex Land, defensive tackle Connor Myers and cornerback Deon’tae Florence have been named captains for the season. All four are seniors with the Wildcats and have combined to play in 111 career games at Weber State, entering this season. Bolen and Myers were also team captains last year.
WSU AGAINST FBS TEAMS
Thursday’s game against 19th ranked Arizona State will mark just the fourth time in school history that Weber State has played an FBS team that is ranked in the AP top 25 poll. WSU faced #21 Wyoming in 1990, played #24 Boise State, and played #17 Utah in 2008.
Thursday’s game with the Sun Devils will also mark just the fifth game ever for Weber State against a team from a Power 5 conference. The ‘Cats played Arkansas in 2001, faced Boston College and Texas Tech in 2010 and played Utah last season.
Weber State is 3-50 all-time against FBS teams. WSU beat Utah State in 1978 and beat Nevada twice (1992 and 1993), the first two years Nevada was playing at the Division I-A level. The Wildcats have lost 27 straight games to FBS opponents.
BO BOLEN APPROACHING CAREER TOP 10 RUSHING LIST
WSU senior and former All-American Bo Bolen begins his final year with the Wildcats. Bolen, a native of Aurora, Colo., has appeared in 35 career games at Weber State entering this season. He is approaching the WSU career top 10 rushing list. Bolen currently ranks 12th in WSU history in career rushing yards with 1,695 yards. He needs 45 more rushing yards to pass Henry Owens and move into 10th in WSU career rushing history. Bolen also ranks second in school history in kickoff returns and is third in all-purpose yards.
During fall camp WSU lost junior linebacker Alema Key for the season with an ACL injury. Junior Anthony Miles-Woods is also out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury.
AROUND THE BIG SKY
The Big Sky Conference already has a game under its belts before the rest of the college football season begins. On Saturday, Eastern Washington, the preseason Big Sky favorite, opened the college football season with a 56-35 win over Sam Houston State. The Eagles are ranked first in the country in the FCS Sports Network preseason poll.
There are 12 Big Sky games this weekend with eight games seeing Big Sky teams facing FBS opponents. Four games this week, including Weber State’s game, see the Big Sky taking on teams from the Pac-12. Idaho State will play at Utah, Portland State meets Oregon State and UC Davis plays at Stanford.
Weber State was picked to finish 11th in the conference race in the preseason coaches poll and was picked 12th in the media poll.
WILDCATS COME FROM ALL OVER
Weber State’s roster this season includes players from 13 different states. A total of 34 players on the roster come from the state of Utah. The ’Cats have 14 players from the state of California, 10 players from Florida, seven from Idaho and six from Nevada. WSU also boasts from Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Washington. WSU also has one player from American Samoa and one from Australia.
ABOUT #19 ARIZONA STATE
The Sun Devils of Arizona State enter the season ranked 19th in the nation in the AP preseason poll. ASU was picked to finish third in the Pac-12 South.
Arizona State is coming off a strong year in 2013. The Sun Devils finished 10-4 overall and won the Pac-12 South Division with an 8-1 mark in conference play. They closed the regular season on a six-game winning streak. They lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game and then fell to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
The 10-win season marked the first time since the 2007 and just the 12th time ever that the Sun Devils posted double digits in wins, despite playing the nation’s sixth toughest schedule. ASU was ranked as high as 11th in the country at one point during the season.
The Sun Devils finished second in the conference in scoring offense at 39.7 points per game last season. They also had the fewest penalty yards per game. Defensively, ASU led the Pac-12 and was third in the country in interceptions in 2013 with 21. The Sun Devils returned five interceptions for touchdowns during the season, tied for the most in the country. ASU has 42 touchdowns in the last two seasons, the second most in the country. The ASU defense has forced 63 turnovers in the last two seasons, also the second most in the country. Arizona State has forced at least one turnover in 29 straight games, the second longest active streak in the country. ASU posted a +15 margin in takeaways.
ASU returns 12 starters off last year’s squad but have just four returning starters on defense. The Sun Devils list just eight seniors on their two-deep, which is tied for the fourth lowest total in the nation and have just 11 seniors on the entire roster, the second fewest in the nation. The initial ASU depth chart includes 26 freshmen and sophomores.
Among the returners is senior quarterback Taylor Kelly who begins his third year as the starting quarterback. The Eagle, Idaho native has started 27 career games at ASU and is one of seven Sun Devil quarterbacks to pass for more than 6,000 career yards. He has thrown a touchdown in all but four games in his career as a starter. Last season Kelly threw for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns. Kelly is on the Walter Camp Trophy watch list. The initial depth chart included
Also returning for ASU is junior wide receiver Jalen Strong who had a breakout sophomore year last season recording 75 receptions for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns and earning Second Team All-Pac-12 honors.
Junior running back D.J. Foster earned Honorable Mention All-Conference honors last season and led the nation in receiving yards by a running back.
ASU has won 11 straight season openers, all coming at home.
HEAD COACH TODD GRAHAM
The Sun Devils are coached by Todd Graham who enters his third year at Arizona State. Graham was named the 2013 Pac-12 Coach of the Year after leading the Sun Devils to a 10-4 record in 2013. In his two seasons in Tempe, Graham has posted an 18-9 overall record and is 13-5 in Pac-12 play. He has a career record of 67-38 in eight seasons as head coach.
In 2012, his first season at ASU, Graham guided the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record, its first winning season since 2007. ASU is 11-3 under Graham playing at Sun Devil Stadium.
Prior to going to Arizona State, Graham spent the 2011 season as head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He spent four years (2007-10) as head coach at Tulsa where he won 36 games and went to three bowl games. He also was the head coach at Rice in 2006.
This will be the first meeting ever between the two schools. It will also mark just the second game ever for Weber State against a team from the Pac-12 conference. WSU played at Utah last season, falling 70-7. The ‘Cats will open the 2015 season at Oregon State.
Arizona State is 35-14-4 all-time against teams from the Big Sky but has won 27 straight games against current Big Sky teams, dating back to 1939. ASU defeated Sacramento State 55-0 in the season opener last year.
After Thursday’s game the Wildcats will play their home opener next Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. WSU will host North Dakota State, the three-time defending FCS national champions. The Bison are ranked second in the country in the Sports Network preseason poll. The game will be the annual Blackout game at Weber State and will also be televised nationally on Altitude TV.