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In the FCS Huddle: 2011 Big Sky Conference preview

You could call the 2010 season a not-so- perfect 10 for Sacramento State.

Ten points is all that separated Sacramento State from a Big Sky championship, and FCS playoff berth, last season.

Going 5-3 in the conference, the Hornets' three losses came to Montana, Montana State and Eastern Washington by a combined 10 points.

In the fourth game of the season, against Montana, the Hornets led in the fourth quarter and then had a chance to reclaim their lead before throwing an interception on a 4th-and-18 play, with 1:32 remaining in the 28-25 loss.

The next week, Sacramento State was downed in a 64-61, overtime loss to Montana State, when it failed to advance from the 25-yard line in overtime and missed a game-tying 43-yard field goal.

Two weeks later, the heartbreak continued for the Hornets, as Eastern Washington scored the game-winning touchdown with 33 seconds remaining in a 28-24 victory.

"Those games could have gone either way," Hornets coach Marshall Sperbeck said. "We have to learn from that experience last year."

With 14 starters returning, along with its punter from last season, Sperbeck believes that Sacramento State can learn from its close losses and join the Montana-Montana State-Eastern Washington logjam at the top of the Big Sky.

"I think in the top group of teams, it's a dogfight and anything can happen," Sperbeck said. "You've got to take care of your business from week to week, especially to be the team at the top at the end of the season."

Last season, it was Montana State and Eastern Washington who took care of its business, dethroning Montana, which had won 12 straight Big Sky titles. For Eastern Washington, the success didn't end there, as it made a run to the national championship.

Just as they had all season, the Eagles won close games in the playoffs, and with 14 returning starters who hoisted the trophy, Eastern Washington was installed as the Big Sky's preseason favorite by the coaches and the media.

Even though Eastern Washington won the national title, Montana State returns one of the most exciting players in the nation in sophomore quarterback DeNarius McGhee.

Last season, McGhee led the Bobcats to a first-round bye in the playoffs, but failed to lead his teammates past upstart North Dakota State.

"Last year gave us a lot of momentum. We had a disappointing performance in the playoffs and that left a sour taste in our mouth," Montana State coach Rob Ash said. "Our guys have been using that and working hard in the offseason."

How that hard work pays off remains to be seen, but whichever team wins the Big Sky will be the team that is on the positive side of the close games this season.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2011 Big Sky Conference race.

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. Eastern Washington 2. Montana State 3. Sacramento State 4. Montana 5. Weber State 6. Northern Arizona 7. Portland State 8. Northern Colorado 9. Idaho State

Offensive Player of the Year: DeNarious McGhee, QB, Montana State

Defensive Player of the Year: Zach Nash, DE, Sacramento State

1. EASTERN WASHINGTON EAGLES (13-2 overall, 7-1 Big Sky)

COACHES: Beau Baldwin (27-11 in three years at Eastern Washington; 37-14 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Sr. (300 of 505 for 3,496 yards, 37 TDs, 15 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Matt Johnson, Sr. (105 TT, 5 TFL, 8 PBU, 5 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Mario Brown, So. (100 carries for 341 yards, 1 TD) RB Darriell Beaumonte, Sr. (81 carries for 219 yards, 2 TDs) WR Brandon Kaufman, Jr. (76 receptions for 1,214 yards, 15 TDs) WR Nicholas Edwards, Jr. (57 receptions for 614 yards, 7 TDs) WR Greg Herd, Jr. (32 receptions for 374 yards, 3 TDs) OL Chris Powers, Sr. OL Gabriel Jackson, Sr. DL Renard Williams, Sr. (56 TT, 9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) DL David Gaylord, So. (26 TT, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) DL Paul Ena, Jr. (55 TT, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT) DL Jerry Ceja, Jr. (23 TT, 3 TFL, 5 sacks) DL Anthony Larry, So. (21 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) LB Zach Johnson, Sr. (134 TT, 14.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 PBU, 2 INT) LB Tyler Washburn, Jr. (86 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT) DB Jeff Minnerly, Jr. (50 TT, 3 TFL, 6 PBU, 3 INT) DB Allen Brown, So. (39 TT, 3 PBU, 1 INT) K Mike Jarrett, Sr. (10-19 FG)

OUTLOOK: You would have thought the biggest headline surrounding Eastern Washington was the new red turf at Roos Field, and while the Eagles went 8-0 on "The Inferno," the national championship trophy they brought home grabbed the biggest headlines. This season, the Eagles return seven offensive starters, including a pair of Walter Payton Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) Watch List members in quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and receiver Brandon Kaufman. Mitchell and Kaufman, who hooked up for 15 touchdowns last season, helped the Eagles respond from a 19-0 deficit against Delaware to win the program's first FCS championship. The defense also returns seven starters and, despite the loss of Buck Buchanan Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) winner J.C. Sherritt, returns three 85-plus tacklers from last season. In order to defend its championships, Eastern Washington will have to win on green turf this season, as the Eagles only play four games at home. Even with a lack of home games, don't be surprised if the Eagles put together another successful playoff run.

2. MONTANA STATE BOBCATS (9-3 overall, 7-1 Big Sky)

COACHES: Rob Ash (29-17 in four years at Montana State; 154-80-2 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (7 offense/5 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB DeNarius McGhee, So. (227 of 362 for 3,163 yards, 23 TDs, 6 INT; 80 carries for 181 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Aleksei Grosulak, So. (88 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 4 PBU, 2 INT; recovering from ACL surgery)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB C.J. Palmer, Sr. (81 carries for 477 yards, 5 TDs) RB Cody Kirk, So. (37 carries for 142 yards, 2 TDs) RB Tray Robinson, Jr. (transfer from Nebraska) WR Elvis Akpla, Sr. (43 receptions for 682 yards, 4 TDs) WR Everett Gilbert, Jr. (48 receptions for 574 yards, 2 TDs) WR Tanner Bleskin, So. (33 receptions for 502 yards, 3 TDs) TE Shane Robinson, Sr. (7 receptions for 102 yards) OL Alex Terrien, Sr. OL Tyler Thomas, So. (transfer from Oregon State) OL Stephen Memory, Jr. (JC transfer) DL John Laidet, Sr. (28 TT, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU) DL Zach Minter, Jr. (28 TT, 5 TFL, 5 sacks, 9 PBU, 2 INT) LB Jody Owens, Jr. (80 TT, 8.5 TFL, 4 PBU) LB Clay Bignell, Sr. (42 TT, 4 TFL, 1 sacks) LB Roger Trammell, Sr. (29 TT, 1 TFL) DB Joel Fuller, Jr. (34 TT) DB Darius Jones, Jr. (30 TT, 11 PBU) DB Sean Gords, So. (29 TT) K Jason Cunningham, Sr. (20-24 FG) P Rory Perez, So. (38.0 avg.)

OUTLOOOK: Even though the Bobcats were co-champions of the Big Sky and the only FCS team to defeat Eastern Washington last season, their achievements on a national stage weren't as prevalent as it probably should have been. This season, Montana State should once again challenge for the Big Sky championship behind quarterback DeNarious McGhee, who may have been the best freshman in the nation last season. Entering his second season, after a 3,163-yard, 23- touchdown season, McGhee has potential to be one of the best signal-callers in conference history before he departs after the 2013 season. The pressure is greater this season on the young quarterback, as he'll be without running back Orenzo Davis, who rushed for 1,204 yards last season, and his top receiving threat from last year, Julius Loyd. On defense, the Bobcats are hoping for a speedy recovery from Aleksei Grosulak, a sophomore linebacker, who tore his ACL last season. The No. 4 seed in the playoffs last season, the Bobcats are hoping to learn from a disappointing playoff loss to North Dakota State. With that result, anything short of a Big Sky title could be considered a disappointment.

3. SACRAMENTO STATE HORNETS (6-5 overall; 5-3 Big Sky)

COACH: Marshall Sperbeck (20-25 in four years at Sacramento State; 20-25 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Jeff Fleming, Sr. (138 of 248 for 2,044 yards, 23 TDs, 10 INT; 106 carries for 399 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Zach Nash, Sr. (37 TT, 3.5 TFL, 13 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Bryan Hilliard, Sr. (195 carries for 883 yards, 12 TDs) RB Jake Croxdale, Sr. (70 carries for 236 yards) WR Chase Deadder, Sr. (37 receptions for 788 yards, 6 TDs) WR Morris Norrise, So. (35 receptions for 532 yards, 8 TDs) OL Nate Doverspike, Sr. OL Tyler Worthley, So. OL John Taylor, Fr. DL David Coleman, Sr. (26 TT, 3 TFL, 2 sacks) DL Marques White, Fr. LB Jeff Badger, Jr. (41 TT, 7.5 TFL, 1 PBU) LB Cody Allen, So. (6 TT) LB John Bloomfield, Jr. (JC transfer) DB Kyle Monson, Sr. (47 TT, 7 PBU, 2 INT) DB Osagie Odiase, So. (44 TT, 1 sack, 5 PBU, 2 INT) DB Evander Wilkins, Sr. (34 TT, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL) DB Marquese Smith, Sr. (14 TT, 1 sack, 4 PBU) P Augie Heath, Sr. (36.5 avg.)

OUTLOOK: It's been a long time since the Hornets made a playoff berth - 23 years to be exact, which was at the Division II level. Last season, the Hornets finished above .500 for the second time in three seasons and with 14 starters back seem to be on the fringe of competing for a Big Sky championship. Returning seven starters on offense, including all of their top rushers and top-two receivers from last season, the Hornets could be high- scoring team this season. The defense also returns seven starters, but after it graduated its top-four tacklers from last season, the unit will need to grow up quickly. On Sept. 24, the Hornets host Montana in a game that will likely define both teams' fortunes for the rest of the season. If the Hornets can win the head-to-head match-up with the Grizzlies, they could be on their way to the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.

4. MONTANA GRIZZLIES (7-4 overall; 5-3 Big Sky)

COACH: Robin Pflugrad (7-4 in one season at Montana; 7-4 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (7 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Antwon Moutra, Jr. (36 receptions for 600 yards, 6 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Trumaine Johnson, Sr. (44 TT, 3 TFL, 7 PBU, 4 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Jordan Johnson, So. (15 of 20 for 44 yards) QB Gerald Kemp, Jr. (45 carries for 224 yards) QB Nate Montana, Jr. (transfer from Notre Dame) RB Peter Nguyen, Jr. (17 carries for 37 yards) RB Jordan Canada, Fr. RB/FB Dan Moore, Jr. (13 carries for 42 yards) WR Jabin Sambrano, Sr. (39 receptions for 584 yards, 3 TDs; 6 carries for 44 yards, 1 TD) WR Sam Gratton, Jr. (28 receptions for 327 yards, 4 TDs) TE Greg Hardy, Jr. (17 receptions for 176 yards, 1 TD) OL Jon Opperud, Sr. OL William Poehlss, So. OL Stephen Sabin, Sr. OL Danny Kistler, So. OL Charles Burton, Sr. DL Bobby Alt, Sr. (40 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack) DL Tyrone Duncan, Sr. (22 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) DL Bryan Waldhauser, Sr. (49 TT, 3 TFL, 5 sacks) LB Jordan Tripp, Jr. (99 TT, 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 1 INT) LB Alex Shaw, Sr. (62 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) LB Caleb McSurdy, Jr. (112 TT, 7 TFL, 2 PBU) DB Mike McCord, Sr. (45 TT) P/K Brody McKnight, Sr. (38.5 avg.; 14-18 FG)

OUTLOOK: In Robin Pflugrad's first season, the Grizzlies missed the playoffs for the first time since 1992, a disappointment for the program and its rookie coach. This season Montana has big questions at quarterback as Jordan Johnson, Gerald Kemp and Notre Dame-transfer Nate Montana will all compete for the starting job. Johnson attempted 20 passes last season, while Montana went 9-for-18 with an interception at Notre Dame while Kemp (5.0 yards per carry) adds some athleticism to the position. With all the questions on offenses - which includes replacing 1,058-yard, eight-touchdown running back Chase Reynolds - the defense is a senior-laden group that may have the best linebacker duo in the Big Sky. Having missed the playoffs last season, the pressure is on in Missoula to return to the pedigree that had a record 17 straight playoff berths.

5. WEBER STATE WILDCATS (6-5 overall; 5-3 Big Sky)

COACH: Ron McBride (38-32 in six seasons at Weber State; 126-95 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: OL J.C. Oram, Sr.

DEFENSIVE STAR: DB/LB Nick Webb, Sr. (99 TT, 7.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Mike Hoke, Jr. (23 of 36 for 345 yards, 2 TDs; 27 carries for 104 yards, 1 TDs) QB Jordan Adamcyzk, So. RB Josh Booker, So. (91 carries for 550 yards, 2 TDs) RB Kris Parham, Jr. WR Austin Raught, Sr. (18 receptions for 184 yards, 1 TD) WR Erik Walker, So. (14 receptions for 122 yards) TE Tyrell Francisco, Sr. (missed 2010 with injury) OL Caleb Turner, Sr. OL Tyson Tiatia, So. DL Adam Sagapolutele-White, Jr. (41 TT, 5 TFL) DL Ryan Eastman, Jr. (transferred back from Hawaii) DL Gabe Bowers, Sr. (23 TT, 3.5 sacks) DL Pete Rolf, Sr. (29 TT, 2.5 sacks) LB Maurice Neal, Sr. (36 TT, 1 sack, 1 INT) DB Blake Keller, Sr. (79 TT, 2 PBU) DB David James, Jr. (21 TT, 7 PBU, 3 INT) K Shaun McClain, So. (15-20 FG)

OUTLOOK: After making back-to-back playoff appearances in 2008 and 2009, the Wildcats' playoff hopes, like many teams, rest on how well a new quarterback can step in and take the reigns of the offense. Likely filling that role is junior Mike Hoke, who was efficient in spot duty last season. While Weber State is void of its top receivers and rushers from last season, the Wildcats bring back a solid offensive line that is anchored by All-American J.C. Oram. With Oram leading the way, don't be surprised if the Wildcats have a consistent offense, no matter who mans the skill positions. While the offensive line is the strength of the team, the defense should improve upon its 31.1-points-per-game average last season and help the Wildcats to another winning season.

6. NORTHERN ARIZONA LUMBERJACKS (6-5 overall; 4-4 Big Sky)

COACH: Jerome Souers (72-75 in 13 seasons at Northern Arizona; 72-75 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 9 (5 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Zach Bauman, So. (237 carries for 1,059 yards, 14 TDs; 28 receptions for 308 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Scott McKeever, Sr. (52 TT, 3.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Chase Stangel, Sr. (45 of 74 for 376 yards, 2 TDs) QB Cary Grossart, Jr. QB Ryan Nelson, Sr. RB Giovannie Dixon, Jr. (83 carries for 512 yards, 3 TDs) FB Vinnie Paciulli, Sr. WR Austin Shanks, Sr. (65 receptions for 613 yards, 3 TDs) WR Mike Czyz, Sr. (26 receptions for 331 yards, 2 TDs) WR Khalil Paden, Sr. (20 receptions for 200 yards, 1 TD) OL Alex Mott, Sr. OL Trey Gilleo, Jr. OL Matt Wilson, Jr. DL Isaac Bond, Sr. (31 TT, 5.5 sacks) DL Dan Pela, Jr. (27 TT, 2 TFL, 1.5 sacks) LB Phil Pollock, So. (12 TT) LB Brandon Phillips, Jr. (injured for most of 2010) LB Ryan Reardon, Jr. (JC transfer) DB Taylor Julio, Jr. (38 TT, 2 PBU, 2 INT) DB Taylor Malenfant, Jr. (24 TT, 2 PBU, 1 INT) DB Daivon Dumas, Sr. (missed 2010 with injury) DB Devin Willis, Jr. (JC transfer) P Drew Zamora, Sr. (42.4 avg.) K Matt Myers, Sr. (14-18 FG)

OUTLOOK: Last season, Northern Arizona had an up-and-down year, gaining a Top 25 ranking courtesy of big wins against Portland State, Southern Utah and Montana State. However, losses to Weber State, Montana and Sacramento State knocked the Lumberjacks back to earth. This year, Northern Arizona only returns nine starters, but it's still an experienced group that returns 44 letter-winners from last season. Chase Stangel will look to fill the shoes of Michael Herrick, but has running back Zach Bauman - who rushed for 1,059 yards as a true freshman - at his disposal. On defense, the Lumberjacks are anchored by seniors Isaac Bond and Scott McKeever, who provide perhaps the best pass- rushing combination in the Big Sky. After a manageable September schedule, Northern Arizona will be tested in October with games against Eastern Washington, Montana State, Montana and Sacramento State.

7. PORTLAND STATE VIKINGS (2-9 overall; 1-7 Big Sky)

COACH: Nigel Burton (2-9 in one season at Portland State; 2-9 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (9 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Cory McCaffrey, Sr. (231 carries for 1,287 yards, 10 TDs; 17 receptions for 136 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Manoa Latu, Sr. (72 TT, 2.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 3 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Connor Kavanaugh, Sr. (93 of 154 for 1,109 yards, 6 TDs; 85 carries for 506 yards, 4 TDs) RB Willie Griffin, Sr. (67 carries for 204 yards, 2 TDs) WR Justin Monahan, Jr. (30 receptions for 369 yards, 2 TDs) WR Nevin Lewis, Jr. (5 receptions for 48 yards) WR/KR AJ Powell, So. WR Kenny Davis, Jr. (JC transfer) TE Kyle McMillin, Sr. OL Dustin Waldron, Sr. OL Kyle Ritt, Jr. OL Adam Kleffner, Sr. OL Thomas Robertson, So. OL Mitchell Van Dyk, So. DL Jack Forbes, Sr. (20 TT, 5 TFl, 1 sack) DL Alika Vaiese, Sr. (14 TT, 3 TFL) DL Carl Sommer, Sr. (46 TT, 7 TFL, 4 sacks) LB Joel Sisler, Jr. (26 TT, 2 INT) LB Ryan Rau, Sr. (83 TT, 3 TFL, 2 PBU) LB Shane Melbo, Sr. (32 TT, 6 TFL) DB David Ross, Sr. (39 TT, 4 PBU) DB Deshawn Snead, Sr. (51 TT, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR, 7 PBU) DB Michael Williams, Jr. (19 TT, 1 TFL, 4 PBU) K Zach Brown, Jr. (18-26 FG) P Thomas Duyndam, Jr. (42.6 avg.)

OUTLOOK: Last season, the Vikings switched both their offensive and defensive schemes under rookie head coach Nigel Burton. The transition certainly went through some growing pains, as Portland State struggled to a 2-9 season. The offense - which switched from a pass-heavy attack to the more run-filled pistol formation - did improve its yardage per game last season (355 ypg to 397 ypg), but only finished eighth in scoring in the nine-team Big Sky (23.4 ppg). The defense switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and with only five starters back struggled while allowing 40.5 points a game. This season, those transition issues should be ironed out, as the Vikings return 18 starters - the most of any team in the Big Sky. Despite getting Weber State, Northern Arizona and Sacramento State at home - all winnable games - the Vikings have to travel to Montana, Eastern Washington and Big East foe TCU. Can Portland State climb the Big Sky ladder to an above .500 record? Yes, but it seems more than likely that the Vikings will not.

8. NORTHERN COLORADO BEARS (3-8 overall; 2-6 Big Sky)

COACH: Earnest Collins Jr. (first season at Northern Colorado; 8-12 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (8 offense/5 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Dylan Orms, Sr. (133 of 254 for 2,055 yards, 15 TDs; 99 carries for 217 yards, 6 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Nick Hernon, Sr. (45 TT, 10.5 TFL)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB David Deans, Sr. FB Andrew Downing, Sr. (4 receptions for 18 yards) WR Patrick Walker, Sr. (37 receptions for 570 yards, 6 TDs) WR Denzel Hutchings, Sr. (5 receptions for 132 yards) WR Dominic Gunn, Jr. (10 receptions for 111 yards) TE Doug Steele, Jr. (12 receptions for 265 yards, 3 TDs) OL Lee Barbiasz, Sr. OL Nick Candler, Jr. OL Cody Gilmore, Jr. OL Alex Shapiro, Sr. DL VJ Holmes, Sr. (17 TT, 3.5 sacks) DL Dominique Ceja, Sr. (10 TT, 1 sack) LB Cameron Friend, Jr. (34 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU) LB Gavin Miller, So. (27 TT, 4 TFL, 1 PBU) LB Aisea Vave, Jr. (JC transfer) DB Brandon Owens, Sr. (47 TT, 2 TFL, 6 PBU, 1 INT) DB Marcel Gibbons, Jr. (44 TT, 4 PBU) DB Elliot Dorsey, Sr. (43 TT, 1 PBU) DB Chuks Nweke, Sr. (40 TT, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 INT) DB Colby Riggins, Sr.(39 TT, 3 PBU) P Cameron Kaman, Sr. (40.4 avg.) K Mason Puckett, Jr. (10-11 XP, 4-8 FG) K Dave Eden, So. (22-24 XP, 1-3 FG)

OUTLOOK: Earnest Collins Jr. is stepping into a difficult situation at Northern Colorado after Scott Downing was let go following five seasons in which the former coach never surpassed three wins. Of those eight losses last season, four were by seven points or less, and the 13 returning starters are hoping to turn those tight defeats into wins this season. Dylan Orms, a senior quarterback, is back to lead the offense, but he's shorthanded when it comes to options. C.J. Glenn is the only returning running back to register a carry last season, and he switched to defensive back in the spring. Patrick Walker is the lone member of the receiving corp who caught more than 12 passes last season, and tight end Doug Steele could become one of Orms' favorite targets in a dump-off role. The defense, which only returns five starters, lost its top four defenders from last season and will likely be suspect after allowing 397 yards a game last season. After starting the season with lower division Lindenwood, Northern Colorado is likely to struggle and Collins will be tested to turn around a losing program.

9. IDAHO STATE BENGALS (1-10 overall; 0-8 Big Sky)

COACH: Mike Kramer (first year at Idaho State; 77-75 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (7 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB/KR Tavoy Moore, Sr. (62 carries for 252 yards; 34 receptions for 421 yards, 3 TDs; 18.3 PR avg., 2 TDs; 24.1 KR avg., 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB A.J. Storms, Sr. (146 TT, 10 TFL, 3 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Brad Kragthorpe, Jr. (JC transfer) QB Justin Arias, So. (JC transfer) QB Kevin Yost, Fr. RB Jahmel Rover, Jr. (35 carries for 131 yards, 1 TD) WR Rodrick Rumble, Jr. (32 receptions for 464 yards, 2 TDs) WR Kevin Krosch, Sr. (24 receptions for 299 yards, 3 TDs) TE Josh Hill, Jr. (17 receptions for 165 yards, 3 TDs) OL Braeden Clayson, Sr. OL Brad Shedd, Sr. DL Jordan Monga, Sr. (41 TT, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT) DL Austin Graves, Fr. (transfer from Washington State) LB Basim Hudeen, Sr. (100 TT, 7 TFL, 1 sacks, 5 PBU, 1 INT) DB Kelvin Miller, Sr. (34 TT, 4 PBU, 1 INT) DB Cameron Gupton, Jr. (18 TT, 1 PBU, 1 INT) DB Greg Melendez, Sr. (missed 2010 with MCL tear) DB Donovan Henley, Jr. (JC transfer) P David Harrington, Sr. (44.3 avg.) K Brendon Garcia, So. (8-14 FG, 20-20 XP)

OUTLOOK: Mike Kramer has been named Big Sky Coach of the Year three times in his career - one of only five coaches to do so - during his time at Montana State and Eastern Washington. However, those past accolades won't mean anything at his new job if he can't turn around the Bengals. Having posted a 3-31 record the past three seasons, Idaho State has been one of the worst offensive teams during that timeframe and are likely to continue that trend this season. Lacking a quarterback who's taken an FCS-level snap, freshman Kevin Yost and junior college transfers Justin Arias and Brad Kragthorpe are all competing for the starting position. Yost was the only quarterback to participate in spring practice, having enrolled in January, and is the favorite to run the fast-break offense in the season opener at Washington State. The defense only returns four starters, which may actually be a blessing in disguise as Kramer can develop and mold his own, he hopes, winning, culture. It will be a difficult transition from a losing program, and no matter how much life Kramer can add to the program it doesn't seem like the Bengals will win many games this season. And even if they did, Idaho State isn't eligible for the FCS playoffs due to NCAA Academic Progress Rate.

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