Month: June 2016

KNOW THE FOE (RIVALRY EDITION): UTEP Miners

UTEPMiners

  • LOCATION: El Paso, Texas
  • HOME FIELD: Sun Bowl Stadium (capacity 51,500)
  • CONFERENCE: Conference USA (West Division)
  • 2015 RECORD: 5-7, 3-5 in C-USA
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Aaron Jones, WR Jaquan White, TE Hayden Plinke, OL Derek Elmendorff, OL Will Hernandez, LB Nick Usher, LB Alvin Jones, K Jay Mattox
  • HEAD COACH: Sean Kugler (4th season, 14-23)
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Brent Pease (1st season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Tom Mason (1st season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Brent Pease, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • Tom Mason, Linebackers (1st season)
    • Brian Natkin, Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator (5th season)
    • Cornell Jackson, Running Backs (4th season)
    • Spencer Leftwich, Offensive Line (4th season)
    • Andrew Browning, Defensive Line (4th season)
    • Derrius Bell, Cornerbacks (1st season)
    • Don Yanowsky, Safeties/Recruiting Coordinator (1st season)
    • Theron Aych, Wide Receivers (1st season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – New Mexico State
  • 9/10 – at Texas
  • 9/17 – Army
  • 9/24 – Southern Miss*
  • 10/1 – at Louisiana Tech*
  • 10/8 – Florida International*
  • 10/22 – at UTSA*
  • 10/29 – Old Dominion*
  • 11/5 – Houston Baptist
  • 11/12 – at Florida Atlantic*
  • 11/19 – at Rice*
  • 11/26 – North Texas*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Keith Sullivan, DE (Houston, TX)
  2. Antonio Dupree, RB (Baltimore, MD)
  3. Quardraiz Wadley, RB (Kennedale, TX)
  4. Joseph Pickney, S (Crosby, TX)
  5. Walter Dawn, RB (Mesquite, TX)
  6. Amorama Noel, TE (Houston, TX)
  7. Brannon Bullitt, WR (El Paso, TX)
  8. Kolbi McGary, LB (Cedar Hill, TX)
  9. Tiano Tialavea, DT (Seattle, WA)
  10. Richie Rodriguez, WR (El Paso, TX)
  11. Christian Johnson, DE (El Paso, TX)
  12. Justin Rogers, CB (Los Angeles, CA)
  13. Bobby Deharo, OL (El Paso, TX)
  14. Mark Torrez, QB (El Paso, TX)
  15. Broderick Harrell, CB (Wolfforth, TX)
  16. Tanner Stallings, OL* (Sterling, KS)
  17. Josh Ortega, DT (El Paso, TX)
  18. Dedrick Simpson, LB (Houston, TX)
  19. Kevin Dove, FB (El Campo, TX)
  20. Jared Goldwire, OL (Covington, WA)
  21. Dylan Parsee, LB (San Angelo, TX)
  22. Eric Foster, CB (El Paso, TX)
  23. Sione Tupou, LB (Allen, TX)
  24. Ronald Awatt, RB (Wolfforth, TX)
  25. Peytton Pickett, RB (Arlington, TX)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Zack Greenlee (Jr., Stockton, CA)
  • RB – Aaron Jones (R-Jr., El Paso, TX)
  • FB – Darrin Laufasa (Sr., Bothell, WA)
  • WR – Jaquan White (Sr., Lancaster, TX)
  • WR – Tyler Batson (Jr., Spring, TX)
  • TE – Hayden Plinke (Sr., Hillsboro, OR)
  • LT – Jerome Daniels (Sr., Little Elm, TX)
  • LG – Will Hernandez (Jr., Las Vegas, NV)
  • C – Derron Gatewood (So., Odessa, TX)
  • RG – Derek Elmendorff (Jr., El Paso, TX)
  • RT – John De La Rosa (Sr., Bay City, TX)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Luke Elsner (Jr., Seymour, WI)
  • NT – Christian Harper (Sr., Houston, TX)
  • DE – Mike Sota (So., Placentia, CA)
  • LB – Nick Usher (Sr., Los Angeles, CA)
  • LB – Cooper Foster (Sr., Cedar Park, TX)
  • LB – Silas Firstley (Sr., Mesquite, TX)
  • LB – Alvin Jones (Jr., El Paso, TX)
  • CB – Kalon Beverly (So., New Orleans, LA)
  • CB – Nik Needham (So., Buena Park, CA)
  • SS – Dashone Smith (Sr., Spring, TX)
  • FS – Devin Cockrell (R-Jr., Port Arthur, TX)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K – Jay Mattox (Sr., Las Vegas, NV)
  • P – Alan Luna (Sr., El Paso, TX)

GOOD NEWS

  • New offensive coordinator Brent Pease brings experience and enthusiasm as he attempts to breathe life into a sluggish Miners offense. Four starters return on a big, physical offensive line, and running back Aaron Jones is back after a knee injury wiped out almost all of his 2015 season.
  • The Miners have the makings of a quality defensive line, recording multiple sacks in spring scrimmages. UTEP is transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 front under new coordinator Tom Mason, but the adjustments have been relatively smooth. Mason, most recently the DC at Hawaii, adheres to a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy that emphasizes speed.
  • The Miners have both continuity and consistency on special teams. Placekicker Jay Mattox and punter Alan Luna, both seniors, could push for all-conference honors.

BAD NEWS

  • Who is the quarterback? The Miners lost their presumed starter, junior Mack Leftwich, to a season-ending shoulder injury in spring practice. Sophomores Ryan Metz and Kavika Johnson, both of whom split time with Leftwich in 2015, battled in the spring without an obvious winner. The 6’4″ Metz has a strong arm and led UTEP to a few victories last fall, but Johnson is more athletic. However, neither QB impressed in the spring game, and the job will remain open until Fresno State graduate transfer Zack Greenlee arrives in the fall. Greenlee will have two years of eligibility remaining at UTEP.
  • There’s not much depth at linebacker, and in a new 3-4 scheme, that could be troublesome. Leading returning tackler Alvin Jones (twin brother of Aaron Jones) is talented and experienced, but he needs help.
  • The Miners were vulnerable to the pass last season and need to create more turnovers. Depth and experience could be concerns at cornerback. Sophomores Kalon Beverly and Nik Needham were picked on as true freshmen, but they’ll be key cogs in the rotation again.

VERDICT

The Miners have a friendly schedule – they only leave the state of Texas twice – and there’s a good mix of talent and experience on the roster. As usual with Sean Kugler-coached teams, there’s a lot of talent and size in the trenches, and running the ball should be a strength if Jones stays healthy.

Questions remain at quarterback and in the secondary. A group of undersized receivers also needs to take a step forward. Six new assistant coaches will bring with them new philosophies, and it all needs to mesh well in order for UTEP to go bowling again.

PREDICTION

6-6 (4-4 in C-USA)

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KNOW THE FOE (RIVALRY EDITION): New Mexico Lobos

New_Mexico_Lobos_Primary_Mark

  • LOCATION: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • HOME FIELD: Branch Field at University Stadium (capacity 39,224)
  • CONFERENCE: Mountain West (Mountain Division)
  • 2015 RECORD: (7-6, 5-3 in MW)
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Lamar Jordan, RB Rick McQuarley, RB Teriyon Gipson, OL Reno Henderson, OL Garrett Adcock, DE Nik D’Avanzo, LB Maurice Daniels, LB Dakota Cox, S Lee Crosby
  • HEAD COACH: Bob Davie, 5th season (18-32)
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Bob DeBesse (5th season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kevin Cosgrove (3rd season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Bob DeBesse, Wide Receivers (1st season)
    • Kevin Cosgrove, Linebackers (5th season)
    • Clay Davie, Tight Ends (2nd season)
    • Charles McMillian, Safeties (4th season)
    • Apollo Wright, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • Stan Eggen, Defensive Line (1st season)
    • Saga Tuitele, Offensive Line (1st season)
    • Scott Baumgartner, Running Backs (1st season)
    • Al Simmons, Cornerbacks (2nd season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – South Dakota
  • 9/10 – at New Mexico State
  • 9/17 – at Rutgers
  • 10/1 – San Jose State*
  • 10/7 – Boise State*
  • 10/15 – at Air Force*
  • 10/22 – Louisiana-Monroe
  • 10/29 – at Hawaii*
  • 11/5 – Nevada*
  • 11/12 – at Utah State*
  • 11/19 – at Colorado State*
  • 11/26 – Wyoming*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Teton Saltes, DE (Albuquerque, NM)
  2. Daevon Vigilant, RB (Downey, CA)
  3. Rhashaun Epting, LB (Hillside, IL)
  4. Jay Griffin, WR (Huntsville, TX)
  5. Avery Jordan, OL* (Pearland, TX)
  6. Patrick Peek, S (Aledo, TX)
  7. Corey Hightower, CB (Huntsville, TX)
  8. Emmanuel Harris, WR* (Dallas, TX)
  9. Jonathan Brys, TE (Jackson, MI)
  10. Kameron Smith, OL (Tacoma, WA)
  11. Raymond Baylor, OL* (Missouri City, TX)
  12. Nahje Flowers, DE (Los Angeles, CA)
  13. Tevaka Tuioti, QB (La Mirada, CA)
  14. Kameron Miller, QB (Las Cruces, NM)
  15. Gabe Ortega, S (Rio Rancho, NM)
  16. Blaise Fountain, OL* (Maize, KS)
  17. David Swaby, OL (Los Angeles, CA)
  18. Stanley Barnwell, S* (Opa Locka, FL)
  19. Emmanuel Joseph, DE (Los Angeles, CA)
  20. Marcus Williams, WR (Rio Rancho, NM)
  21. Corey Bojorquez, P* (Bellflower, CA)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Lamar Jordan (Jr., Frisco, TX)
  • RB – Teriyon Gipson (Sr., Dallas TX)
  • RB – Rick McQuarley (Jr., Meridian, MS)
  • WR – Dameon Gamblin (Sr., Mesquite, TX)
  • WR – Delane Hart-Johnson (Jr., Philadelphia, PA)
  • TE – Nick Lehman (Sr., Bellflower, CA)
  • LT – Reno Henderson (R-Sr., Ocala, FL)
  • LG – Chris Lewis (Sr., Compton, CA)
  • C – Tevita Fonua (Sr., Richmond, CA)
  • RG – Aaron Jenkins (So., Dallas, TX)
  • RT – Garrett Adcock (Sr., Dallas, TX)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Nik D’Avanzo (Sr., Baltimore, MD)
  • NT – William Udeh (Sr., Coppell, TX)
  • DE – Garrett Hughes (Jr., Corona, CA)
  • LB – Maurice Daniels (Sr., Coalinga, CA)
  • LB – Dakota Cox (Sr., Draper, UT)
  • LB – Kimmie Carson (Jr., Tulsa, OK)
  • CB – Isaiah Brown (Sr., Katy, TX)
  • CB – Bijon Parker (So., Los Angeles, CA)
  • S – Daniel Henry (Sr., San Diego, CA)
  • S – Lee Crosby (Sr., Baltimore, MD)
  • S – Ryan Santos (Sr., Klein, TX)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K – Jason Sanders (Jr., Orange, CA)
  • P – Sam Gentry (Sr., Albuquerque, NM)

GOOD NEWS

  • The Lobos have the talent to reload at the running back position, with junior Rick McQuarley, junior Daryl Chestnut, senior Teriyon Gipson, and sophomore Tyrone Owens. The offensive line, traditionally a strength under coach Bob Davie, allowed only 13 sacks last season and has a few veterans returning, including three-year starting left tackle Reno Henderson and right tackle Garrett Adcock.
  • Senior Dakota Cox, junior Kimmie Carson, and senior Maurice Daniels form a terrific core of defenders at linebacker. Cox, a team captain, is an all-conference candidate and a four-year starter. Daniels is a quality third-down pass-rusher who impressed in his first season after transferring from junior college.
  • Junior quarterback Lamar Jordan showed good command of the option offense in his first full season as a starter. He’s got great speed and elusiveness.

BAD NEWS

  • In addition to his lack of ideal size (5’10”), Jordan needs to make better decisions when passing the ball. Backup Austin Apodaca came in as a touted junior college transfer last year, but was unimpressive (one touchdown, six interceptions).
  • The Lobos’ secondary was mediocre last year and suffered a lot of turnover in the offseason. Top cover corner Cranston Jones graduated, presumed starting corner Nias Martin was suspended during the spring due to ongoing sexual assault allegations, and starting safety Markel Byrd died tragically in a car accident in December.
  • UNM’s receiving corps has some returning youngsters, but none have proven to be particularly reliable. Junior Delane Hart-Johnson showed some moxie, averaging over 20 yards per reception, but he dropped too many open passes. Wide receiver/return specialist Carlos Wiggins will also be missed.

VERDICT

The Lobos have a kind schedule, and the offense is guaranteed to rack up plenty of yardage. However, a lot will depend on whether or not the secondary improves and if Jordan can take the next step in his development. With eight returning starters, the defense should be considered a strength, but consistency is a must.

PREDICTION

5-7 (3-5 in MW)

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Jack Gleeson

jack-gleeson-purple-wedding-reaction-game-of-thrones-gi

Only a few short years ago, Irish actor Jack Gleeson was considered one of the brightest, most talented young performers in the film and TV industry. He received heaps of praise and numerous award nominations for his portrayal of the wicked young king, Joffrey Baratheon, in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

And yet, in 2014, at the tender age of 22, Gleeson gave it all up, sacrificing a potential Hollywood career for a normal life. He was on the cusp of superstardom, but chose to retire from acting and pursue a university education at Trinity College in Dublin.

Why?

“I’m happy to sacrifice a big paycheck for my happiness, if that’s not too corny a thing to say,” Gleeson explained. “It’s probably more naive than mature to say that, maybe, but that’s how I feel.”
A performer from the age of seven, Gleeson was inspired to get into acting by his two sisters, who also acted as youngsters. Gleeson earned a couple small roles as a boy, including a bit part in worldwide blockbuster Batman Begins, before attending secondary school at Gonzaga College from 2004-2010.
When the Cork native was cast as the villainous, power-hungry King Joffrey on Game of Thrones, Gleeson said he drew influence from Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar-nominated performance as Emperor Commodus in Gladiator.
Gleeson, now 24, is pursuing studies in theology and philosophy at Trinity College, while still occasionally dabbling in the performing arts; he is the artistic director of Collapsing Horse Theatre Company in Dublin. However, he’s mostly forsaken his old life of non-stop script readings and phone calls from his agents, instead hoping to pursue a Ph.D. “I’d like to be an academic, a philosophy lecturer if possible,” Gleeson said.
Now, former child stars moving on to different things is not a new phenomenon. But Gleeson became weary of fame quickly, especially by being identified as such a monstrous character. “I find it slightly uncomfortable to see my face on a bus or a poster. I like just being known by my friends and family,” he remarked in an interview.
One of the catalysts that persuaded Gleeson to forsake the glamorous lifestyle of a young actor was when he went on a relief trip to Haiti with the organization GOAL a few years ago. Gleeson described the trip as “surreal.”
jof-1
“It’s a profound juxtaposition to find yourself in. Not just from my fictional character, but from my real life in Dublin. Haiti was a profoundly impoverished country even before the earthquake,” said Gleeson, referring to the 2010 quake that killed and misplaced thousands of people.

“So to see it get back on its feet is uplifting.”

Gleeson has also admitted that he doesn’t like watching himself play Joffrey, whose sociopathic tendencies on the show included physically abusing women and decapitating his foes. While he enjoyed the day-to-day challenges of portraying such a memorable character, he admits that identifying with such an evil and twisted character was difficult on him psychologically.
joffrey-baratheon-house-baratheon-37001732-1402-2100
In real life, Gleeson comes across as intelligent and intellectual, but also sincere and polite. Many of his co-stars said he was one of the nicest actors they had ever worked with. Gleeson has also shown himself to be a good sport about his enduring popularity with the fanatical Game of Thrones fanbase; he still interacts with fans of the show on Twitter and has made occasional appearances at conventions and festivals.
So for all intents and purposes, Jack Gleeson seems to have made peace with his old life of fame and is optimistic about what the future holds. I wish him all the best in his new endeavors.

KNOW THE FOE: Georgia Southern Eagles

68857702010

  • LOCATION: Statesboro, Georgia
  • HOME FIELD: Allen E. Paulson Stadium (capacity 20,000)
  • CONFERENCE: Sun Belt Conference
  • 2015 RECORD: 9-4, 6-2 in Sun Belt
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Kevin Ellison, QB Favian Upshaw, RB Matt Breida, OL Andy Kwon, DE Jamal Johnson, DE Jay Ellison, LB Deshawnte Gallon, LB Chris DeLaRosa, CB Darius Jones
  • HEAD COACH: Tyson Summers, 1st season
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS: Rance Gillespie (1st season), David Dean (1st season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Lorenzo Costantini (1st season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Rance Gillespie, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • David Dean, Wide Receivers (1st season)
    • Chris Foster, Running Backs (1st season)
    • Allen Mogridge, Offensive Line (1st season)
    • Jeremy Rowell, Defensive Backs (1st season)
    • Chad Lunsford, Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator (4th season)
    • Jimmy Lindsey, Defensive Line (1st season)
    • Pat Bastien, Linebackers (1st season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – Savannah State
  • 9/10 – at South Alabama*
  • 9/17 – Louisiana-Monroe*
  • 9/24 – at Western Michigan
  • 10/5 – at Arkansas State*
  • 10/15 – at Georgia Tech
  • 10/22 – at New Mexico State*
  • 10/27 – Appalachian State*
  • 11/5 – at Ole Miss
  • 11/10 – Louisiana-Lafayette*
  • 11/19 – at Georgia State*
  • 12/3 – Troy*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Darion Anderson, WR (Warner Robins, GA)
  2. Michael Jackson, WR (Lake City, FL)
  3. Drew Wilson, OL (Bamberg, SC)
  4. Monquavion Brinson, CB (Atlanta, GA)
  5. Deshon Cooper, DE* (Decatur, GA)
  6. Lawrence Edwards, OL (Port Orange, FL)
  7. Jermany Hawkins, RB (Sylvania, GA)
  8. Martial Washington, S (Hinesville, GA)
  9. Rakeem Hightower, S (Moultrie, GA)
  10. Traver Vliem, DE (Midland, TX)
  11. Todd Bradley, LB (Valdosta, GA)
  12. Kindle Vildor, CB (Atlanta, GA)
  13. Mark Michaud, TE (Paramus, NJ)
  14. Darius Roper, DT* (Jersey City, NJ)
  15. Tori Delesline, LB (Simpsonville, SC)
  16. Chris Barrett, TE (Clearwater, FL)
  17. Shai Werts, QB (Newberry, SC)
  18. Randy Wade, LB (Blakely, GA)
  19. Seth Shuman, QB (Valdosta, GA)
  20. Rashad Byrd, LB (North Augusta, SC)
  21. Amari Thompson, CB (Lake Minneola, FL)
  22. Alex Smith, OL (Woodstock, GA)
  23. Tanner Hall, WR (Suwanee, GA)
  24. Ty Phillips, DT (Moultrie, GA)
  25. Alvin Ward, DE (Ahoskie, NC)
  26. R.J. Merriweather, WR (Tifton, GA)
  27. Luis Martinez, K (Moultrie, GA)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Kevin Ellison (Sr., Cornelia, GA)
  • RB – Matt Breida (Sr., Brooksville, FL)
  • WR – B.J. Johnson (R-Sr., Woodruff, SC)
  • WR – Myles Campbell (Jr., Duluth, GA)
  • WR – Keigan Williams (Sr., Metter, GA)
  • TE – Kevin Ackerman (R-Fr., Jacksonville, FL)
  • LT – Jeremiah Culbreth (So., Fairburn, GA)
  • LG – Curtis Rainey (So., Jacksonville, FL)
  • C – Andy Kwon (Sr., Suwanee, GA)
  • RG – Tommy Boynton (Jr., Jacksonville, FL)
  • RT – Max Magaña (Sr., Las Vegas, NV)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Bernard Dawson (Sr., Thomson, GA)
  • DT – Darrius Sapp (Jr., Valdosta, GA)
  • DT – Jay Ellison (Sr., Hamilton, GA)
  • DE – Jamal Johnson (Sr., Statesboro, GA)
  • LB – Deshawnte Gallon (R-Sr., Madison, FL)
  • LB – Ukeme Eligwe (R-Jr., Stone Mountain, GA)
  • LB – Chris DeLaRosa (Jr., Longwood, FL)
  • CB – Darius Jones (Sr., Woodruff, SC)
  • CB – Jessie Liptrot (R-Fr., Neptune Beach, FL)
  • SS – Jay Bowdry (R-Fr., Thomasville, GA)
  • FS – Josh Moon (R-Fr., Fairburn, GA)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP

  • K – Younghoe Koo (Sr., Ridgewood, NJ)
  • P – Matt Flynn (R-Jr., Loganville, GA)

GOOD NEWS

  • New offensive coordinators David Dean and Rance Gillespie inherit a loaded stable of tailbacks and two experienced QBs, Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw (both seniors). Both can run the read-option extremely well.
  • The offensive line is a year older and stronger after allowing only seven sacks in 2015. All-conference center Andy Kwon is the anchor.
  • The defense is stingy against the run, with linebackers Deshawnte Gallon and Chris DeLaRosa, and the defensive line looks to have a lot of depth, spearheaded by veterans Jay Ellison and Jamal Johnson.

BAD NEWS

  • The wide receiving corps lacks top-flight talent and needs to develop more consistency. Leading returning target B.J. Johnson is back after breaking his collarbone early last season. Georgia Tech graduate transfer Micheal Summers, a Statesboro native, should help out when he arrives in the fall.
  • The secondary lacks substantial depth at safety after losing stalwarts Antonio Glover and Matt Dobson. Former nickelback Robert Brice could help out, and there’s some young talent in the mix, but much of it is unproven.
  • Both Ellison and Upshaw need to make better decisions through the air. While the option scheme won’t change overnight, Gillespie and Dean said that their eventual goal is a 60-40 mix of running and passing.

VERDICT

The Eagles’ transition to the FBS could hardly have gone any better – 18-7 in two seasons under former coach Willie Fritz, who moved to Tulane in the offseason. Enter former assistant Tyson Summers, who was most recently the defensive coordinator at Colorado State. An excellent recruiter, Summers will attempt to switch the focus from an exciting option offense to a no-frills, blue-collar defense. While the option elements will still remain, the Eagles will attempt to shift to a more balanced scheme eventually. Regardless, the talent level in Statesboro is very high, and fan support is booming.

The schedule is daunting, with only five home games, but there’s enough here to contend with Appalachian State and Arkansas State for the Sun Belt championship.

PREDICTION

9-3, 6-2 in Sun Belt

KNOW THE FOE: Idaho Vandals

vandal

  • LOCATION: Moscow, Idaho
  • HOME FIELD: Kibbie Dome (capacity 16,000)
  • CONFERENCE: Sun Belt Conference
  • 2015 RECORD: 4-8, 3-5 in Sun Belt
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Matt Linehan, WR Alfonso Onunwar, WR Callen Hightower, TE Trent Cowan, TE Deon Watson, DE Tueni Lupeamanu, LB Kaden Elliss, S Russell Siavii, P/K Austin Rehkow
  • HEAD COACH: Paul Petrino, 4th season (6-29)
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kris Cinkovich (4th season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Breske (2nd season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Paul Petrino, Wide Receivers (1st season)
    • Kris Cinkovich, Offensive Line (4th season)
    • Mike Breske, Safeties (2nd season)
    • Charley Molnar, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • Al Pupunu, Tight Ends (7th season)
    • Kenny Holmes, Defensive Line (2nd season)
    • Jason Shumaker, Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator/Special Teams Coordinator (4th season)
    • Aric Williams, Cornerbacks (2nd season)
    • Eric Brown, Linebackers (4th season)
    • Troy Purcell, Inside Linebackers (1st season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/1 – Montana State
  • 9/10 – at Washington
  • 9/17 – at Washington State
  • 9/24 – at UNLV
  • 10/1 – Troy*
  • 10/8 – at Louisiana-Monroe*
  • 10/15 – New Mexico State*
  • 10/22 – at Appalachian State*
  • 11/5 – at Louisiana-Lafayette*
  • 11/12 – at Texas State*
  • 11/26 – South Alabama*
  • 12/3 – Georgia State*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. J.J. Wills, WR (Clovis, CA)
  2. Dylan Thigpen, RB (La Verne, CA)
  3. Wayne Eades, DE (Memphis, TN)
  4. Charles Akanno, LB (Inglewood, CA)
  5. Noah Johnson, OL (Fayetteville, AR)
  6. Chris Hunter, WR (Lakewood, WA)
  7. Lloyd Hightower, WR (Temecula, CA)
  8. Vaughn Daggs, CB (Auburn, WA)
  9. Ty Graham, S (Cheney, WA)
  10. Qendarrion Barnett, S (Macon, MS)
  11. Alfonso Onunwar, WR* (Cleveland, OH)
  12. Jaden Gardner, LB (Riverside, CA)
  13. Darius Archie, OL (Elk Grove, CA)
  14. David Potts, DE (Corona, CA)
  15. Dylan Beeler, TE (Clarkston, WA)
  16. Josh Herman, FB* (Tulsa, OK)
  17. Rahsaan Crawford, DT (Tucker, GA)
  18. Arie Anderson, DT* (Millbrook, AL)
  19. Mason Petrino, QB (Pullman, WA)
  20. Aikeem Coleman, DE* (Hattiesburg, MS)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Matt Linehan (Jr., Orchard Lake, MI)
  • RB – Aaron Duckworth (Jr., Orange Park, FL)
  • WR – Callen Hightower (Sr., Loganville, GA)
  • WR – Alfonso Onunwar (Jr., Cleveland, OH)
  • WR – David Ungerer (R-So., Pullman, WA)
  • TE – Trent Cowan (Sr., Camas, WA)
  • LT – Calvin White (Sr., Marysville, WA)
  • LG – Mason Woods (Sr., Port Coquitlam, British Columbia)
  • C – Steven Matlock (Sr., Boise, ID)
  • RG – Noah Johnson (Fr., Fayetteville, AR)
  • RT – Jordan Rose (Jr., Spokane, WA)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Kevin White (Sr., Philadelphia, PA)
  • DT – Glen Antoine (Sr., Round Rock, TX)
  • DE – Tueni Lupeamanu (Sr., Herriman, UT)
  • LB – Khalin Smith (Sr., Vallejo, CA)
  • LB – Tony Lashley (R-So., Kansas City, MO)
  • LB – Ed Hall (So., Eagle River, AK)
  • LB – Kaden Elliss (So., Salt Lake City, UT)
  • CB – Dorian Clark (Jr., Baldwin, FL)
  • CB – Jayshawn Jordan (R-Sr., Seattle, WA)
  • SS – Russell Siavii (Sr., Wahiawa, HI)
  • FS – Jordan Grabski (Jr., Bradenton, FL)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K/P – Austin Rehkow (Sr., Veradale, WA)

GOOD NEWS

  • The Vandals have an improving junior quarterback in Matt Linehan and a group of small, speedy receivers. Leading returning receiver Callen Hightower snagged 57 passes last season, and Jacob Sannon and David Ungerer are both back from injuries that cost them chunks of 2015. Junior college transfer Alfonso Onunwar was one of the spring’s most consistent performers, making a case for early playing time.
  • The running game seemed to be improved in the spring, with junior Aaron Duckworth, redshirt freshman Denzal Brantley, and sophomore Isaiah Saunders all vying for carries. Highly-regarded true freshman Dylan Thigpen arrives in the fall.
  • The secondary made strides in 2015 and brings back a handful of experienced players, including senior Jayshawn Jordan, who missed most of last year, as well as junior corner Dorian Clark, senior corner Kendrick Trotter, and senior safety Russell Siavii.

BAD NEWS

  • The defense was porous last season, ranking last in the Sun Belt against the run. In Year Two under coordinator Mike Breske, the Vandals are looking to make vast improvements. The lone proven piece at linebacker is Kaden Elliss, fresh off an 83-tackle debut as a true freshman.
  • The offensive line has plenty of experience (four senior starters), but lacks depth. This unit gave up 29 sacks last year.
  • Idaho has depth concerns at quarterback. Linehan, the incumbent, made significant progress last season, but missed spring drills due to a nagging foot injury. Sophomore backup Jake Luton took all the No. 1 reps in spring practice, but asked for his release over the summer – leaving no one behind Linehan with any collegiate experience. Currently, the depth chart consists of redshirt freshman Gunnar Amos and true freshman Mason Petrino.

VERDICT

Idaho secured four wins in 2015, which was more victories than the previous three seasons combined (two of which were under current head coach Paul Petrino).

However, there was no time to celebrate. Idaho suffered a tumultuous offseason, with the Sun Belt Conference opting not to renew the Vandals’ football-only membership in March. This culminated in the devastating decision to drop from the FBS to the FCS, effective 2018. The program will become a member of the Big Sky Conference, which it was also a member from 1965-1995, winning five conference championships during that span.

As for the present, the Vandals need to hope for a consistent, productive offense, and for a beleaguered defense to start pulling its weight, especially in the front seven. If they can at least do that, four or five wins are certainly within reach.

PREDICTION

4-8, 2-6 in Sun Belt

KNOW THE FOE: Texas State Bobcats

Bobcat1

  • LOCATION: San Marcos, Texas
  • HOME FIELD: Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium (capacity 30,000)
  • CONFERENCE: Sun Belt Conference
  • 2015 RECORD: 3-9, 2-6 in Sun Belt
  • PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tyler Jones, OL Tryston Mizerak, OL Felix Romero, LB Karee Berry, CB Brandon McDowell, S Damani Alexcee
  • HEAD COACH: Everett Withers, 1st season
  • OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Brett Elliott (1st season)
  • DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Randall McCray (1st season)
  • ASSISTANT COACHES:
    • Brett Elliott, Quarterbacks (1st season)
    • Randall McCray, Inside Linebackers (1st season)
    • Parker Fleming, Wide Receivers/Special Teams Coordinator (1st season)
    • Ron Antoine, Running Backs/Tight Ends (1st season)
    • Tyler Santucci, Outside Linebackers (1st season)
    • Troy Douglas, Safeties (1st season)
    • Jules Montinar, Cornerbacks (1st season)
    • Antoine Smith, Defensive Line (1st season)
    • Adrian Mayes, Offensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator (1st season)

2016 SCHEDULE

  • 9/3 – at Ohio
  • 9/17 – at Arkansas
  • 9/24 – Houston
  • 10/1 – Incarnate Word
  • 10/8 – at Georgia State*
  • 10/15 – at Louisiana-Monroe*
  • 10/22 – Louisiana-Lafayette*
  • 11/5 – at Appalachian State*
  • 11/12 – Idaho*
  • 11/19 – at New Mexico State*
  • 11/26 – Troy*
  • 12/3 – Arkansas State*

*Conference game

CLASS OF 2016

  1. Jordan Eastling, CB (Decatur, GA)
  2. Elijah King, WR* (Ashland, KY)
  3. Tyler Tutt, RB (Keller, TX)
  4. Hal Vinson, LB (Dallas, TX)
  5. Dean Taylor, DE (Pearland, TX)
  6. Josiah Washington, OL (DeSoto, TX)
  7. Gabe Loyd, LB* (St. Louis, MO)
  8. Ramon Readus, DT (McKinney, TX)
  9. Devin Williams, QB (Mansfield, TX)
  10. Robert Brown, RB (Houston, TX)
  11. Nik Daniels, LB (League City, TX)
  12. John Lilly, DT (Houston, TX)
  13. Quinn Tiggs, CB* (Tupelo, MS)
  14. Kumonde Hines, S (Chesterfield, VA)
  15. Brendon Rushing, TE (DeSoto, TX)
  16. Aaron Brewer, OL (Dallas, TX)
  17. Levi Boyd, TE* (Itasca, TX)
  18. Markeveon Coleman, S (Dallas, TX)
  19. Jashon Waddy, CB (Angleton, TX)
  20. Charlie Vatterott, OL (Houston, TX)
  21. Anthony Taylor, CB (Allen, TX)
  22. Jaquel Pierce, OL (Duncanville, TX)
  23. Thurman Morbley, WR (Texarkana, TX)

*Junior college transfer

Bold indicates early enrollee.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – OFFENSE

  • QB – Tyler Jones (Sr., Stephenville, TX)
  • RB – Tyler Siudzinski (Sr., Tustin, CA)
  • WR – Montreal Taylor (Jr., Mansfield, TX)
  • WR – Fred Nixon (Sr., Willis, TX)
  • WR – P.J. Anderson (So., San Antonio, TX)
  • TE – Gabe Schrade (Jr., Deland, FL)
  • LT – Tryston Mizerak (Jr., Garland, TX)
  • LG – Kregg Lemons (R-Fr., Katy, TX)
  • C – Guiliano Cattaneo (Sr., Santa Rosa, CA)
  • RG – Felix Romero (Sr., Cedar Park, TX)
  • RT – Ryan Melton (Sr., Liberty, TX)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – DEFENSE

  • DE – Steven Eddings (Sr., Memphis, TN)
  • NT – Dallas McClarty (Sr., League City, TX)
  • DE – Ishmael Davis (So., Killeen, TX)
  • LB – Kerry Walker (R-Fr., Killeen, TX)
  • LB – Stephen Smith (Jr., Missouri City, TX)
  • LB – Frankie Griffin (So., Spring, TX)
  • LB – Karee Berry (Jr., Spring Branch, TX)
  • CB – Brandon McDowell (Jr., DeSoto, TX)
  • CB – Clarence Guidry III (So., Pflugerville, TX)
  • SS – Damani Alexcee (Sr., League City, TX)
  • FS – Stephan Johnson (So., The Woodlands, TX)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP – SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K/P – Lumi Kaba (Sr., Tyler, TX)

GOOD NEWS

  • New coordinator Brett Elliott favors a fast-paced spread offense, and the Bobcats have a number of speedy options at tailback, including promising youngsters Nick Bingham and Stedman Mayberry. They’ll pair up with senior Tyler Siudzinski to give Texas State a decent rotation. Touted true freshman Tyler Tutt will be involved as well.
  • The offensive line has three returning starters in Ryan Melton, Tryston Mizerak, and Felix Romero. They’ll help solidify the transition to the up-tempo spread offense.
  • The Bobcats have some quality returning pieces at safety, especially leading returning tackler Damani Alexcee (79). Stephan Johnson (two interceptions in 2015) and Dila Rosamund are back as well, and coaches are high on sophomore Frankie Griffin, who shined in the spring game with 10 tackles.

BAD NEWS

  • There’s next to nothing returning at wide receiver; the position was decimated by both graduation losses and players transferring out after the coaching change. Junior college transfer Elijah King, junior Montreal Taylor, sophomore P.J. Anderson, and converted quarterback Fred Nixon are now the de facto threats.
  • Senior quarterback Tyler Jones is a three-year starter, but was erratic in 2015 and now must hold off challenges from sophomore Connor White and incoming graduate transfer Eddie Printz.
  • The run defense was far too generous in 2015 and lost a number of starters in the front seven. The Bobcats are moving to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Randall McCray (formerly of Gardner-Webb).

VERDICT

The Bobcats begin a new era under coach Everett Withers, most recently the coach at FCS powerhouse James Madison. Withers, known as a defensive guru, has immediately started to instill a sense of toughness and discipline that’s been sorely lacking in recent seasons.

Texas State has the makings of a decent run game and has several quality options at quarterback, but the defense has to take some giant steps forward for the Bobcats to be competitive. With a lack of depth across the board, things don’t look promising at the moment. Bottom line: Withers might lead the ‘Cats to bigger and better things, but not this year.

PREDICTION

2-10, 1-7 in Sun Belt