WWU picked third in GNAC coaches poll


WWU Head Coach Robin Ross

Aug. 19, 2008

SPOKANE, Wash. -

Great Northwest Coaches Pre-Season Poll

                         2007 Record	Pts
1. Central Washington (5)	10-3	25
2. Western Oregon               9-2	20
3. Western Washington           2-8	15
4. Dixie State                  3-8	 8
5. Humboldt State               2-8	 7

(Note: First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis).

Two teams - Central Washington and Western Oregon - hope to make return trips to the post-season, while three others will be looking to rebound from eight-loss seasons when the 2008 Great Northwest Athletic Conference football campaign begins next Saturday (Aug. 30).

Central Washington, which is an unanimous pick to win its fourth GNAC title in the conference coaches' pre-season poll, travels to St. George, Utah for its conference opener against Dixie State. In non-conference games, Humboldt State and Western Oregon will take on Division I Championship Sub Division (formerly Division I-AA) opponents.

The Lumberjacks play at Sacramento State and the Wolves takes at Portland State in their openers. Western Washington opens its season Saturday, Sept. 6 hosting Western Oregon.

Central Washington won the last two GNAC titles - in 2004 and 2005 - before the conference discontinued the sport. In the last two seasons CWU and WWU competed in the now defunct North Central Conference, while Western Oregon, Humboldt State and Dixie State, which moved up from the junior college ranks two years ago, were independents.

Central is coming off a 10-3 campaign and a NCAA Division II national quarterfinal appearance and could not only make a run at its fourth GNAC title (it also won the title in 2002), but also has hopes of playing deep into December under first-year head coach Blaine Bennett.

The former Western Oregon head coach (27-32 in six seasons between 1995 and 2000), spent six of the last seven seasons as an assistant coach in the Big Ten Conference, including five at Purdue and one at Michigan State.

Bennett inherited a talented team from Beau Baldwin, who left after one season as head coach to take over at Eastern Washington after Eagle head coach Paul Wulff was hired at Washington State.

Among seven returning offensive starters for the Wildcats are first-team All-American quarterback Mike Reilly (3,388 yards, 30 touchdowns), two All-American receivers in tight end Jared Bronson (35-477) and two-sport standout Johnny Spevak (92-1210, 14 TDs) and three-fifths of CWU's 2007 starting offensive line which helped produce 408 points (31.4 per game) and 5,180 yards (398.5 per game).

The Wildcats did lose running back Johnny Lopez, who rushed for 1,230 yards and 13 touchdowns, but among Bennett's first recruiting class is University of Washington transfer J.R. Hasty, who ran for a state high-school record 50 touchdowns at Bellevue four years ago.

On defense, the Wildcats return five of their seven top tacklers and three NCC all-conference players - linebacker Buddy Wood, who led the team in tackles with 119 and was a first team selection. Defensive lineman Mitch Reffett and defensive back Jerome Williams were honorable mention selections.

The defense also got a boost with the addition of cornerback Jordan Murchison, who was being mentioned as a possible starter at UW last season but ended up playing in just two games, and linebacker Ryan Buenaflor, who played in 11 games over the past two seasons at Eastern Washington.

Western Oregon returns a GNAC-best 17 starters and 46 letter winners off a team that lost just once to a Division II team (49-14 to Central Washington) and capped off a nine-win season with a 26-12 win over Colorado School of Mines in the Rotary Bowl.

The Wolves return all of their running backs including Ben Kuenzi (722 yards, five touchdowns) and four of their top five receivers led by Isaiah Smith (37-541, 6 TDs) and Sean Kauleinamoku (36-483, 6 TDs). But head coach Arne Ferguson (20-12, 3 years) will need to replace quarterback Mark Thorson (2,316 yards and 24 touchdowns) and most of his offensive line.

Three quarterbacks - Brady Lovell, A.J. Robinson and Cory Bean - split playing time in the spring, combining to complete 17 of 23 passes for 249 yards in the Alumni game. A fourth - Salem native Josh Riddle - played three games last season at Mississippi State throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns.

Center Cory Perkins and tight end Cory Dickson are the lone returning players that started on the offensive line in the Rotary Bowl.

On defense, the Wolves return five of their top seven tacklers including linebacker J.T. Gilmore (122 tackles), but will need to replace their two defensive ends.

Western Washington hopes to bounce back from a 2-8 season, its fewest victories in more than two decades. After an impressive 28-21 win over UC Davis in their season opener, the Vikings lost eight of their final nine games, giving up 40 or more points three times.

Nine starters are back for WWU on offense including quarterback Adam Perry, who threw for 1,587 yards and seven touchdowns. Perry will be backed up Washington State transfer Cole Morgan, who spent three seasons in Pullman, but played in just one game.

The Vikings did lose running back Craig Garner, who gained 989 yards, but Randall Eldridge who rushed for 1,277 yards in earning second team JC All-American honors in 2006 is available.

WWU's entire starting offensive line led by center Dan Trask, who earned honorable mention NCC honors, also returns. The Vikings top two receivers - wide receivers Travis McKee (43-381) and Rick Copsey (25-351) also are back.

On defense, the Vikings return six starters, including honorable mention all-league cornerback Anthony Rosso, who had a league-best four interceptions.

The defense, however, gave up 27 touchdown passes, allowed 431.8 yards and 32.1 points per game, and will need to show vast improvement in order for WWU to challenge the Wildcats and Wolves for either a NCAA playoff berth or an invitation to the Rotary Bowl, which goes to the highest league finisher not to receive an NCAA invite.

Among its returnees, WWU's most experience is in the secondary which will feature Rosso, University of Oregon transfer Jordan Carey and Kevin Jones, who was a starter in 2005 prior to missing the last two seasons with injuries.

Dixie State returns 15 starters and 35 letter winners off a team that had wins over Adams State, Western New Mexico and Humboldt State.

Three returning players earned D2football.com all-independent honors - tight end Judd Thompson, offensive lineman Ryan Delrosal and linebacker Teddy Owens.

Former Western Washington coach Rob Smith takes over at Humboldt State. Smith, who posted a 109-62 record in 17 seasons at Bellingham, inherits a team that features 32 returning letter winners and a GNAC season-low eight starters. Just two returning Humboldt players - kicker Kyle Schierholt and offensive lineman Bryant Kendall -earned all-independent honors a year ago.

TEAM PREVIEWS

Central Washington (10-3, 6-2, 3rd in NCC)

With former University of Washington running back J.R. Hasty (5-10, 221, Jr., Newcastle, WA - Bellevue) joining three returning All-Americans, Central Washington could potentially have one of the best offenses in Division II.

Quarterback Mike Reilly (6-3, 212, Sr., Kalispell, MT - Flathead) threw for 3,386 yards and 30 touchdowns last season in earning first team D2Football.com All-American honors, though he was just a second team all-conference selection in the North Central Conference.

In three seasons, the former Washington State redshirt has thrown for 8,742 and needs 3,611 yards this season to equal Jon Kitna's school career passing record of 12,353 yards. Only three quarterbacks in NCAA Division II history have reached the 12,000-yard plateau. (Note: Kitna's total came as a member of the NAIA).

Reilly, who also rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns (he is CWU's leading returning rusher), has a talented group of athletes to hand off and/or throw the ball to.

Junior wide receiver Johnny Spevak (6-3, 200, Jr., Edgewood, WA - Puyallup), who also starts for the Wildcat basketball team, ranked 10th nationally in receiving last year with 92 catches for 1,210 yards and 14 touchdowns and was a third team Football Gazette All-American selection.

Tight end Jared Bronson (6-4, 255, Sr., Kent, WA - Thomas Jefferson & UW) had 35 catches for 477 yards and two touchdowns and wide receiver Chris Rohrbach (6-1, 200, Sr., Edmonds, WA - Meadowdale & UW) caught 45 passes for 675 yards and five touchdowns.

Among CWU's running back corps, Hasty and Jerome Morris (5-11, 187, Jr., Los Angeles, CA - Jefferson) from East Los Angeles College are the only ones with collegiate experience.

Hasty saw limited action at UW, redshirting his freshman season before being academically ineligible in 2006. Last year, he played in just three games and gained 18 yards on six carries. But, he has the tools to complete the Wildcat offense.

"He's a complete back, a physical back," CWU first-year head coach Blaine Bennett said. "He can carry the ball 30 times. He catches the ball out of the backfield. He's got good vision and patience, which you have to have in a one-back offense."

While the `Cats don't return any running backs, they do return four starters, including Bronson, off of last year's starting offensive line.

Also back are tackles Aaron Gilbert (6-4, 315, Sr., Auburn, WA - Thomas Jefferson) and Tony Quirk (6-6, 296, Jr., Ellensburg, WA) who have combined to make 59 career starts. Both players started all 13 games a year ago.

Matt Coffman (6-4, 300, Sr., Othello, WA) returns at left guard. He has made 27 career starts, including eight last season.

On defense, three of CWU's six returning starters earned NCC all-conference honors a year ago. Linebacker Buddy Wood (6-3, 200, Jr., Chattaroy, WA - Riverside) led the team in tackles with 119, including 9 ½ for losses of 22 yards. He also had two interceptions, two forced fumbles and broke up six passes to earn first team NCC all-star honors.

Defensive tackle Mitch Reffett (6-1, 255, Sr., Moses Lake, WA) and safety Jerome Williams (6-2, 211, Jr., Seattle, WA - Ballard) were NCC honorable mention selections. Reffett had 46 tackles, including nine for losses of 39 yards. He ranked second on the team in quarterback sacks with five. Williams had 64 tackles and led the Wildcats with six interceptions.

Also back off last year's starting defensive unit is defensive end Tyrell Nielsen (6-5, 248, So., Woodland, WA), linebacker Adam Bighill (5-10, 212, So., Montesano, WA) and cornerback Jon Rogers (5-9, 190, Sr., North Pole, AK - Eielson).

Nielsen had 41 tackles, including 6 ½ for losses of 21 yards. Bighill was credited with 62 tackles and led the team with 11 tackles for losses of 66 yards. Rogers ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 71.

Also back is linebacker Anthony Le (5-11, 206, So., Lacey, WA - Timberline), who had 69 tackles, the fifth best total on the team.

Cornerback Jordan Murchison (5-11, 196, Sr., Oakland, WA - Bishop O'Dowd & CC of San Francisco) and linebacker Ryan Buenaflor (6-1, 231, Jr., Anacortes, WA) will also bring some additional experience to the defense.

Murchison played two seasons at Community College of San Francisco before transferring to the University of Washington.

He played in just two games for the Huskies, being credited with two tackles and a deflection. Buenaflor played in 11 games at Eastern Washington, including nine last season.

Also back for the Wildcats this fall is kicker Garrett Rolsma (6-0, 197, Jr., University Place, WA - Curtis), who handled both the punting and placekicking duties last season. He averaged 35.9 yards per punt, and made 46 of 51 extra points and 12 of 18 field goals.

Western Oregon (9-2)

With most of its key players off last year's Rotary Bowl championship team returning, Western Oregon is in good position to make a return trip to St. George, Utah, or a run at the NCAA playoffs.

Among the biggest concerns for fourth-year head coach Arne Ferguson (20-12) is finding a quarterback to replace Mark Thorson, who completed his career throwing for 6,672 yards and 60 touchdowns.

He will also need to restructure the offensive line where only two starters are back and find replacements for defensive ends Victor Felipe and Casey O'Donnell, who combined for 63 tackles, including 21 ½ for losses (14 of them sacks).

"I like what I see regarding the athleticism of the players competing for those sports (quarterback, offensive line and defensive end)," Ferguson said.

Three quarterbacks - Brady Lovell (6-3, 195, So., Prairie City, OR), A.J. Robinson (6-1, 195, So., Redmond, OR) and Cory Bean (6-5, 240, Fr., Hillsboro, OR) - split playing time in the spring, combining to complete 17 of 23 passes for 249 yards in the Alumni game.

Lovell completed six of nine passes for 91 yards, while Robinson was six of eight for 66 yards and Bean completed five of six for 92 yards.

Added to that group is Josh Riddle (6-0, 205, Jr., Salem, OR - McKay), who played in three games at Mississippi State completing 18 of 37 passes for 240 yards before sustaining a season-ending injury.

Elsewhere at the skilled offensive positions, the Wolves appear to be in fine shape.

WOU returns all of its running backs including Ben Kuenzi (5-10, 215, Jr., Salem, OR - McKay) and four of its top five receivers led by Isaiah Smith (6-4, 215, Sr., Roseburg, OR) and Sean Kauleinamoku (5-9, 185, Jr., Ewa Beach, HI - St. Louis HS).

Kuenzi led the Wolves with 722 yards and five touchdowns to earn second team D2football.com all-independent honors, while Tyler Wilson (5-10, 210, Jr., Dayton, OR) netted 457 yards and D.J. Jackson (6-1, 210, So., Portland, OR - Jesuit) rushed for 258 yards, averaging a team-best 5.5 yards per carry.

In WOU's spring game, redshirt freshman Dane Kelsey (5-9, 215, Vancouver, WA - Hudson's Bay) rushed for 103 yards on six carries.

Smith caught a team-high 37 passes for 541 yards and Kauleinamoku had 36 receptions for 483 yards. Both players had six TD receptions accounting for 12 of WOU's 27 aerial six-pointers.

Also back are wide receiver Sean Fullerton (6-2, 200, Jr., West Linn, OR) and tight end Cory Dickson (6-5, 255, So., Corvallis, OR). Fullerton had 31 receptions for 365 yards and two touchdowns and Dickson caught 18 for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

A key addition is wide receiver Damario Ballard (6-6, 215, Jr., Thomson, GA), who caught 45 passes for 681 yards and eight touchdowns at the College of the Siskiyous.

Center Cory Perkins (6-0, 280, Sr., Salem, OR - McKay) and Dickson are the lone returning players that started on the offensive line in the Rotary Bowl.

Five other lettermen - Chester Anonson (6-1, 270, So., Monroe, WA), Jose Escobedo (6-5, 285, Jr., Nyssa, OR) , Ty Gieser (6-3, 280, Jr., Beaverton, OR), Hector Gonzalez (6-3, 300, So., Hood River, OR) and Alan Noble (6-3, 250, So., Estacada, OR) - also return on the line.

Transfers Cody Feakin (6-6, 305, Sr., Scappoose, OR) from Portland State and Michael Dyer (6-2, 310, Jr., Portland, OR - Grant) from West Hills JC and redshirt Jason Slowey (6-4, 295, Fr., Medford, OR - North Medford) will also play key roles, possibly as starters.

On defense, the Wolves return five of their top seven tacklers including linebacker J.T. Gilmore (6-4, 255, Jr., Lincoln City, OR), who led the team in stops with 122, nearly twice as many as anyone else. He also had seven tackles for losses of 20 yards and ranked second in interceptions with three to earn D2football.com second team all-independent honors.

Defensive tackle Matt Cox (6-0, 250, Sr., Salem, OR - North Salem) was a first team D2football.com selection after putting up some impressive defensive numbers, including 19 tackles for losses of 92 yards, 10 of them quarterback sacks. Overall, he had 62 tackles to rank third on the team and also had two fumble recovers, two forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.

Linebacker Andy Douglas (6-2, 225, Jr., Aloha, OR) and defensive backs Caleb Singleton (6-4, 200, So., Salem, OR - West Salem) and Andrew Jackson (6-0, 195, Jr., Portland, OR - Madison) were also among WOU's tackle leaders. Douglas ranked fourth with 58 tackles, eight of them for losses totaling 50 yards. He also swiped two passes.

Singleton and Jackson ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, with 45 and 43 tackles. Jackson made five stops for losses of 22 yards. Miguel Gonzalez (5-10, 180, Jr., Salem, OR - McKay) from the College of the Siskiyous will give a boost to the secondary.

Also back off of WOU's starting defensive unit are tackles Anthony Marin (6-0, 270, Sr., Salem, OR - McKay), who had 21 tackles (5 ½ for losses of 34 yards), linebacker Gavin Romanick (6-3, 225, Jr., Madras, OR), who had 34 tackles (5 ½ for losses of 18) and defensive back Bryan Huber (6-0, 170, Jr., Salem, OR - West Salem), who had 27 tackles and broke up six passes. Romanick tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries.

Marin may move from tackle to shore up the defensive end position. Other possibilities at end include Justin Cuellar (6-6, 240, So., Independence, OR), who had eight tackles including two sacks, and John Malone (6-4, 240, Jr., Roseburg, OR).

Among WOU's specialty team players, they'll need to replace place-kicker Bruce Voges, who made six of 13 field goals and 33 of 39 extra points and led the team in scoring with 51 points. But, both Dickson (35.3) and Juan Rodriguez (6-4, 190, Jr., Hermiston, OR), who averaged 35.6 yards per punt, return.

Western Washington (2-8, 1-7, 8th-T)

Western Washington had its lowest win total in two decades a year ago, but has realistic hopes to turn things around this fall.

The Vikings had moments of offensive brilliance, including a 42-point, 472-yard performance against national power North Dakota. If experience brings consistency, WWU could be outstanding offensively, as nine starters return.

"The offense should be a strength for us," third-year coach Robin Ross said. "We have seniors who could start at every position but running back, so there's a lot of experience, and that showed in the spring, especially on the offensive line."

Triggering the offense will be Adam Perry (6-0, 195, Sr., Longview, WA - R.A. Long), who threw for 1,587 yards with seven touchdowns. Perry will be backed up by junior Cole Morgan (6-3, 210, Jr., Seattle, WA - Ballard), a transfer from Washington State.

"Adam was solid most of the year until injuries started to slow him down at the end," said Ross. "He's got a better handle on the offense now that he's in his second year with it."

Nearly all of Western's receiving corps is back led by Travis McKee (6-5, 210, Sr., Bothell, WA) who led Western in catches the last two seasons. Last year he made 43 grabs for 381 yards and three touchdowns in earning honorable mention NCC honors. Rick Copsey (5-8, 185, Jr., Camas, WA) had 25 receptions for 351 yards and one touchdown.

Pat McCann (WR, 6-2, 200, Jr., Olympia, WA - College of the Canyons), who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer regulations, had an outstanding spring and also is expected to be a key contributor.

At tight end, Logan Cullen (6-3, 245, Sr., Anacortes, WA) has 21 career starts, including all 10 games last year when he had 10 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

The offensive line also returns almost entirely intact. Anchoring that group is center Dan Trask (6-3, 275, Sr., Aberdeen, WA). Trask, an honorable mention all-NCC pick, started every game the past two years.

Three other senior starters also return - tackle Chris Corey (6-4, 285, Federal Way, WA - Decatur) and guards Phil Hayes (6-4, 330, Renton, WA - O'Dea) and Scott Allanson (6-4, 280, Everett, WA - Jackson).

The relative newcomer is sophomore tackle Nick Bassett (6-4, 275, So., Gig Harbor, WA - Peninsula), who started three contests.

The biggest change in the offense is at running back. Second-team all-NCC pick Craig Garner is gone, but the position is in good hands with Randall Eldridge (5-10, 205, Jr., Lynnwood, WA) and redshirt freshman Kevin Sampson (5-8, 165, Seattle, WA - Rainier Beach).

Eldridge, who redshirted last year, was the Golden Gate Conference Offensive Player of the Year for Chabot JC in 2006, rushing for 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games. Matt Clark (6-1, 225, Sr., College Station, TX/A&M Consolidated) returns as the starting fullback.

On defense, the most experienced area is the secondary, especially on the corners.

Back is senior Anthony Rosso (5-11, 185, Sr., Walla Walla, WA), an honorable-mention all-NCC pick who had four interceptions, and Kevin Jones (5-10, 175, Sr., Seattle, WA - Kentwood), who was a starter in 2005 prior to missing the last two seasons with hand and Achilles injuries. Anthony Zackery (5-11, 195, So., Spokane, WA - Ferris) is also a candidate to start on the corner.

Zach Schrader (6-1, 85, So., Issaquah, WA - Skyline) returns at free safety. He had 24 tackles despite missing five games with injuries. Strong safety Danny Cumming (6-0, 190, Jr., Friday Harbor, WA) made three starts and had 24 tackles.

Redshirt freshman Reggie Christor (6-0, 180, Spanaway, WA Graham) had an excellent spring, and the safety positions are bolstered by the addition of Jordan Carey (6-0, 205, Jr., Olympia, WA - Capital), a former state Class 4A Player of the Year who played in nine games in two seasons at the University of Oregon.

There's also some experience on the defensive line. Shea Thorstad (6-0, 265, Sr., Stanwood, WA) and Don Thomas (6-0, 255, So., Kent, WA - Kentwood) return at tackle. Each had five tackles for loss last year. Thomas shared the team lead in sacks with 2 ½. Another key returnee is junior Will Jackson (6-1, 265, Jr., Seattle, WA - O'Dea), who has seen action in all but one game over the last two years.

Returning after lettering at end are Nick Rocco (5-11, 225, So., Sammamish, WA - Skyline) and Casey Hamlett (6-3, 250, So., Edmonds, WA - Edmonds-Woodway). The end position is bolstered by Ami Faalevao (6-4, 250, Sr., American Samoa - Samoana), who had 11 sacks at Fresno City JC.

At linebacker, the Vikings have lost five seniors from a year ago, and two other players were lost to injury. The top returnee is junior Caleb Jessup (Kenmore, WA - Inglemoor), who had 60 tackles last season to earn honorable mention honors.

He figures to be at one outside spot, with the other being filled by C.J. Green (5-8, 185, Jr., Federal Way, WA), who makes a unique move from cornerback, where he started all 10 games, making 35 stops.

At middle linebacker is transfer Jonathan Ve'e (6-2, 250, Jr., Alameda, CA), who was an All-American at Laney JC making 75 tackles and four interceptions. Outside linebacker Nick Cragin (5-10, 200, So., Sammamish, WA - Skyline) also is in the mix

WWU's placekicking kicking duties were shared by Ace Younggren (6-0, 195, Jr., Snohomish, WA) and Josh Lider (6-2, 185, Jr., Bellevue, WA - Sammamish) last season. The hope is that Younggren (1-2 FG, 7-8 PATs) will be the place-kicker this year with Lider, who made nine of 14 field goals and 11 of 12 PATs to earn NCC HM honors, taking over as the punter.

Dixie State (3-8)

After winning just one game in its inaugural season as a four-year school, Dixie State tripled that win total last season. With 15 of 22 starters back Dixie head coach Ron Haun (4-18, 3rd year) hopes to continue that progress this season.

Among the players returning are quarterback Skyler Ence (6-1, 225, Jr., St. George, UT - Pine View), who completed half of his passes (133 of 266) and threw for 1,395 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Ence, however, will switch to tight end this season where he will combine with Judd Thompson (6-3, 205, Jr., Crystal Lake, IL - Prairie Ridge) to provide a good share of Dixie's offense.

Thompson caught 37 passes for 525 yards and one touchdown a year ago to earn first team D2football.com all-independent honors.

Replacing Ence, who played QB last season because of a lack of other options, will be Northern Iowa transfer Dexter Hill (6-1, 190, Sr., Pocatello, ID - Highland). Nate Lewis (6-5, 220, Sr., Rancho Mirage, CA - Cathedral City) from Fairmont State will be the likely backup.

The top returning wide receiver is Kyser Christensen (6-3, 200, Jr., Boise, ID - Centennial). Christensen made 30 catches for 332 yards and one touchdown a year ago.

Boise State transfer Caleb Caple (5-11, 192, Fr., Lake Charles, LA - Alfred M. Barbe) and Steve Ott (6-3, 219, Sr., Orem, UT - Timpanagos) will help solidy the wide receiving corps.

In the backfield, Dixie State's top returning rusher is Adam Wells (5-9, 187, So., Kenmore, WA). Wells had an impressive freshman season gaining 626 yards on 131 carries. He found the end zone twice.

Two other running back options include Tauni Vakapuna (5-9, 210, So., North Salt Lake, UT - Hunter), who returns from a Mormon mission, and redshirt Sione Tapuosi (5-10, 242, Fr., St. George, UT - Carlmont). In 2004, Vakapuna gained 107 yards on nine rushes.

Ryan Delrosal (6-5, 308, Sr., Miami, Fla. - Dr. Krop) is back to lead the offense line. Last year, the 6-5, 308 pounder earned first team D2football.com all-independent honors.

Also back on the offensive line is Colby Budge (6-4, 320, Sr., Ogden, UT) and Braeden Gates (6-2, 325, Sr., Roy, UT).

Center Andrew Stephens (6-3, 300, Sr., Idaho Falls, ID - Hillcrest), who was a starter two years ago, also returns after sitting out the 2007 season. A key addition is guard Carlos Hernandez (6-3, 315, Sr., Norwalk, CA - Golden West) from New Mexico Highlands.

On defense, the Rebels return three of their four top tacklers, including third team D2football.com all-independent selection Teddy Owens (Pleasant Grove, UT). The 6-0, 220 pound junior linebacker had 116 tackles last season, including 58 unassisted stops.

Owens will led a solid linebacking corps which also includes Chad Frank (6-1, 255, Sr., Albuquerque, NM - Sandia), Stephen Cook (6-2, 235, Sr., Boise, ID - Centennial) and redshirt Andy Hicks (6-1, 230, Sr., St. George, UT - Century & Scottsdale CC).

Frank ranked third on the team in tackles last season with 75, including 13 for losses of 74 yards. He also led the team in quarterback sacks with seven. Cook had 45 tackles, 8 ½ for losses of 34 yards.

Also back are defensive backs Seth Mortensen (5-10, 185, Jr., Idaho Falls, ID - Hillcrest), Ross Doman (5-11, 185, Sr., Woodburn, OR - Canby), Richard May (5-10, 185, Jr., Rockland, ID) and Marston Sawyers (6-0, 195, Jr., Sandy, UT - Hillcrest).

Mortensen led the team with four interceptions and also had 32 tackles. Doman had 34 tackles and was the team leader with five pass breakups. May had 17 tackles and two interceptions and Sawyers was credited with 15 tackles.

Other returnees on defense include defensive end Kevin Wilks (6-5, 260, So., Sandy, UT - Hillcrest) and Wayne Alofipo (6-2, 295, Sr., St. George, UT - West).

Alofipo had 31 tackles including 5 ½ for losses, while Wilks made 16 stops.

Back to handle the kicking shores is Lewis who averaged 35.4 yards per punt, including a long of 78. Fifteen of his 58 punts landed inside the 20.

Humboldt State (2-8)

Rob Smith, who earned seven Coach-of-the-Year awards during his 17-year tenure at Western Washington, has just eight starters available - the fewest in the GNAC - off a team that won just two of 10 games a year ago as he begins his first season at Humboldt State.

Among the veterans are the two quarterbacks who split playing time a year taking virtually all of the snaps.

Brian Hildebrand (6-2, 196. Sr., Corona, CA - U. of Nebraska) completed 71 of 145 for 860 yards and two touchdowns, while Garrett Hubrich (6-1, 212, Sr., Hillsboro, OR - Shasta JC) completed 70 of 129 passes for 700 yards and three touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Mike Proulx (5-11, 172, Castro Valley, CA) is also in a three-way battle for the starting position.

Two veterans, a redshirt and two newcomers are among the running back candidates.

Bobby Thomas (5-7, 196, Jr., Lancaster, CA - U. of South Dakota) netted 156 yards on 38 rushes and Joevanna Cueva (5-9, 205, Sr., Santa Ana, CA - Valley) gained 61 yards on 21 carries a year ago. Corey Stollmeyer (6-0, 175, Jr., Morro Bay, CA) redshirted last season after transferring from Allan Hancock JC.

The newcomers are College of the Canyons transfer Brian Stuart (5-7, 191, Jr., Van Nuys, CA) and freshman Daniel Wyatt (5-6, 156), out of St. Vincent High School in Vallejo.

Corey Anderson (6-1, 180, Jr., Northridge, CA) is the top returning receiver (20 catches for 202 yards) as Edwin Henry, who caught 25 for 321 yards will miss the season with a knee injury. Also back is Kevin Miles (5-8, 170, So., Citrus Heights, CA - Del Campo), who had seven catches for 86 yards.

Newcomers who could contribute include redshirt Mike Streck (5-11, 191, Fr., East Palo Alto, CA - Westlake) who competed in track last spring and Jackson State transfer Tim Simmons (6-1, 205, Sr., Compton, CA). Jackson caught one pass for 23 yards at the Division I school.

Matt Devlin (6-3, 235, So., Chugiak, AK), who played in eight games and caught three passes, and Derrick Garrett (6-5, 285, Jr., Sacramento, CA - College of the Desert) could see playing time at tight end this fall.

The Lumberjack offensive line, which graduated three seniors, has been one of the most surprising areas with its progress since the beginning of spring ball. The top returnee is Bryant Kendall (6-1, 254, Sr., Modesto, CA - Thomas Downey), who was a third team D2football.com all-independent selection.

Lorenzo Arenas (6-2, 265, Sr., Medford, OR - C. of the Siskiyous) has been moved from the defensive side and will join returning starter Adam Fountain (6-3, 289, Sr., S. Lake Tahoe, CA) at tackle.

At center, redshirt Taylor Boggs (6-3, 275, So., Pasadena, CA - Pikeville College) will take over. Chris Vicory (5-11, 276, Sr., Rio Linda, CA - American River JC), who started two games last season, will also contribute on the line.

Newcomers who could also contribute include freshmen Brett Frydendahl (6-3, 270, Corona, CA) and Ryan Dragoo (6-1, 305, Whittier, CA - Servite) and walk-on Max Apodaca (5-10, 265, Forestville, CA).

Defensively, the Lumberjacks have some firm answers and also a few big questions. One area of uncertainty has been addressed with the return of linebacker Allen Brunner (5-11, 235, Sr., Oxnard, CA - St. Bonaventure), who missed spring ball with an injury. Brunner was HSU's leader tackler last year with 88.

Also available at linebacker is returning lettermen Calvin Robinson (5-10, 228, Jr., Fresno, CA - Sacramento State) who had 10 tackles, outside backer Justin Calcote (5-10, 215, Sr., Los Angeles, CA - West L.A. CC), who had 31 tackles, and Nevada Las Vegas transfer Michael Lynch (5-10, 225, So., Sacramento, CA), who played in three games at the Division I school.

On the defensive line, four seniors who combined for 115 tackles a year ago return. Johnny Terrell (6-1, 243, Sr., Oakland, CA - Oakland Tech) ranked fifth on the team with 47, including seven for losses of 20 yards.

Brad Hunkins (6-1, 243, Sr., Sutter Creek, CA - American River JC) had 24 tackles, including a team-leading 8 ½ for losses of 34 yards. Desmond Maxwell (5-11, 294, Sr., Pomona, CA - Alcorn State) made 38 stops and Justin Rose (6-3, 255, Sr., Juneau, AK - Orange Coast JC) had six.

Other candidates are defensive end Justin Hornsby (6-3, 231, Jr., Jamul, CA - Southwestern College), who saw limited duty at linebacker last season, and College of the Canyons transfer Brian Wilson (6-2, 290, Jr., Palmdale, CA).

Barry Davis (5-11, 191, Jr., Los Angeles, CA - L.A. Southwest), who played in five games, is the only player with Division II experience at cornerback. Newcomer Wes Montgomery (5-10, 177, Jr., Los Angeles, CA - Texas Southern) will help shore up the position.

Jeff Williams (5-10, 190, Sr., Inglewood, CA - El Camino JC), who had 13 tackles last season, and redshirt Blyth Colbert (5-9, 210, Jr., Los Angeles, CA - West Los Angeles CC) will play at safety.

Also contributing at safety will be San Diego Mesa transfer Guy Ricciardulli (5-11, 200, So., San Diego, CA) and Dan Compton (6-2, 212, Jr., San Cruz, CA) from Cabrillo JC.

Returning to handle HSU's punting chores is Kyle Schierholt (5-10, 192, Jr., Chugiak, AK - Northern State), who averaged 37.1 yards per punt to earn first team all-independent honors last season.

Candidates to take over the placekicking duties include Enrique Leyva (5-10, 192, Sr., Vista, CA - U. of Utah) or freshman Charlie Kaufman (5-8, 180, Fr., West Hills, CA - Calabasas).

Related Stories