#27 Weber State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Weber State Wildcats
Overall Rank: #27
#6 Big Sky
Weber State had a great turnaround last season. Following a 2-10 campaign, the Wildcats boosted their record to 6-5 in Coach Jay Hill’s second at the helm. Coach Hill is still building his program and this was a pretty young team last season. In 2016, the Wildcats suddenly have an experienced squad that can make some noise and push for a spot in the playoffs.
2015 Record: 6-5, 5-3
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Jay Hill (8-15 at Weber State, 8-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Fesi Sitake
Defensive Coordinator: Jason Kaufusi
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Eric Wilkes, RB, 662 yards
Passing: Jadrian Clark, QB, 1,875 yards
Receiving: Cameron Livingston, WR, 514 yards
Tackles: Emmett Tela, LB, 72
Sacks: Tre’von Johnson, LB, 4.5
Interceptions: Jawian Harrison, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Treshawn Garrett, WR Darryl Denby, OL Cameron Young, S Josh Burton, LB Jared Afalava, CB Taron Johnson
Key Losses: OL Joe Hawkins, LB Karson Liljenquist, DL Jonathan Carlson, CB Devonte Johnson, DE Vince Coleman
The Wildcats defense propelled Weber State to a 5-3 Big Sky mark. The front four has the biggest losses with Jonathan Carlson and Vince Coleman moving on. Weber State was not particularly effective getting to the quarterback and that could be a bigger issue this season. Linebacker Tre’von Johnson is back after leading the team with 4.5 sacks last season, but the front line needs to help out more in 2016. The linebackers also return Emmett Tela, who led the team with 72 tackles, and Jared Afalava, who tallied 47 tackles. In the secondary, Jawian Harrison, Josh Burton and Taron Johnson are the key returning players. Harrison only played in four games last season, but managed to pick off three passes. Johnson will man one of the cornerback spots, but the Wildcats will need to find somebody for the other cornerback spot. The passing defense was the weak spot on a very good defense last season and now it could be the strength.
The offense ranked 11th in the Big Sky in total offense and 10th in scoring offense so there is a long way to go. Quarterback Jadrian Clark completed just 51.0 percent of his passes for 1,875 yards. The passing game needs to get better and it should with Clark gaining experience and a solid group of wide receivers. Cam Livingston caught a team high 39 passes for 514 yards and Darryl Denby is also back after catching 26 passes for 397 yards. Those were the top two receivers for the Wildcats last season and if the passing game is going to improve, Livingston and Denby will need to lead the way. Weber State will still mostly rely on the ground game though and it will again fall to Eric Wilkes and Treshawn Garrett. They combined to rush for 1,224 yards and ten touchdowns.
The Bottom Line:
Weber State found success by sticking with the ground game and relying on their strong run defense. In order to take the next step, the passing attack must be more effective and the turnover battle needs to start going in their favor. The schedule is manageable without Eastern Washington and Montana on the slate. A string of games starting on October 29th at North Dakota will be critical for the Wildcats. The following two weeks they host Northern Arizona and Cal Poly. Those are the types of games Weber State has to win if they want to reach the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.9 (40th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 187.7 (73, 10)
Total Offense: 369.6 (65, 11)
Scoring Offense: 22.5 (82, 10)
Rushing Defense: 144.7 (34, 2)
Pass Defense: 202.2 (44, 5)
Total Defense: 346.9 (32, 1)
Scoring Defense: 24.5 (50, 3)
Turnover Margin: -0.45 (89, 9)
Sacks: 2.18 (46, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.55 (41, 3)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#47 Noah Kramer