#29 Southern Utah FCS Football 2014 Preview

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Overall Rank: #29
#5 Big Sky

Southern Utah Team Page#29 Southern Utah FCS Football 2014 PreviewBuy Southern Utah Football Tickets

Following Southern Utah’s first ever playoff appearance, Coach Ed Lamb will look to keep the momentum going in 2014. The Thunderbirds had to sweat out selection day after losing on the final weekend of the regular season to Northern Arizona, but they made it. For their efforts they were rewarded with a trip to Huntsville, Texas to take on Sam Houston State. Their defense was no match for SHSU and Southern Utah lost 51 to 20.

2013 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Ed Lamb (34-34 at Southern Utah, 34-34 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Gary Crowton
Defensive Coordinator: Demario Warren

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Raysean Martin, RB, 444 yards
Passing: Aaron Cantu, QB, 2,052 yards
Receiving: Easton Pedersen, WR, 385 yards
Tackles: Matt Holley, LB, 110
Sacks: James Cowser, DE, 10.5
Interceptions: LeShaun Sims, DB, 3

Other Key Returnees: QB Mike Sharp, RB Levi Te’o, TE Anthony Norris, WR C.J. Morgan, DL Robert Torgerson

Key Losses: WR Fatu Moala, WR Griff McNabb, OL Cody Burgess, DB Tyree Mills, S Tommy Collet, LB Zak Browning, LB Chad Hansen, P Brock Miller, K Colton Cook

The defense must work around the absence of Zak Browning while he is on an LDS Mission, but there is no lack of star power even without Browning’s 106 tackles. Fellow linebacker Matt Holley made 110 tackles, including 13.5 tackles-for-loss. SUU will still need to find a leader in the middle of the defense, but Holley will certainly make life easier for Browning’s replacement. When Holley is not in the backfield causing havoc, James Cowser probably will be. Cowser, a junior defensive end, tallied 10.5 sacks and 19.0 tackles-for-loss. Robert Torgerson had a great freshman season and ended up starting the last nine games of the year at defensive tackle. With continued improvement, Torgerson will be able to take advantage of all the attention Cowser gets from the opposing defensive front. The secondary will be the most inexperienced unit on defense, yet LeShaun Sims is a quality piece to build around.

Southern Utah’s offense should be better this season, but this is a team that ranked 108th in the FCS in total offense and 100th in scoring offense. Scoring 20 points per game is just not going to cut it in the Big Sky. Aaron Cantu threw for 2,052 yards, but he threw a dozen interceptions and just ten touchdowns. And Cantu is the passing quarterback. Mike Sharp will come in on occasion and usually run. He was second on the team with 439 rushing yards, but will be a more dangerous passing threat as a sophomore as well. However, losing receivers Fatu Moala and Griff McNabb will not help either Cantu or Sharp when it comes to the air attack. Easton Pedersen and tight end Anthony Norris will be the new top targets.

The Bottom Line:
The offense could turn into a surprise if running back Raysean Martin is ready for a big jump in production. He had a very promising freshman campaign and led the team with 444 rushing yards and six scores. With a more consistent ground game, Southern Utah’s quarterbacks will have a much easier time and the coaches can open up the offense a little bit. But even a much improved offense may not be enough for this team to get back to the playoffs. The Thunderbirds play both Eastern Washington and Montana at home and those may not be winnable games even at home.  

Projected Postseason: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 119.3 (102nd in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 181.0 (88, 11)
Total Offense: 300.3 (108, 12)
Scoring Offense: 20.0 (100, 10)
Rushing Defense: 130.3 (27, 2)
Pass Defense: 219.5 (57, 3)
Total Defense: 349.8 (31, 2)
Scoring Defense: 22.2 (21, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.80 (13, 2)
Sacks: 1.85 (70, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (72, 8)


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