Three Weber State University seniors have been named to the College Football Performance Awards Watch List for the 2013 season. Punter Tony Epperson, placekicker Shaun McClain and linebacker Anthony Morales each were one in a handful to make the list for their respective positions.
The list includes the top players in the country at their positions, players expected to have breakout seasons.
Epperson, who led the NCAA in yards per punt last season before a season-ending knee injury, said he knows he and his team have a lot of room for improvement over the course of the coming season.
“It’s awesome to join that list with some of my teammates, Shaun and Anthony,” Epperson said. “At the same time, I try not to get into these preseason rankings and accolades. The only thing that really matters to me is what the result is at the end of the season. It’s good for our team as well. But I’m just excited for the season.”
WSU head football coach Jody Sears said he has high expectations for Epperson this season and expects him to continue where he left off before the injury sidelined him for the final five games of last season.
“Right before he got hurt, he was leading the country in punting,” Sears said. “If you have watched him punt, (you know) the kid’s got a major-league leg now. I’m not an expert in the NFL at all, by any stretch, but I do know one thing. The numbers he was putting up and the consistency that he was kicking that thing (with) in practice and in games — he is a legit guy.”
McClain was one of only 33 placekickers in the country to make the list. He made improvements in his accuracy from his sophomore to his junior season.
“The year before last year, I think, he was like a 40 or 50 percenter,” Sears said. “Then, I believe, by the end of the year, he was just above 80 percent. He had a decent year.”
Morales, who ranked third in the country in tackles with 12 per game, said he expects a lot from himself and his team going into his final year at WSU.
“Individually, I want to be an All-American,” Morales said. “I want to win the Big Sky Championship this year as a team. I think if we do that, then obviously we have a birth into the playoffs and go from there. The goal, as of right now, for our team is to work for a conference championship.”
Epperson said he believes the team has made the necessary steps to challenge itself for the conference championship.
“We’ve brought in a lot of good guys, especially in places where we needed it,” he said. “This summer, the team has looked better than it has in a long, long time. I’m really excited to see how we come out this season. We have an extremely tough schedule, but that will make it all the more sweet in the end.”
Although Epperson is now fully recovered from his knee operations, Sears won’t use him very much on the defensive team this season, where he played safety as well as punter last season.
“Hopefully we can keep them all healthy,” Sears said. “I don’t think (Epperson’s) going to be playing hardly any defense. Hopefully we can keep him healthy. The same with Anthony. He missed the last game of the year with an appendix (removal). That’s the big thing.”
As for improvements for these players, Sears said he doesn’t need to fix what isn’t broken.
“We don’t have to change anything,” Sears said, “just keep making sure we do the little things right, be consistent with the fundamental stuff and let everything else take care of itself.”
The football team will begin training camp for the upcoming season on Aug. 6. The regular season will begin on Aug. 31, with the home opener against Stephen F. Austin State University.