The start of fall semester at Weber State University not only means that it is time for students to hit the books once again, it also signifies the beginning of the 2018-19 athletic year for the Wildcats.
Weber State has boasted a strong athletic program throughout the years, and this year is shaping up to be no different. There are several distinct athletes to watch.
Coming off a historic 2017 season, the Wildcat football team has multiple players to keep an eye on. Senior offensive lineman Iosua Opeta is highly regarded, not only in Ogden but across the country.
Opeta was named an All-American by the Associated Press last season and is a two-time All-Big Sky Conference selection. Heading into 2018, he has been named to both the Big Sky preseason All-American team and the STATS preseason All-American team.
“To me, because it’s pre-season, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me,” Opeta said. “I mean, I haven’t even played yet. I think it’s good because it lets me know where other people see me as a football player, and where I can be in the future.”
Opeta said that he is more appreciative of end of season awards. In addition, Opeta also set goals that he’d like to meet for this upcoming season.
“Individually, I’d like to be First-team All-American this year, and I want to show people that I am one of the best tackles in the country,” Opeta said. “As a team, I want a Big Sky championship again, and a national is the dream right now.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Rashid Shaheed will be a threat. The returning sophomore received All-American honors as a freshman and was named the top Collegiate Return Specialist by the FCS Athletic Directors Association.
Shaheed amassed 25 kick returns for 743 yards and two touchdowns last season. The return average of 29.7 yards per return is the best in Weber State single-season history, and the 743 yards is the fifth best ever in a campaign.
Shaheed will be all over the field, as last season he recorded a touchdown in the return game as a wide receiver, and even had a 67-yard rushing touchdown early in the season.
Senior linebacker LeGrand Toia will be the leader on the defensive side of the ball.
Toia started in all 13 games for the Wildcats last season, and he led the team in tackles with 76. He also recorded five sacks on the season, which was second most on the team, and second among all linebackers in the conference.
Toia earned second-team All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association and was also named to the Big Sky All-Conference first-team. Heading into this season, he was also named a Big Sky preseason All-American and a STATS preseason All-American.
“I look at it like I’m still an underdog,” Toia said. “This season, I want to be another All-American, and I want to get looks into the NFL. I want to go to the NFL if I have a chance.”
For Wildcat soccer, Madison Garlock will look to improve off of a dominant 2017 season where she was named to the All-Big Sky Conference Second Team for the second season in a row.
“I’ve gotten much better at the details this summer,” Garlock said. “Just trying to make myself a more well-rounded player.”
Heading into her senior season, Garlock said she is focusing on ending on a high note and saving her best performances for last.
“I’m trying not to dwell on the fact that it’s my season year, but I do want to leave it all out there on the field,” Garlock said. “Every play is my hardest. Every game is my hardest, and I am leaving it all out on the field every time.”
The men’s basketball season will kick off in November, and Jerrick Harding will look to build upon a historic sophomore season.
Last season, the 6 feet, 1 inch Harding led the Big Sky in scoring, while finishing 14th in the nation at 22.0 points per game.
The highlight of the season was Harding breaking the 41-year old Weber State single-game scoring record, scoring 46 points in Weber’s overtime win at Montana State on March 3.
Harding earned earned first team All-District and All-Big Sky honors following the 2017-18 season.
On the women’s side, fans might want to keep an eye on Emily Drake, the returning senior from Pullman, WA.
Drake has started in every game for the Wildcats during her last two seasons, averaging 12 points a game over that span. She has scored 20 or more points eight times over the last two seasons, and last year, she had a career high of 31 points against Idaho State.
New women’s basketball head coach Velaida Harris expects leadership from seniors Drake and Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman.
In an interview with Signpost reporter Joe Traub, Harris said, “Emily (Drake) is competitive and wants to be better. They both have a lot of experience, not only on the court, but as student-athletes. They are going to lead by example.”
The women’s volleyball season recently kicked off, and they are led by Andrea Hale. After last season, the senior was named to the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team Detroit by USA Volleyball.
“I’m so happy for Andi,” head coach Jeremiah Larsen said. “She has worked incredibly hard and we are excited that she gets the opportunity to represent Weber State and the Big Sky Conference.”
At 6 feet 3 inches, Hale is the first player in Weber state volleyball history to compete at a national level.
As an outside hitter for the team, she was second on the team in kills, with 365, and finished last season with a .217 hitting percentage.