It’s the time of year again when the weather becomes warm and the days become longer, and the sun begins to shine down, glistening off the purple and silver Wildcat helmets as they fasten chin straps, tighten shoulder pads and lace up their cleats for football again, as spring practice kicked off this week.
It’s been two and a half months since Weber State was last out on the field in Harrisonburg, Virginia, when they finished off the best season in Wildcat football history.
After winning the Big Sky Conference for the third straight season, they fell to second ranked James Madison University in the FCS semifinals.
Following this terrific past season, the focus is now turned to the upcoming 2020 season and the preparation begins in spring practice.
“We got a lot we want to accomplish this year, and we have a long ways to go from where we’re at right now, but it’s so rewarding as a coach to just get back out with your guys and get to doing what we love,” Head Coach Jay Hill said.
While practice for the new season has just begun, players are looking forward to just getting back out on the field to get a feel for the new team and see how they will be filling their new roles.
“It’s good to be back to shake off some of the rust, we have high expectations of our offensive line, it has to be the most veteran it’s been, myself being a senior and our starting center being a senior a couple of other guys, and we have high expectations on offense this year,” Ty Whitworth, a senior All-American offensive lineman, said.
“In high school you don’t really get back out here until fall, but we’re right back out here which is fun, and just getting back out here and hitting people, making calls and doing individual drills,” Preston Smith, senior safety, said.
Ten players were added on National Signing Day last month including offensive lineman James Bruce from famed Permian High School in Odessa, Texas.
Among the three transfer players is sophomore defensive back Khalef Hailassee from the University of Oregon.
Also, three LDS missionaries are returning to join the team.
Although, eleven seniors will be no longer be with the team including senior defensive ends Jonah Williams, who finished tied for fourth in total tackles, and Adam Rodriguez, who finished tied for fifth with fellow senior linebacker Auston Tesch.
“I feel like we’re in really good shape and we have a lot of guys stepping up learning the defense because we’re replacing two All-American lineman but all in all our defense looked really solid,” Smith said.
Smith is now a senior and will be looked to for leadership this upcoming season after the departure of the seniors, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“Learn the defense you’re playing D-1 football for a reason you’re athletic and talented so really learning the defense and knowing you’re assignment and if you do that you’ll play well,” Smith said of the younger more inexperienced players.
The defensive backfield last season was inhabited by three true freshman cornerbacks, Maxwell Anderson, Kamden Garrett and Ja’Kobe Harris. Harris finished the season tied with Eddie Heckard for the most interceptions on the team with three.
They’re returning after gaining valuable experience after a battle-tested regular and post-season last fall.
“The young secondary’s got to continue to progress, last year we played with three true freshman a lot of the year and those guys got to continue to get better,” Coach Hill said.
On the offensive side of the ball, the quarterback position is open as last season’s starter Jake Constantine will be transferring after starting 12 games including the playoffs.
“We got to solidify quarterback right now which is going to be an important part of spring, but that battle’s really going to go all the way through fall, but solidifying who’s going to be in that battle is going to be huge,” Coach Hill said.
The Wildcats currently have four quarterbacks on the roster Teryn Berry, Kaden Jenks, Kylan Weisser and Bronson Barron. Jenks started two games for the Wildcats last season.
Running back Kevin Smith Jr. will also be back on offense after finishing second on the team with 754 rushing yards and a touchdown.
This upcoming season, Matt Hammer will be taking over the offensive coordinator duties after coaching the linebackers last fall.
“It was fun to play against his linebacker group last year, but it’s nice to have him at the helm for offense,” Whitworth said.
The Wildcats annual spring game is scheduled for April 11, but may change in wake of recent events.