HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Southern Utah.
SOUTHERN UTAH (9-3 IN 2017)
Big Sky (SUU was 1st in 2017)
COACH: Demario Warren – 3rd year (15-8 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 33.6 ppg. (20th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 28.0 ppg. (80th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: Southern Utah may not be a national name that carries a lot of weight like other Big Sky teams, but this program has proven to be a top team in one of the best conferences in the FCS. The Thunderbirds shared the conference title last year with Weber State and won it outright in 2015. Yet when it comes to the several teams looking to make the playoffs out of the Big Sky in 2018, the Thunderbirds are toward the bottom of the list. It could be because All-Conference quarterback Patrick Tyler and seven of the top 11 tacklers are gone. But the offense still has a majority of the pieces back.
For starters, three of the five preseason All-Big Sky offensive linemen are from SUU. The top two running backs in James Felila and Jay Green (1,364 yards combined, 22 touchdowns) and the top two pass catchers in Landon Measom and Logan Parker (1,168 yards combined, nine touchdowns) are back. This is still a talented team that, if the defensive holes are filled with solid play, can still be at the top of the conference.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: SUU makes the playoffs again. A conference title may be harder to come by this season with everyone in the Big Sky improving, but the Thunderbirds are right in the mix at the top of the standings and vying for a playoff spot. The schedule is not very favorable with two FBS games against Oregon State and Arizona before two straight road contests to open league play at Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington. But as shown over the last few years, this is a resilient program.
TOP RETURNEE: LB Chinedu Ahanonu (Preseason All-Big Sky, 70 tackles)
THE NEXT BEST: OT Marquez Tucker (Preseason All-Big Sky); OG PJ Nu’usa (Preseason All-Big Sky); C Zach Larsen (Preseason All-Big Sky); RB Jay Green (655 yards, 14 TDs); TE Logan Parker (560 yards, 5 TDs)
DID YOU KNOW?: Former SUU defensive end James Cowser held the FCS career record in sacks until San Diego's Jonathan Petersen passed it during the 2017 playoffs.
THE QUOTE: "We have to get back to what gets us there. After the season, to be honest I was overwhelmed. It was more of after the recruiting cycle, it was late December and I was laying in bed like, 'oh crap.' That was a lot of work. We went right back to work and put a plan together and now we've been executing that for the last six months and now we're two weeks from camp and getting started all over again." — Head Coach Demario Warren said at Big Sky media days
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #TBirdNation
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @SUUFB