HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days" where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Southern Utah.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country with HERO Sports.
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Southern Utah (1-10 IN 2018)
Big Sky (SUU finished 12th in 2018)
COACH: Demario Warren – At School: 4th Year (16-18) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2017 (Second Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 25.5 ppg (T79th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 41.5 ppg (117th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Sept. 28 vs. Cal Poly: The Thunderbirds begin conference play with a Homecoming game versus Cal Poly. SUU went 1-7 in the Big Sky standings last year, and this game is a great opportunity to get things rolling with a 1-0 record.
SUM IT UP: The Thunderbirds have been a fascinating program these last handful of years. They went 8-5 in 2013 and made the playoffs, went 3-9 in 2014, went 8-4 and won the Big Sky title in 2015, went 6-5 in 2016, went 9-3 and won a share of the conference title in 2017 and then went 1-10 last year.
If the trend continues, SUU should be very much improved in 2019. But outside expectations aren't very high as the team was picked to finish 11th by the media and 12th by the coaches in the Big Sky standings.
To improve, the Thunderbirds need to replace six starters on offense and five on defense. The rushing attack should be strong, led by running back Jay Green Jr. (829 yards and seven TDs last year) and HERO Sports Preseason All-American center Zach Larsen. But the passing game has its questions. SUU had three QBs attempt more than 100 passes last year. Two of those guys are back in Chris Helbig and Tyler Skidmore. The Thunderbirds lose three of their top four pass-catchers. Landen Measom is the top guy back after hauling in 43 receptions for 589 yards and two touchdowns last year.
Defensively, there were a lot of struggles last year. Brandon Fisher, the son of Jeff Fisher, has been hired as the team's defensive coordinator to right the ship. Seven of last year's top 11 tacklers return, led by AJ Stanley at safety after he ranked third on the team with 66 tackles.
OUR TAKE: It's safe to say consistency hasn't been on SUU's side. While the program has shown it can compete at the top of a power FCS conference, it also has had head-scratching struggles. Of all the turnarounds the Thunderbirds have had, 2019 would be the most impressive if they can do it. The question marks remain large regarding the offensive firepower and how much the defense can improve. Plus, the schedule is the 12th toughest in the FCS. SUU plays at FBS UNLV and at Missouri Valley Football Conference playoff contenders South Dakota State and Northern Iowa. And the Big Sky will be as competitive as ever. The Thunderbirds have shown they don't stay down for long. Expect steps in the right direction in 2019 and who knows? This team has blown up preseason polls before.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./OL Zach Larsen (HERO Sports Preseason All-American)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./WR-RS Judd Cockett (All-Conference 2nd Team at returner, 14 KRs for 422 yards and 2 TDs); Sr./RB Jay Green Jr. (Top rusher, 829 yards and 7 TDs); Jr./WR Landen Measom (Top returning WR, 43 rec. for 589 yards and 2 TDs); So./S AJ Stanley (Top returning tackler with 66 tackles); So./S Mike Sims (34 tackles); Jr./CB Jalen Russell (7 PBUs, 7 PD)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DL Remedy Akoteu (HERO Sports' 173rd ranked FCS recruit in 2019, had offers from BYU, Utah State and Boise State)
THE QUOTE: "I'm just excited because I love proving people wrong all the time, so the lower the better. It's going to be a great story for everybody when we do what we expect to do this season. Our guys have been fired up for a long time from the disappointment of last season, and this just gives us another opportunity to add to our story." — head coach Demario Warren said
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's SUU Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Big Sky
Cal Poly | EWU | Idaho | Idaho St
Montana | Montana St | NAU | UNC
Portland St | Sac St | SUU | UC Davis | Weber St
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