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FCS Season Preview: Big Sky

Chase Reynolds was voted to the preseason Big Sky team as a running back.
The Montana Grizzlies football program has an impressive track record: 24 consecutive winning seasons, a Football Championship Subdivision record 17 consecutive playoff appearances, 12 consecutive outright or co-Big Sky Conference titles and a Division I-leading 119 victories over the last 10 years.

This is success on an inspiring yet humbling scale. Inspiring to opponents motivated by showdowns with the best and humbling to those same opponents respectful of a legacy of dominance. Both as inspiring and as humbling as the open air and wondrous natural beauty from which Montana's conference draws its name: the Big Sky.

This year, Montana has been chosen in preseason coaches and media polls to capture its 13th straight Big Sky title. Montana has earned this level of respect. Patterns must be given credence, and Montana's pattern of 12 consecutive conference titles warrants faithful attention.

Still, no legacy comes without significant challenge. This season, Montana will look to keep its legacy intact sans Bobby Hauck, its former head coach for seven seasons. Will new head coach Robin Pflugrad fulfill expectations and keep Montana's legacy intact?

Hauck left Montana for a head coaching position with UNLV shortly after the Grizzlies' 23-21 loss to Villanova in the FCS championship game this past December. In his seven seasons with the program, Hauck compiled an 80-17 record, and continued a winning tradition established by his predecessors. In addition to his seven Big Sky titles and playoff appearances, Hauck also led his team to three FCS title games.

If Griz supporters are worried about Pflugrad's first year, they need look no further than Hauck for reassurance. When Hauck was hired in 2003, he inherited a Montana team which had won an FCS title just two years earlier, under then head coach Joe Glen. Hauck did not miss a beat, returning Montana to the title game just one season later in 2004.

In truth, while Hauck performed admirably, the program has proven to withstand coaching changes in the past. This season will mark the fifth head coach Montana has had during its streak of 24 consecutive winning seasons. Two of those head coaches, Don Read in 1995 and Joe Glenn in 2001, have captured FCS titles. Also, each coach appeared in at least one FCS title game. In 1996, "Mick" Dennehy led Montana to the title game in his first season as head coach.

So history is on Pflugrad's side, but there is a reason they play the games. The new coach is aware, recently remarking, "We have the tradition, that carries you so far, but it doesn't put the ball in the end zone."

Preseason Big Sky All-Conf Team
First-Team Offense

QB- Michael Herrick, Northern Arizona
RB- Chase Reynolds, Montana
RB- Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington
WR- Brandyn Reed, Sacramento State
WR- Everett Gilbert, Montana State
WR- Mike Phillips, Weber State
TE- Kyle Begger, Montana State
OL- Mike Person, Montana State
OL- Jon Opperud, Montana
OL- Alex Verlanic, Montana
OL- J.C. Oram, Weber State
OL- Kris Poindexter, Northern Arizona

First-Team Defense

DL- Isaac Bond, Northern Arizona
DL- Nick Hernon, Northern Colorado
DL- Dan Ogden, Montana State
DL- Renard Williams, Eastern Washington
DL- Christian Clark, Sacramento State
LB- A.J. Sotrms, Idaho State
LB- Taylor Sedillo, Weber State
LB- John Eddy, Northern Colorado
LB- J.C. Sherritt, Eastern Washington
DB- Korey Askew, Northern Colorado
DB- Trumaine Johnson, Montana
DB- Matt Estrada, Northern Arizona
DB- Zach Schrader, Sacramento State

First-Team Specialists

PK- Zach Brown, Portland State
P- Augie Heath, Sacramento State
RS- Jabin Sambrano, Montana
ST- Tanner Ripley, Montana State

Pflugrad is not entirely new to the program. He served as a wide receivers coach during the 2009 campaign and contributed to an offense which finished second in the nation is scoring (35.8 ppg) and ninth in total offense (427.4 ypg).

Pflugrad also was with the Griz from 1986-1994 as an assistant under Read.

In all, Pflugrad has compiled 30 years of coaching experience, but enters his first season as head coach. He knows expectations are high.

"I think the expectations here are as high as anywhere I've ever seen or played against in the entire country," he said.

Besides apex-like expectations, the coach also will face some tangible challenges. The Griz only return 10 starters. Highlighting the departures is former All-America wide receiver and current Tennessee Titan Marc Mariani. "(Mariani's departure) was the biggest loss, I felt, in the conference," says the receiver's former coach.

The Griz return senior running back Chase Reynolds (a nominee for the Walter Payton Award, sponsored by Fathead.com) and Pflugrad plans to utilize him in a slightly different fashion than did his predecessor, Hauck.

"The offense is gonna look a little bit different," Pflugrad said. "We are gonna spread it out a little bit more, but we're gonna keep the elements of being able to run downhill football."

Maybe in essence, Pflugrad's offensive plans act as a microcosm for the program itself. Each coach represents a new wrinkle, something "a little different," but as with Pflugrad's adherence to downhill running, each coach is encompassed by the tradition that came before him. In the end, the program itself appears capable of keeping the streaks alive.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2010 Big Sky race:

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. Montana
2. Eastern Washington
3. Northern Arizona
4. Montana State
5. Weber State
6. Sacramento State
7. Northern Colorado
8. Portland State
9. Idaho State

Offensive Player of the Year: Michael Herrick, QB, Northern Arizona

Defensive Player of the Year: J.C. Sherritt, LB, Eastern Washington

1. MONTANA GRIZZLIES (14-1 overall; 8-0 Big Sky)

COACH: Robin Pflugrad (first year at Montana; 0-0 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (5 offense/5 defense/2 special teams)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Chase Reynolds, Sr. (321 rushes, 1,502 yards, 22 TDs; 38 receptions, 358 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Trumaine Johnson, Jr. (5 INTs)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Andrew Selle, Sr. (224 of 356, 3,043 yards, 28 TDs)
QB Justin Roper, Sr. (78 of 134, 951 yards, 8 TDs)
WR Jabin Sambrano, Jr. (31 receptions, 512 yards, 5 TDs)
DT Tyler Hobbs, Sr. (39 TT, 6 TFL)
DE Severin Campbell, Sr. (10.5 TFL)
LB Alex Shaw, Jr. (79 TT) S Eric Stoll, Sr. (98 TT, 2 INTs)

OUTLOOK: New head coach Robin Pflugrad inherits a program which went 8-0 in conference play last season. Pflugrad is not new to the Montana program however, as he spent 2009 as the wide receivers coach. Also returning are quarterback Andrew Selle and running back Chase Reynolds, both of whom are Walter Payton Award nominees. Opening holes and protecting Selle may be a problem as the offensive line lost three starters, including a pair of First Team All-Big Sky members in Levi Horn and Terran Hillesland. The defense finished last season first in points allowed, but returns devoid of six of its top 11 tacklers. Montana does return its No. 2 tackler in Eric Stoll and its interceptions leader in Trumaine Johnson. These two look to anchor a strong secondary. The Grizzlies should add to their tally of 17 straight playoff appearances in 2010.

2. EASTERN WASHINGTON EAGLES (8-4 overall; 6-2 Big Sky)

COACH: Beau Baldwin (14-9 in two seasons at Eastern Washington; 24-12 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (5 offense/5 defense/2 special teams)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Taiwan Jones, Jr. (162 rushes, 1,213 yards, 15 TDs; 40 receptions, 561 yards, 4 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB J.C. Sherritt, Sr. (170 TT, 11.5 TFL, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Jr. (SMU transfer)
WR Nicholas Edwards, So. (26 receptions, 334 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Brandon Kauffman, So. (23 catches, 294 yards, 1 TD)
DT Renard Williams, Jr. (16 TFL, 9.5 sacks)
DE Evan Cook, So. (30 TT)
NT Tyler Jolley, Sr. (44 TT)
DB Matt Johnson, Jr. (102 TT, 6 TFL, 6 INTs)
CB Jesse Hoffman, Sr. (32 TT)
LB Paul Ena, So. (63 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks)

OUTLOOK: The Eagles went 8-4 last season and made the FCS playoffs, losing in the first round to Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin. This year, EWU will have a slightly different look as SMU transfer Bo Levi Mitchell will start under center. The team lost its top three statistical receivers, but Mitchell's transition should be eased by running back Taiwan Jones. A Walter Payton Award nominee, Jones led the team in rushing last year after being moved to the position from cornerback. He averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry. Still, Mitchell will have big shoes to fill as he replaces 2009 Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year Matt Nichols. The defense will again be anchored by All-America LB J.C. Sherritt. He was the Buck Buchanan Award (sponsored by Fathead.com) runner-up in 2009. The team's leading tackler, Sherritt will be flanked by the No. 2 tackler, safety Matt Johnson, who also led the team in interceptions. Overall, the defensive unit should improve. Installation of a new red field turf in its home stadium may give the Eagles an added edge.

3. NORTHERN ARIZONA LUMBERJACKS (5-6 overall; 4-4 Big Sky)

COACH: Jerome Souers (66-70 in 12 seasons at Northern Arizona; 66-70 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (6 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Michael Herrick, Sr. (270 of 407, 3,356 yards, 22 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Isaac Bond, Jr. (49 TT, 11 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
S Matt Estrada, Sr. (78 TT, 1 INT, 1 fumble rec.)
RB Giovannie Dixon, So. (39 rushes, 262 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Daiveun Curry-Chapman, Sr. (27 receptions, 227 yards, 4 TDs)
OL Kris Poindexter, Sr.
OL Anthony Williams, Sr
DE Brandon Vance, Sr. (48 TT, 6 sacks)
DE Michael Battisti, Sr.
S Taylor Julio, So. (73 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1 INT)
CB Davian Dumas, Sr. (56 TT, 3 TFL, 5 PBU)
K Matt Myers, Jr. (17-24 FG)

OUTLOOK: Northern Arizona has started strong and ended weak each of the last two seasons, losing four straight to close the 2008 and 2009 campaigns. Returning senior quarterback Michael Herrick, one of the best at his position in the FCS, is good reason to believe the Jacks will reverse this trend. But Herrick returns without his core group intact. Last year's leading rusher, Alex Henderson, departed, along with the team's top four receivers. San Jose State transfer Khalil Paden is expected to compensate for at least some of the losses. He looked sharp in the spring game, catching three passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. The offensive line lost second-team All-Big Sky selection Ryne Holstom, but returns four starters from last season. In 2009, the Lumberjacks ranked fifth in the Big Sky in total defense. The unit should improve slightly as they return seven starters. Last year's sack leader, Issac Bond, returns, along with Brandon Vance and Michael Battisti, to secure the defensive line. Battisti received a medical hardship after suffering a season- ending knee injury in last year's first game against Arizona. Safety Matt Estrada, the team's leading tackler in 2009, also returns. On special teams, leading kick returner Austin Shanks and second-team All-Big Sky kicker Matt Myers are back. If Herrick can adjust to his new targets, which seems probable, Northern Arizona will return to its winning ways in 2010.

4. MONTANA STATE BOBCATS (7-4 overall; 4-4 Big Sky)

COACH: Rob Ash (20-14-3 in two seasons at Montana State; 196-113-5 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (8 offense/8 defense/1 special teams)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Everett Gilbert, So. (46 receptions, 556 yards, 6 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Dan Ogden, Sr. (44 TT, 8 TFL, 5.5 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Cody Kempt, Sr. (100 of 173, 1,108 yards, 9 TDs)
QB Denarius McGhee, R-Fr.
RB C.J. Palmer, Jr. (115 rushes, 510 yards, 5 TDs)
RB Blayde Becksted, Sr. (43 rushes, 215 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Julius Lloyd, Sr. (36 receptions, 442 yards, 1 TD)
WR Elvis Akpla, Jr. (27 receptions, 380 yards, 3 TDs)
OT Mike Person, Sr.
DE John Laidet, Jr. (3.5 sacks)
LB, Clay Bignell, Jr. (71 TT, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 INTs)
LB Jody Owens, So. (61 TT, 4 TFL, 1 INT)
FS Michael Rider, Sr. (71 TT, 5.5 TFL, 4 INTs)
S Jordan Craney, Sr. (57 TT, 1 INT)
RB Orenzo Davis, Jr. (JC transfer)

OUTLOOK: The Bobcats return with significant experience in 2010, retaining key players at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and defensive back. In all, the team returns 17 starters. One returning starter, QB Cody Kempt, may be battling for a job as redshirt freshman Denarius McGhee pushes for playing time. McGhee performed well during the spring in new offensive coordinator Brian Wright's system. Still, the offense will not drastically change, and wide receiver Everett Gilbert, tight end Kyle Begger and running back C.J. Palmer should all continue to thrive. The defense was ranked No. 1 overall last year in the Big Sky and returns eight starters. Top tacklers Michael Rider and Clay Bignell, as well as preseason All-Big Sky lineman Dan Ogden solidify the returning core. Montana State has a string of eight straight winning seasons. In 2010, the team looks poised to continue this streak, as well as contend for an Big Sky title.

5. WEBER STATE WILDCATS (7-5 overall; 6-2 Big Sky)

COACH: Ron McBride (32-27 in five seasons at Weber State; 120-90 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (6 offense/5 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Cameron Higgins, Sr. (289 of 454, 3,321 yards, 30 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Taylor Sedillo, Sr. (100 TT, 5.5 TFL, 1 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
FB Zach Eldridge, Sr. (6 catches, 36 yards)
WR Mike Phillips, Sr. (39 receptions, 704 yards, 6 TDs)
WR Joe Collins, Sr. (48 receptions, 455 yards, 4 TD)
OG J.C. Oram, Jr.
DE Sam Fenn, Sr. (27 TT)
DE Gabe Bowers, Jr. (19 TT)
LB Nick Webb, Jr. (57 TT, 4 TFL, 1 INT)
FS Jordan Brown, Sr. (97 TT, 3 INTs)
RB/FB/KR Bo Bolen, So. (88 carries, 442 yards, 3 TDs; 27 receptions, 269 yards, 3 TDs; 24.6-yard KO return average)

OUTLOOK: Walter Payton Award-nominated quarterback Cameron Higgins is again at the controls of the Wildcats offense. Higgins remains a premiere quarterback in the FCS, but took a step back last season after being named the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. Higgins must deal with the loss of Trevyn Smith, Weber State's all-time leading rusher, but will be aided by the return of its No. 2 and 3 receivers, Joe Collins and Mike Phillips. The defense returns its top two tacklers in first-team All-Big Sky linebacker Taylor Sedillo and safety Jordan Brown. On special teams, Weber will to look form an entirely new unit, as all of last year's members have departed. Weber has reached the FCS playoffs each of the last two season, but a difficult schedule and some key losses may force the program to take a step back in 2010.

6. SACRAMENTO STATE HORNETS (5-6 overall, 4-4 Big Sky)

COACH: Marshall Sperbeck (14-20 in three season at Sacramento State; 123-73 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (4 offense/7 defense/2 special teams)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Brandyn Reed, Sr. (46 receptions, 731 yards, 7 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: S Zach Schrader, Sr. (102 TT, 4 INT, 4 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
Christian Clark, Sr. (44 TT, 15.5 TFL, 10 sacks)
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Sr. (64 of 110, 746 yards, 4 TDs)
QB Pete Murdaca, Jr. (JC transfer)
WR John Hendershott, Sr. (38 receptions, 558 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Dylan Lane, Sr. (40 reception, 409 yards, 3 TDs)
C Jaren Harrell, Sr. (Hofstra transfer)
LB Peter Buck, Sr. (80 TT, 4.5 TFL)
S Deionte Gordon, Jr, (68 TT, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
DB Marquese Smith, Jr. (33 TT, 2 INT)

OUTLOOK: Sacramento State returns only five offensive starters this year. Among the losses are last year's top quarterback, Jason Smith, as well as top rusher Terrance Dailey and three offensive line starters. From this angle, the Hornets would appear to be in trouble. But Sacramento State returns its leading rusher from 2008, Bryan Hillard, who missed 2009 with a shoulder injury. Also, the Hornets return a quarterback with experience in McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who started two of the final three games last season, and led a come-from-behind victory against UC Davis. The offense also returns experienced receivers in Brandyn Reed, John Hendershott and Dylan Lane. The defense returns seven starters, including All-American tackle Christian Clark and 2009 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Zach Schrader at safety. There is potential for the Hornets to improve on last year's 4-4 Big Sky mark.

7. NORTHERN COLORADO BEARS (3-8 overall, 1-7 Big Sky)

COACH: Scott Downing (6-39 in four seasons at Northern Colorado, 19-43-1 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (7 offense/8 defense/2 special teams)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Andre Harris, Sr. (145 rushes, 646 yards, 7 TDs; 29 catches, 173 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: MLB John Eddy, Sr. (80 TT, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Dylan Orms, Jr. (6 of 9, 96 yards, 2 TDs; 30 rushes, 149 yards)
RB John Burnley, So. (47 rushes, 158 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Patrick Walker, Jr. (56 catches, 615 yards, 1 TD);
WR Brandon Smith, Sr.
WR Darin McDonald, So. (16 catches, 145 yards)
OG Tim McGraw, Sr.
DE Nick Hernon, Jr. (48 TT, 5 sacks)
DT Marcus Felker, Jr. (Wyoming transfer)
LB Matt King, Sr. (91 TT, 6 TFL, 3 sacks)
LB John Eddy, Sr. (80 TT, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks)
CB Corey Askew, Sr. (74 TT, 6 TFL, 3 INTs)
S Max Hewitt, Sr. (74 TT, 5 TFL, 3 INTs)
P Cameron Kaman, Jr. (39.7 avg)

OUTLOOK: Northern Colorado has yet to record a winning season since joining the Big Sky in 2006. This year will likely produce a similar result. The Bears must replace starting quarterback Bryan Waggener. Last year's backup, Dylan Orms, returns and will likely step into the starting spot. Orms threw limited passes last season, but finished No. 4 on the team in rushing. Orms will be taking his cues from new offensive coordinator Greg Peterson, who held the same position with Colorado State last year. Peterson will implement a pro-style offense, which is not necessarily geared towards Orms' dual-threat ability. While the offense is in transition, the defense returns some standout performers. In the secondary, safety Max Hewitt is being recognized as a potential NFL draftee. Joining him is 2009 second-team All-Big Sky cornerback Corey Askew. At linebacker, the team returns its top two tacklers in Matt King and John Eddy. The defensive line returns three starters, led by preseason All-Big Sky defensive end Nick Hernon. The Bears may make a slight jump in 2010, but cracking the .500 barrier seems unlikely.

8. PORTLAND SATE VIKINGS (2-9 overall, 1-7 Big Sky)

COACH: Nigel Burton (first year at Portland State, 0-0 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (6 offense/5 defense/3 special teams)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Ray Fry, Sr. (67 catches, 904 yards, 3 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Ryan Rau, Jr. (72 TT, 10 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 fumble rvc)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
K Zach Brown, So. (18-25 FGs, 21-22 PAT, 75 points)
QB Drew Hubel, Sr. (133-239, 1,976 yards, 9 TDs)
QB Connor Kavanaugh, Jr. (47-83, 444 yards, 2 TDs; 72 rushes, 390 yards, 3 TDs)
QB Tygue Howland, Sr.
RB Ben Bowen, So. (64 rushes, 275 yards, 1 TD)
RB Willie Griffin, Jr. (Washington transfer)
WR Keitrell Anderson, So. (6 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD)
LT Dustin Waldron, Jr
CB David Ross, Jr. (Oregon State transfer)
CB Michael Williams, So. (49 TT, 1 sack, 1 INT, 7 PBU)

OUTLOOK: Portland State will look to avoid its fourth straight losing season in 2010. Its three previous losing seasons came under the guidance of former head coach Jerry Glanville, who stepped down and was replaced this offseason by former Nevada defensive coordinator Nigel Burton. The Vikings will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 on defense, and will implement the pistol offense. It is unclear who will run the offense, as several players are competing for the starting quarterback role. Seniors Tygue Howland and Drew Hubel, both of whom are recovering from knee injuries, and junior Conor Kavanaugh appear to be the front-runners. Kavanaugh may have an advantage, as his dual-threat abilities are preferred in the pistol offense. Leading receiver Ray Fry returns, and Washington transfer Willie Griffin is competing for the starting running back role. The offensive line appears to be more of a concern than the skill positions. The line ranked eighth in the conference in rushing yards per game last season at 107.6. Dustin Waldron is the most experienced, having started 14 games. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line will be critical. Burton will switch to the 4-3, creating the need for another lineman to establish himself. Senior Travis Buckley will move inside from the defensive end position, where he has started 22 games in his career. Buckley will replace departed tackle Jermaine Jacobs, but the move creates a new need at defensive end. This season, Portland will play its home games at Hillsboro Stadium, as PGE Park undergoes renovations. The last time PSU played games at Hillsboro was in 2000, when it went 8-4 and reached the FCS playoffs. The Vikings only play four home games, though, and should struggle to overcome a tough road schedule. The team may have found the right leadership in Burton, but do not expect a rapid turnaround in 2010.

9. IDAHO STATE BENGALS (1-10 overall; 1-7 Big Sky)

COACH: John Zamberlin (5-29 in three seasons at Idaho State; 68-70 overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/ 6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Russel Hill, Sr. (143-259, 1,388 yards, 8 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB A.J. Storms, Jr. (120 TT, 5.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 fumble rec.)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Stew Tracy, Jr. (10 rushes, 9 yards)
WR Kelvin Krosch, Jr. (37 catches, 540 yards, 6 TDs)
TE Josh Hill, So. (8 catches, 68 yards)
OL Mitch Rudder, Sr.
DL Sean Rutten, Sr. (32 TT, 3.5 TFL)
DT Chad O'Donnell, Sr. (27 TT)
LB Phillip Arias, Sr. (113 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT)
DB Greg Melendez, Jr. (Hofstra transfer)
S Chris Holmesly, Sr. (82 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2 INTs)
S Dustin Tew, Sr. (80 TT, 2 INTs, 3 PBU)

OUTLOOK: New offensive coordinator Phil Earley inherits a program which finished last in the Big Sky in total offense in 2009. The offense returns quarterback Russel Hill, who started the final six games of the season in 2009. Earley must compensate for the loss of the team's top rusher and two of its top three receivers. The defense should improve. It returns preseason All- Big Sky linebacker A.J. Storms. In all, the defense returns its top five tacklers from 2009, as well as its top two tackling lineman. Also in the mix is Hofstra transfer Greg Melendez, who started 11 games in the Pride's defensive backfield in 2009. On special teams, Idaho State must replace first-team All-Big Sky punter Jon Vanderwielen and place-kicker Jarrett Huk. The Bengals showed life at the end of 2009, nearly defeating Montana, and closing the campaign with a 41-34 victory over Portland State. Still, the program is likely to continue its string of six straight losing seasons.

By Andrew Gaddess, FCS Contributing Editor


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