Jay Hill lives, breathes and sleeps the state of Utah.
The fourth-year head coach was born in Utah, played for the University of Utah, and was an assistant coach with the Utes for 13 seasons before taking the head job with the Weber State Wildcats in 2014.
Hill has slowly rebuilt the FCS program and took it to the postseason for only the fifth time in school history last year. Now, he has his eyes set on a Big Sky title.
2016 Weber State Football Season In Review
It was a season of streaks for Weber State in 2016. The Wildcats were blown out by Utah State in the opener and then dropped a heartbreaker to South Dakota before rattling off five straight wins—including four in conference play. They followed that up with two losses to North Dakota and Northern Arizona, respectively, before beating Cal Poly and Idaho State in order to earn the last at-large postseason bid.
Turnovers killed Weber State in its playoff game against Chattanooga. The Wildcats were only outgained by 77 yards on the day, but five giveaways will do in almost any team. A 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Chattanooga late in the first half completely shattered Weber State and destroyed any chance it had of getting back in the game.
Jadrian Clark earned Third-Team All-Big Sky honors as the team’s quarterback last season. He threw for over 3,000 yards and completed 61.5 percent of his passes as a senior. He was a competent runner as well, finishing with the third-most rushing yards on the team. Clark ended his career as the third-leading passer in school history.
The leading receiver in 2016 was tight end Andrew Vollert, who hauled in 62 passes and averaged 13.5 yards per catch. However, neither he nor any other receiver was a deep ball threat, as no one caught a ball of more than 50 yards on the year.
Weber State had one of the least-opportunistic defenses in the country. The Wildcats only turned opponents over 12 times while committing 22 turnovers themselves. It’s pretty impressive they fared so well with a minus-10 turnover differential.
2017 Weber State Football Season Preview
With Clark gone, the quarterbacking duties will likely fall to Stefan Cantwell. He was one of the most productive junior college quarterbacks in the country in his time at Snow College and can chuck it all over the field. He saw limited action last season, but he has had a year to learn the playbook and the team should be in good hands.
Cantwell has the team’s top receiver back, too. Vollert was First-Team All-Big Sky last season and was named to the preseason All-Big Sky team this week. Having a reliable tight end like Vollert catching passes will make any new quarterback’s job easier.
The strength of the team should be the defense, though. Taron Johnson was one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Sky last season and earned preseason all-conference honors, as did Landon Stice, who led the team in tackles. If Weber State can force more turnovers than it did last season, it will make things a lot easier for the offense.
There is a world of difference when it comes to the two specialists. Punter Jacob DeMaio is supposed to be the best in the Big Sky and averaged 43.5 yards per punt in 2016. On the other hand, kicker Taylor Hintze can’t be relied upon from any distance. He went 7 of 18 on field goal attempts last season and finished fourth-to-last in the conference in PAT percentage.
2017 Weber State Football Schedule
September 2: Weber State vs. Montana Western
September 9: Weber State at California
September 16: Weber State at Sacramento State
September 23: Weber State vs. UC Davis
September 30: Weber State at Montana State
October 14: Weber State vs. Southern Utah
October 21: Weber State at Cal Poly
October 28: Weber State vs. Montana
November 4: Weber State at Eastern Washington
November 11: Weber State at Portland State
November 18: Weber State vs. Idaho State
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
Weber State has to thank the Big Sky schedule makers. The Wildcats don’t face a good team in conference play until they take on Southern Utah on October 14 and have a week to prepare for that game. There’s a decent chance that this team can win every other game in the conference outside of a road trip to Eastern Washington in early November.
The Wildcats have a good chance to pull off an ‘upset’ over an FBS opponent, too. Weber State travels to California in the second week of the season after facing an NAIA opponent it should thump in Montana Western. Cal is a program in shambles and might have one of the five worst defenses at the FBS level in 2017.
This is a sandwich game for the Golden Bears. They have to travel to North Carolina for their season opener and then host Ole Miss the week after they play Weber State. It has all the makings of an FCS over FBS upset, so go with Weber State to knock off Cal in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests.