The pieces of the puzzle are slowly coming together.
New Weber State football coach John L. Smith is expected to officially name former Washington State assistant Jody Sears as defensive coordinator soon, the Standard-Examiner has learned.
Sears served as a co-defensive coordinator the last three seasons under former Cougars coach Paul Wulff after following him there from Eastern Washington, where he was Wulff's defensive coordinator. Sears also did a stint as an assistant at Army.
Smith is also expected to add Craig Stutzmann to his staff. Stutzmann has previously been a wide receivers coach at Rhodes College, Idaho State, Portland State and a graduate assistant at Memphis and his alma mater Hawaii. Stutzmann was an all-WAC receiver at Hawaii from 1999-2001and played one season in the Canadian Football League.
Smith told the Standard-Examiner last week that he had four assistants waiting for university background checks and paperwork to clear before they could be announced.
Some missing pieces are coming back into place for Weber State basketball coach Randy Rahe as well.
Senior Kyle Bullinger, an all-Big Sky first-team forward a year ago, and junior Frank "Mook" Otis, who also began the season as a starting forward, saw their first game time last week since each missed nine games due to injuries suffered in early December.
Otis and freshman Gelaun Wheelwright provided an immediate lift for the Wildcats in the first half of their showdown with Montana, coming off the bench to score seven points each in the first half as 'Cats built a double-digit lead against the Griz, who were previously unbeaten in the Big Sky.
Getting some size back with the return of two 6-foot-6 forwards became even more important to Weber State when 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman center James Hajek was lost to a knee injury for four to six weeks.
"It felt real good, just to be back out there with my teammates and the crowd," Otis said. "They've just been talking to me everyday, like, 'Get going, show the coaches you can go' and they benefitted tonight."
WSU's bench outscored Montana 19-0 in the decisive first half of Saturday's 80-64 victory and Rahe didn't overlook the contribution.
"The key to the game potentially was our bench play in the first half where Byron (Fulton) and Wheelwright and Bull and Mook all stepped in and really contributed," Rahe said. "I'm really proud of our bench and the way they responded."
Otis was the biggest surprise, Rahe said.
"I was going to play him some just to feel him out, and then we got in foul trouble obviously right away, so we threw him out there," he said. "Mook was terrific. He had a great calmness about him, which was surprising for basically not playing for five weeks, six weeks. He was very calm, looked confident and he played in rhythm, which was really good. He'd been practicing pretty well, but for the first game back to come out and play with that kind of confidence I thought spoke volumes for him."
The team came together and matured while some players were thrown into the fire with Bullinger and Otis' absence, Lillard said.
"Now that they're back, our team is even stronger. They bring a lot to the table, they're both starters," he said. "Now we have full go. We're still getting better so it brings a lot of confidence to the team to know we're at 100 percent."
Which is bad news for the rest of the Big Sky, since the Wildcats (14-3, 6-0) are riding an eight-game winning streak and still unbeaten in first place in league play.
Roy Burton covers Weber State sports for the Standard-Examiner. Follow him on Twitter @RoyBurton and read his WSU posts at blogs.standard.net/wsu-sports-blog.