PARK CITY -- A 2-9 record does not earn a football team a high ranking on the next season's preseason poll.
Weber State was projected by media and second-year coach Jody Sears' fellow Big Sky coaches to finish 11th or 12th, respectively, in the 13-team league, far out of the picture for the conference title, but the Washington State alum says he learned long ago to discount preseason polls.
"Ever since the '97 Washington State Rose Bowl team -- they were picked last in '97 and they went to the Rose Bowl. I was a young coach then and I and I was like, well, I'll never look at a poll again," Sears said Tuesday during the Big Sky Kickoff meetings. "You can look at that thing as a motivating factor, I did, but last year we were picked fifth or sixth and we finished 12th. You can't control it, people are going to think what they want to think about you.
"I go back to, hey, you're only as good as your past performance, every day you're building a resume, and our fingerprint is a 2-9 season and they don't have anything else to judge us on.
"Definitely going to use it as a motivating factor, there's no question about it."
Sears said the Wildcats were lacking in strength last year: Physical and mental.
"Our biggest weakness from last season was our physical strength and mental toughness," Sears said. "It was about 75 percent ... We could get ourselves through the third quarter and be in it in the fourth, but we didn't have enough oomph to get us over the top."
Weber State's early 2013 schedule, with Stephen F. Austin at home on Aug. 31, two FBS in-state road games at Utah and Utah State and a long road trip to McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., will indicate how much progress has been made on those fronts, Sears said.
"We want to be a championship-caliber team, we've got to win on the road," he said. "We didn't win one on the road last year. You talk about a motivating factor. You want to win a championship? When was the last time Weber State beat Montana, in Montana?"
The answer is 1987.
"If you're talking all this noise about wanting to be a champion, I don't care if it's Utah or (NAIA school) Saint Ambrose, if we're going to go on the road, we're going to go compete and play to win."
Sears was WSU's interim head coach in 2012 before agreeing to a three-year contract extension last November. Would he have changed anything about how he handled his first season as a head coach?
"I may have backed off (the workload) a little bit earlier in the year (in) practices," Sears said. "Our best two practices of the whole year were on Tuesday and Wednesday after the Eastern Washington game because them boys were (ticked), they were hot. And they came and they worked their tails off. And when we got down to (UC) Davis -- nothing. Nothing in the tank."
The biggest question marks for the Wildcats going into fall camp is finding a replacement for two-year starter Mike Hoke and finding a group to protect whoever becomes the starting quarterback.
At the end of spring practices, Sears said he was not ready to name a starter, but senior Jordan Adamczyk is listed at No. 1 on Weber State's summer depth chart, ahead of junior transfer Alfonso Medina. There are also other contenders, including another junior college transfer.
"I have faith in the (quarterbacks)," Sears said. "Jordan's been around quite awhile, Medina has won a lot of football games and has been extremely productive (at Santa Monica College).
"We brought another kid in by the name of Jonathan Willis from (the College of) San Mateo. He's won a lot of football games. We've got some winners. It's going to be a fun competition. I can't wait."
Two freshmen fill out the stable of quarterbacks, redshirt freshmen Jadrian Clark and true freshman Austin Chipoletti.
"I love the intangibles that both of them bring to the table, no doubt about it, but they're freshmen," Sears said. "Are they going to get an opportunity? Absolutely."
In terms of who will protect the quarterback, Weber State was one of the worst teams in the country last year in sacks allowed.
"We've got some good young kids that we like," Sears said.
"One's A.J. Wilcox from Syracuse (High), he's going to be a freshman. We may have to throw him under the bus, but he's got the mentality, his heart, to where I think he might enjoy that. He's that kind of kid.
"Our depth will be a question mark, especially up front, but I like the way that they've been jelling. They've had a really good offseason, but of course, that doesn't mean anything."
Wilcox was recruited as a defensive end but is now listed behind junior Alex Land on the offensive depth chart at right tackle.