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Young Weber State football team wraps up 2024 spring camp with scrimmage

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Apr 13, 2024
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Weber State quarterback Creyton Cooper (8) outruns defenders Toddrick Dixon (37) and Angel King (2) for a 63-yard touchdown during the WSU spring game on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Ogden.
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Weber State quarterback Richie Muñoz rears back to throw during the WSU spring game on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Ogden.
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Weber State receiver Jayden Thrower, right, advances for a gain as linemen Trevor Beck (63) and Cole Millward (77) block during the WSU spring game on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Ogden.
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Weber State receiver Jayleen Record, right in white, is tackled at the sideline during the WSU spring game on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Ogden.

OGDEN — One play after sophomore defensive end Keahnist Thompson produced a pad-popping tackle for loss, and the requisite ooohs from the crowd, a new name tallied the most spectacular play in Saturday’s spring game for Weber State football.

The offense called up a Hail Mary-type play on a fourth-and-20 from the defense’s 35-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Richie Muñoz fired a ball ahead of a receiver up the right side but Angel King had a bead on it. King dove toward the back of the end zone and hauled in a fantastic, over-the-shoulder interception.

“He’s done a really good job in camp of making big-time plays,” second-year head coach Mickey Mental said. “Athletically, his length, it’s very intriguing to get him on the field.”

WSU has plans for King, a 6-foot-1 junior safety from Los Angeles, to contribute to an already talented group of safeties. King spent two seasons at Nevada, where he totaled 53 tackles and eight pass breakups, before sitting out a season at Colorado State.

“He’s done a really good job of working every day to build on what he’s done so far. We’re excited about him,” Mental said.

The rest of the safeties group is young but talented — a common theme on a Weber State roster that has just seven seniors (two offense, three defense, two special teams). Third-year sophomores Kao Hansen and Trevian Tribble join junior EJ Evett and sophomore BJ Carey as the top players at safety.

Hansen and Carey saw the field Saturday with King, as did Tribble; the latter is expected to be a key player in 2023 before suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp. Evett sat out the spring game.

The cornerbacks group took big hits via transfer and graduation over the last two seasons but junior Jalon Rock brings 25 games of experience at cornerback. Sophomore Montae Pate got his feet wet in seven games last season, while Tre Parks-Vinson has been described as a dynamic player who sat behind several upperclassmen last year.

One offensive senior played (receiver Jacob Sharp) on Saturday while the other didn’t (Damon Bankston). Bankston is recovering from a season-ending injury in 2023 but will be ready in the fall. On defense, senior linebacker Garrett Beck sat out along with veteran juniors Jayden Ah You and Easton Payne. Senior defensive tackles Steven Bryant and Zeke Birch took reps along with junior end Brayden Wilson.

The other seniors, kicker Kyle Thompson and long snapper Grant Sands, were in action. Kyle Thompson made field goals of 50 and 28 yards.

The first-team offense moved the ball between the 20s fairly well but Muñoz’s crew couldn’t find the end zone. Both of Kyle Thompson’s field goals came on Muñoz drives, while another drive ended near the goal line when junior linebacker Alema Tupuola picked off a third-down throw across the middle — giving Muñoz more interceptions Saturday than his 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in five games last season.

With the small group of seniors, Muñoz knows his spot at quarterback means taking on a leadership role.

“This spring I’ve been trying to be the best leader I can for the team,” Muñoz said. “Just trying to lead by example.”

After graduating four seniors, the offensive line has the most experience in juniors Cole Casto and Gavin Ortega. Plenty of young linemen got reps Saturday, but young BYU transfers Vae Soifua and Zoom Esplin seem to be on track for major roles after playing as backups last season.

“I’m very confident in (the line). They’re hard workers, they go out and play their butt off every day,” Muñoz said.

Terrance Caldwell, a senior transfer center, will join the team in the summer after he’s wrapped up his degree at Cornell, where he started the last 17 games for the Big Red.

Akron sophomore transfer Dijon Jennings and junior Creyton Cooper were the other quarterbacks who took snaps Saturday.

Cooper burst for a 63-yard touchdown run on a read-option he kept, then threw an interception to redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jagger Childs on a dumpoff pass that Childs took about 25 yards for a touchdown (he spiked the ball for good measure).

Jennings took some time to settle into the action but threw two good balls on his final possession, which started at the defensive 40-yard line.

The first was an incompletion; he threw a laser to freshman Noah Kjar up the right seam at the 10-yard line, which seemed to have enough heat on it that Kjar was a split-second late getting his hands up to snag it. The other was a back-shoulder type throw that sophomore Marcus Chretien gave great effort to get over the defensive back and back to the ball for a 22-yard gain.

The Chretien catch set up a 2-yard Colter May rushing touchdown.

The scrimmage ended with the game’s final scoring play. After Cooper threw a 22-yarder to junior tight end Brian Harper, Dallas Larson punched in a 2-yard touchdown rush.

With Bankston out, sophomore running back Adrian Cormier and sophomore receiver Jaden Thrower got lots of touches with the first-team offense.

The receivers group lost Haze Hadley to graduation and Treyshun Hurry to transfer (San Jose State), so Thrower, Chretien, Jayleen Record and more have big roles to fill, especially when considering senior tight end Hayden Meacham also graduated.

“Jaden Thrower’s done a really good job coming in, working hard every day and being consistent,” Mental said.

After graduation comes summer training, which leads into fall camp in August. WSU opens the 2024 season on Aug. 31 at Washington.

“We’ll just take the daily approach, be a pro, handle your business on and off the field to get better,” Mental said. “They’ll have no shortage of talent, so big challenge for us.”


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