At the Big Sky Conference’s annual football kickoff event in Spokane, Washington, on Monday, players and coaches from around the conference spoke to media members about the upcoming season.
Weber State head coach Jay Hill represented the Wildcats (picked second in preseason polls) along with offensive lineman Iosua Opeta and linebacker LeGrand Toia, both picked as preseason all-conference players.
Here are some of the topics they addressed with school and conference officials about the upcoming season.
How do you use momentum to build off last season?
TOIA: Just listen to the coaches, buy into the process. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to get anywhere with your football team.
HILL: That’s going to be critical, getting our players to buy into what got us where we were last year. And then improving upon a couple things. We had two tight games — one at Cal, one at James Madison that we had a chance to win in the fourth quarter and didn’t — if we can build on those couple of things, then we’ve got a chance to be really, really good.
What has it been like to see progress under Jay Hill?
TOIA: It’s night to day ... I’m glad it’s like how it is right now because back then it was a little struggle-ish.
What do you expect from next season, being picked second?
OPETA: I try not to think about that stuff too much because the only thing that matters is how we come out and play this season, that will define where we’re at ... I’m excited to see where our team goes. Coming out strong from last year, building on that.
What makes the Big Sky deep and competitive?
HILL: It’s brutal. Every team is great. The coaches are great. They do an unbelievable job of preparing their teams. The talent level just gets better and better every year. You better have your team ready to play every week. There’s no game on the schedule that you look at and think, ‘Oh yeah we should get that one,’ because quite frankly every game is a dogfight.
OPETA: What I think makes this conference so competitive is that every team gives it their all. Everyone ultimately has a chance to win the Big Sky. The talent is unbelievable. I think a lot of people are underrated.
What’s the strength of the team?
HILL: It should be the players we have both on our front seven on defense, and then our offensive line, in my opinion, is really, really good. It’s experienced. We’ve got four returning starters on the offensive line. We’ve got good running backs coming back, and then we have deep threats going down the field, so I think we’re well-balanced. But we’re really good up front on both sides.
What’s the quarterback situation?
HILL: We have three or four guys I really believe we can win with. I’m excited to see their progression since spring ball and what they’ve done this summer, and the film study they’ve been doing. I’m excited to see how that correlates into fall camp.
I’m waiting to see how the blood, the sweat, the tears, the dedication shows in fall camp. Because these guys are going to have to earn the trust and confidence of their coaches and teammates. Whoever does, I really believe we can win with because there’s three or four really talented players in that group.
“It’s been really cool to see all the faces of the people you go up against. Especially the Weber guys. Like No. 58. That dude smacked me one time and I had no idea what he looked like and I saw him and was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ So it’s good to finally put a face to him.”
— Alex Neale, Montana State offensive lineman, on representing his school at the kickoff and meeting Weber State linebacker LeGrand Toia.