Mustangs Picked by Coaches to Finish Second in Great West
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Southern Utah edged Cal Poly by one point and has been selected by the league's five head coaches to repeat as Great West Conference football champion in 2011.
The Thunderbirds were undefeated in conference play in 2010 and finished the season with a 6-5 overall record. Southern Utah, under the leadership of 2010 Great West Coach of the Year and Eddie Robinson Award finalist Ed Lamb, garnered two first-place votes and tallied 20 points.
Cal Poly, with Tim Walsh at the helm for his third season and led by Buck Buchanan Award candidate Asa Jackson, a senior cornerback, also earned a pair of first-place votes and 19 total points.
Southern Utah, which will have to find an answer to replace a standout receiving corps that included 2010 Great West Offensive Player of the Year and three-time All-America Tysson Poots, returns six first-team All-Great West Conference selections, including preseason All-America honorees Brad Sorensen, a quarterback, and Tyler Osborne at defensive end. Sorensen is also listed on the 2011 Payton Award Watch List and has been named a top-10 quarterback by The Sports Network. Lamb, who is in his fourth season at the helm, will lead the Thunderbirds in their opener Sept. 3 at South Dakota State.
In addition to Jackson, Cal Poly also features first-team All-Great West honorees Mark Rodgers at slotback and defensive end Gavin Cooper and enters the 2011 season looking for its fourth Great West title after finishing third last season with a 2-2 conference record. The Mustangs ended last season with a 7-4 overall mark and were ranked 24th in the final The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 media poll and No. 23 in the FCS Coaches Poll. Cal Poly opens Sept. 3 at San Diego State.
Rounding out the Great West preseason coaches poll are UC Davis with 17 points and one first-place vote, South Dakota with 13 points and North Dakota with six points.
The Aggies were second a year ago with a 3-1 Great West record and a 6-5 overall mark. Bob Biggs is in his 19th year as the Aggies' head coach after serving as an assistant at the school for 15 seasons. He returns eight starters on offense, including first-team All-Great West center Ray Wilburn and 2010 Great West Rookie of the Year, quarterback Randy Wright, and eight starters on defense. The Aggies also return first-team all-conference kicker Sean Kelley and will open the 2011 campaign Sept. 1 at Arizona State.
South Dakota finished the 2010 season with a 1-3 Great West record. Coach Ed Meierkort will lead the Coyotes in his eighth season after a 2010 campaign that included a win over Big Ten member Minnesota en route to a 4-7 season. All-America offensive tackle Tom Compton and two-time All-Great West first-team honoree Chris Ganious will return on offense. Cole Zwiefelhofer, the 2010 Great West Special Teams Player of the Year, also returns after a stellar sophomore campaign that garnered him All-America accolades. The Coyotes open their season Sept. 3 at Air Force and host defending FCS champion Eastern Washington on September 10.
North Dakota kicks off its season Sept. 1, hosting Drake. Coach Chris Mussman, in his fourth season at North Dakota, returns seven offensive starters, including all-conference wide receiver Greg Hardin, and a defense led by All-Great West linebacker Dan Hendrickson and four other returning starters.
The race for the 2011 Great West championship begins Oct. 1 when Southern Utah hosts North Dakota.
2011 Great West Conference
Preseason Football Poll
1. Southern Utah (2) 20 pts.
2. Cal Poly (2) 19 pts.
3. UC Davis (1) 17 pts.
4. South Dakota 13 pts.
5. North Dakota 6 pts.