Big Sky favorite Eastern Washington gains extra motivation
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Eastern Washington was the FCS runner-up last season and has been picked to win the Big Sky championship this season.
But the Eagles may still have come away from the conference's media day on Monday with bulletin board material.
Only one Eastern Washington player was named to the Big Sky preseason team, senior offensive tackle Chris Schlichting. Eight other schools had more selections than the Eagles, including Weber State with a conference-high seven.
In the largest FCS conference - 13 teams - plenty of teams often come away fired up, feeling a lack of recognition in the preseason. It usually doesn't involve the preseason favorite, though, so the rest of the conference doesn't need the Eagles in a foul mood heading into the season.
The Big Sky has two preseason polls - head coaches and media - and Eastern Washington received 35 of 56 (62.5 percent) first-place votes over last year's other tri-champs, UC Davis and Weber State which were second and third, respectively, in both polls.
"Everyone aspires to be No. 1, and our mission will be to be champions at the end of the 2019 campaign after all the scores have been kept," third-year coach Aaron Best said.
"Nothing is ever earned on paper and must be substantiated on the field of play."
Eastern Washington seeks even greater success after finishing 12-3 last year. The Eagles, who fell to North Dakota State 38-24 in the national championship game, return 10 starters, although the status of one of them, safety Dehonta Hayes, plus projected starting defensive lineman Keith Moore is uncertain as they recover from gun shot wounds suffered early Saturday in downtown Spokane.
UC Davis quarterback Jake Maier and Montana linebacker Dante Olson were named the conference's preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Maier won the postseason award last year, passing for 3,931 yards and 34 touchdowns, while Olson led the FCS in tackles per game (13.7) and set a Montana single-season record with 151 stops.
BIG SKY CONFERENCE PRESEASON POLLS
Head Coaches Poll
1. Eastern Washington (10 first-place votes), 140 points
2. UC Davis, 127
3. Weber State (2), 124
4. Montana (1), 104
5. Montana State, 100
6. Northern Arizona, 88
7. Idaho State, 72
8. Idaho, 65
9. Cal Poly, 56
10. Portland State, 42
11. Sacramento State, 40
12. Southern Utah, 38
13. Northern Colorado, 19
1. Eastern Washington (25), 536
2. UC Davis (13), 510
3. Weber State (4), 472
4. Montana State, 417
5. Montana (1), 396
6. Northern Arizona, 302
7. Idaho State, 285
8. Idaho, 248
9. Cal Poly, 196
10. Portland State, 178
11. Southern Utah, 160
12. Sacramento State, 125
13. Northern Colorado, 90
BIG SKY CONFERENCE PRESEASON TEAM
Offensive Player of the Year - Jake Maier, QB, UC Davis
Defensive Player of the Year - Dante Olson, LB, Montana
QB - Jake Maier, Sr., UC Davis
WR - Mitch Gueller, Sr., Idaho State
WR - Samuel Akem, Jr., Montana
WR - Jared Harrell, Jr., UC Davis
OT - Mitch Brott, Sr., Montana State
OT - Chris Schlichting, Sr., Eastern Washington
OG - Noah Johnson, Sr., Idaho
OG - Ty Whitworth, Jr., Weber State
C - Zach Larsen, Sr., Southern Utah
TE - Charlie Taumopeau, Sr., Portland State
RB - Josh Davis, So., Weber State
RB - Elijah Dotson, Jr., Sacramento State
FB - Troy Andersen, Jr., Montana State
PK - Trey Tuttle, Jr., Weber State
RS - Rashid Shaheed, Jr., Weber State
DT - Jalen Goss, Sr., Northern Arizona
DT - Kenton Bartlett, Sr., Portland State
DE - Adam Rodriguez, Sr., Weber State
DE - Jonah Williams, Jr., Weber State
OLB - Auston Tesch, Sr., Weber State
OLB - Bryce Sterk, Sr., Montana State
ILB - Dante Olson, Sr., Montana
ILB - Kody Graves, Sr., Idaho State
CB - Khalil Dorsey, Sr., Northern Arizona
CB - Greg Filer, Jr., Montana State
S - Adkin Aguirre, Sr., Idaho State
S - Brayden Konkol, Sr., Montana State
P - Cade Coffey, Jr., Idaho
ST - Jace Lewis, Jr., Montana
Updated July 15, 2019