I feel very good about that top group, but we’ve got a couple kids dinged up right now and we’ve got to have those young guys to continue to step up. —Weber State head football coach Jay Hill
OGDEN — In his nine months at the helm of the Wildcats, Weber State head football coach Jay Hill has been impressed with his new team’s attitude and work ethic. He feels like the team has really worked hard, progressed and come together as a squad — something it had been lacking in the last few years.
“The players continue to give us everything they’ve got, which was good,” Hill said. “Today, they went hard. Even though you could tell they were a little dead and tired after camp, they are still giving us what we ask of them, so I thought that was a good positive.”
With just seven days until its season opener against nationally ranked Arizona State, Hill said the purple and white have been especially focused on the Sun Devils this week.
“Today was a better day," said Hill. "I thought we made a lot of strides to pick up some of the stuff Arizona State is going to do to us, and that was the big focus today — moving on to them. So I thought today was a good day.”
Under center, BYU transer Billy Green appears to be the first-string quarterback right now and seems to be fitting in quite well in Ogden. However, Hill hasn’t seen enough to officially name a starter for the season opener.
“Give me a day and I’ll let you know for sure,” joked Hill. “We are right there with them, Billy is doing a great job, Jadrian (Clark) is really coming along, so it is a big decision; we want to be sure about it.”
Sophomore wideout Cameron Livingston and senior wide receiver Shaydon Kehano will provide the Wildcats with some serious speed and athleticism downfield and will be tremendous, go-to targets for Green, Clark or freshman Chad Leckington.
A couple guys are injured, so the ’Cats will need some younger guys to step up at wide receiver.
“We need some young wideouts to step up,” said Hill. “I feel very good about that top group, but we’ve got a couple kids dinged up right now and we’ve got to have those young guys to continue to step up.”
With sophomore running back Zach Smith and senior star running back Bo Bolen set to get the majority of the workload out of the backfield this season, Weber State should be able to pound the ball more effectively and have one of the most explosive run games in the Big Sky Conference.
Bolen led the Wildcats last season with 123 carries, 549 yards and six touchdowns — all of which were team-highs. Smith chipped in 71 carries, 284 yards and one touchdown.
Overall, Hill has been especially pleased with the progression of his backs, and with the one-two punch of Smith and Bolen, the ’Cats' running game should be much more effective than it was last season.
“Our running backs took a huge step forward today,” said Hill. “They played much better and were much more physical in the throw game, which was good to see. It was a good day.”
One of Weber State’s anchors on defense, junior Luke King, has been out due to injury, but Hill is confident King and his younger guys will be fully ready for the season opener in just seven short days. King, who finished with 43 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last year, will need to step up and fill those holes at linebacker and lead the defense.
“We need them to get healthy; that’s the biggest thing,” Hill said of his linebackers. “We need Luke King back, and he’ll be fine, and we need those young guys to continue to step up, which I saw improvement in today.”
The Wildcats and Sun Devils are set to kick off on Thursday, Aug. 28, at Sun Devil Stadium at 8 p.m. MDT. The home opener will be Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. against North Dakota State.
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724