Six players from Utah schools represented the state on this year's Big Sky preseason all-conference football team.
Weber State had TE Andrew Vollert, ILB Landon Stice, CB Taron Johnson and P Jacob DeMaio named to the Big Sky preseason all-conference team, while SUU placed two defenders — OLB Mike Needham and DE Robert Torgerson — on the all-Big Sky team.
Vollert (senior, 6-foot-5, 245 pounds) is one of only three players on the preseason team to earn consensus honors. He transferred to Weber State from junior college for the 2016 season and earned All-America honors as a junior, leading the Wildcats in receptions (62), receiving yards (840) and touchdowns (seven) during the season.
Stice (junior, 6-3, 200) started all 12 games last season and led Weber State with 103 total tackles while also collecting eight tackles for loss. He also returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown against South Dakota, the fifth-longest interception return in school history.
Johnson (senior, 6-0, 180) is among the most experienced players on the Wildcats' roster, having played in 35 career games with 28 starts. He earned second team all-Big Sky honors after last season, when he led the league in pass breakups with 12. He also has three career interceptions and is the program's all-time leader in pass breakups with 33.
DeMaio (senior, 6-5, 205) was a second-team all-conference honoree after the 2016 season, his first as a Wildcat after transferring from junior college. He was second in the Big Sky and seventh nationally in punting average last year, with a 43.5 yards-per-punt average. His 91-yard punt against Southern Utah was the longest in any NCAA division last year.
Needham (senior, 6-4, 210) had a team-leading 47 solo tackles — including a team-high tying 76 total tackles — during the 2016 season and also led the T-birds with five interceptions. He was named to the Big Sky all-conference first team and also had nine tackles for loss, three sacks and eight pass breakups.
Torgerson (senior, 6-4, 275) led SUU with 12 tackles for loss during the 2016 season and added five sacks, tied for the team lead. He also had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick for the T-birds.
Here's a look at the 2017 Big Sky preseason all-conference football team:
Preseason all-conference awards
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Gage Gubrud, QB, Eastern Washington
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Cole Reyes, S, North Dakota
Quarterback: Gage Gubrud, Eastern Washington
Wide receivers: Emmanuel Butler, Northern Arizona*; Keelan Doss, UC Davis; Jerry Louie-McGee, Montana
Offensive tackles: David Reese, Montana; Randin Crecelius, Portland State
Offensive guard: Tyler Shank, Northern Arizona; Demon Taylor, North Dakota
Center: Joey Kuperman, Cal Poly
Tight End: Andrew Vollert, Weber State*
Running backs: John Santiago, North Dakota*; Brady Oliveira, North Dakota
Fullback: Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly
Placekicker: Griffin Roehler, Northern Arizona
Return specialist: John Santiago, North Dakota
Defensive tackle: Robert Torgerson, Southern Utah; Anthony Del Toro, Portland State
Defensive end: Albert Havili, Eastern Washington; Ben Sorensen, Sacramento State
Outside linebackers: Mike Needham, Southern Utah; Josh Buss, Montana
Inside linebackers: Mac Bignell, Montana State; Landon Stice, Weber State
Cornerbacks: Deion Harris, North Dakota; Taron Johnson, Weber State
Safeties: Cole Reyes, North Dakota; Mitch Fettig, Eastern Washington
Punter: Jacob DeMaio, Weber State
Special teams player: Hakeem Deggs, Northern Colorado
* consensus honors