With a football team that gave up 25 yards a game more last year than the year before and has only two defensive starters returning, third-year Weber State Coach Dave Arslanian says his emphasis for spring practice, which begins today, 3-5:30 p.m., and runs through May 4, will center on the reaction side of the ball.
After all, Arslanian's offense, though it returns only six starters, does bring back quarterback Jamie Martin, whose 3,700 yards passing as a sophomore last season was the seventh-best total in NCAA Division I-AA history and the second-best mark ever in the pass-happy Big Sky Conference."Defensively," says Arslanian, who plans subtle changes, "our emphasis will be to present the basic defense and see what our kids handle. We need more instinct reaction."
Last season, the Wildcats gave up an average of 398.9 yards per game in total offense, up 25 yards per game from the year before. "The difference was that last season our opponents couldn't sit on the ball to beat us. They had to outscore us, so we saw more wide-open pressure attacks."
Reid Leland (6-foot-2, 225-pound senior inside linebacker) and Fredrick Smith (5-11, 185, sophomore cornerback) are the only returnees on defense. Leland is a two-year starter and had 58 tackles last season. Smith led the Wildcats in interceptions with four.
Offensively, the Wildcats led Division I-AA in 1990 passing offense (342.2 yards per game), were second in total offense (485.7) and averaged 28 points per contest. Martin set Weber single-season marks in passes attempted (428), completed (256), completion percentage (.598), pass efficiency rating (143.2) and most passing yards (3,700). He threw 23 touchdowns. His 504 passing yards vs. Montana set a single-game school mark and was the best Division I-AA effort of 1990.
Martin has hands waiting. Seven of the top Wildcats' top nine receivers are back. Top returnee is junior Trevor Shaw, who played tight end last season and caught 65 passes for 879 yards and six TDs. He became the first receiver in WSU history to have 100 or more receptions in two seasons. Shaw will move to the "H-back" position.
Weber's spring Purple/White intra-squad scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium.