PARK CITY — Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen was named the Big Sky Conference's preseason most valuable offensive player during the league's Summer Kickoff being held here.
He was joined by two of his SUU teammates — Zach Brackus, a senior offensive lineman from Murray; and Cody Larsen, a senior defensive tackle from Draper — on the Big Sky's Preseason All-Conference Team as the Thunderbirds prepare for their first year in the league.
Two Weber State players — senior offensive lineman Tytan Timoteo of Waianae, Hawaii; and sophomore fullback Tevia Tolutau of Provo — were also named to the preseason all-league squad, which was selected by members of the media and Big Sky schools' sports information directors.
The preseason defensive MVP is Montana State linebacker Jody Owens.
Sorensen, a transfer from BYU, was the Great West Conference's Offensive Player of the Year in 2011. Last year as a junior, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback from Grand Terrace, Calif., completed 288-of-425 passes (67.8 percent) for 3,143 yards and 17 touchdowns.
In 2010, he completed 261-of-390 passes for a school-record 3,163 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. He holds nearly every SUU single-game and single season passing and total offense record and is among the top two in every career category.
Brackus, who played his prep football at Murray High, is a three-year starter at left guard who has never missed a game in the previous three seasons for the Thunderbirds. Like Sorensen, he is a two-time first-team all-GWC performer.
Larsen, a former Jordan High School standout, is another three-year starter and two-time all-GWC honoree. Last year he tallied 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks among his 26 total tackles, while in 2010 he had 6.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and a team-high six quarterback hurries among his 29 tackles. He has been among the team's top two linemen in terms of tackles in each of the past two seasons.
All three SUU players were named to The Sports Network All-American team on July 9, and Sorensen was named to the Payton Award Watch List last Thursday.
Timoteo earned second team All-Big Sky honors as a junior last season, starting in all 11 games. In his three seasons with the Wildcats, Timoteo has played in 30 career games. The Waianae, Hawaii, native has started every game in each of the last two seasons for WSU.
Tolutau, a native of Provo, returns for his sophomore season at fullback after starting every game with Weber State last season as a true freshman. He earned first team All-Big Sky honors last year and is the only returning Wildcat that earned first team honors in 2011. He was also the only freshman in the conference that was named to the first team last season.
All 13 of the Big Sky's football-playing schools had at least one player on the preseason team. Montana State led all schools with six selections.
Also, the conference unveiled its new logo and branding campaign Monday. For the past year, the Big Sky has been working with SME, Inc., on a rebrand, a process that will continue through 2013-14 when the league celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of sponsoring women's sports. The Big Sky now includes 11 full members in nine states, plus two football affiliate members.
The new logo features the color of the sky (two blues and white), the sky element itself as well as a visual progression within the logo from the ocean up to the mountains, then down to the plains.
"A dream finally came true with the rebranding of the Big Sky Conference," said conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton. "We have a fresh and exciting new logo, new colors and a new league mentality — all of which speaks to the fact that we represent the dreams and aspirations of our alumni, student-athletes, institutions, and communities."?
At the core of the new brand, the league said, lay the unique and shared values of authenticity, integrity, fearlessness, honesty and loyalty.
"These values will be used to measure everything we do — from partners we consider aligning with, to how we judge student-athlete behavior, to whether or not we consider entrance of new schools that wish to join our conference," Fullerton said.
This marks the first time the 49-year-old league has undergone a rebranding campaign. The league had used the prior logo since the mid-1990s. Big Sky institutions will also feel ownership in the logo, as it has been designed in all 13 school's official colors. The new logo will appear on uniforms, fields and playing courts in each university's colors.
"We uncovered certain truths about our conference that are unique and different," Fullerton said. "This led to our new identity and that will be built upon in the coming years. We think the overall new look and feel of our conference properly expresses our essence and the essence of our fans, student athletes, member schools and our partners."
The Big Sky is one of just three football-playing conferences in the western United States, along with the Pac-12 and Mountain West.