Weber State will begin the 2022 season with hopes of rectifying what was a disappointing year in 2021 by the program’s standards. The Wildcats enter this season as the only ranked team in the FCS from the state of Utah, coming in at No. 20.
Still, ninth-year head coach Jay Hill does not put much stock into rankings before any games have been played.
“I think people get too hung up on preseason rankings and all that stuff,” he said. “The reality is, you’ve got to go out each week and play football against good teams and do the things that it takes to win. We don’t get too hung up on where preseason rankings have us.”
“We’ve got to get off to a roll and last year we didn’t. We know what it looks like. We’ve won a lot of conference championships in the last five years. So this is not something that we’re freaking out about. We’ve just got to get back, right the ship, and get rolling.” — Weber State coach Jay Hill
Last year marked the first time since 2015 that Weber State did not end the season as a ranked team. It also was the first time since 2016 that the school did not finish atop the Big Sky Conference. The Wildcats lost three of their first four games, finishing the year 6-5 and 5-3 in conference play.
“We’ve got to get off to a roll and last year we didn’t,” Hill said. “We know what it looks like. We’ve won a lot of conference championships in the last five years. So this is not something that we’re freaking out about. We’ve just got to get back, right the ship, and get rolling.”
The Wildcats get their opportunity to right said ship with a 2022 schedule that keeps them in Utah until Week 4, when they begin conference play at UC Davis. After commencing the season with a home matchup against Western Oregon tonight in Ogden, Weber State will play back-to-back games against Utah State and Utah Tech.
Weber State returns sophomore Bronson Barron as its starting quarterback from a year ago. Joining him in the backfield is a strong running backs core headed by three-time All-Big Sky first-team selection, senior Josh Davis.
Blocking for Davis and Barron will be junior offensive lineman Noah Atagi, who enters the season as the only Wildcat on the preseason Big Sky All-Conference team. According to Hill, Atagi has been garnering interest from NFL scouts.
Hill feels confident in the guys who will be catching the ball for his team. Leading the way in the pass game is senior wide receiver Ty MacPherson and tight ends Justin Malone and Hayden Meacham.
“On the offensive side of the ball, we’ve got a really good tight ends group; we’ve got a really good running backs group,” Hill said. “There are guys that have played a lot of football for us.”
The Wildcats’ defense starts with its veteran play at the defensive tackle and secondary positions. Juniors Kalisi Moli and Doug Schiess join forces with senior Sione Lapuaho to round things out at the defensive tackle position.
Junior cornerback Eddie Heckard, the two-time All-Big Sky first-team honoree, leads Weber State’s secondary. The group also includes senior safety Desmond Williams, another former All-Big Sky first-team selection. Filling out the defense are experienced linebackers Winston Reid and Raoul Johnson.
“The strength of the defense right now looks like the defensive tackles group and the secondary,” Hill said. “Although the linebackers have really stepped up through camp.”
Weber State’s special teams unit will be anchored by sophomore kicker Kyle Thompson who returns from a season ago. The punting duties have not been decided. Sophomores Jack Burgess and Brodie Taylor continue to battle for that starting spot.
When asked what would make this season a success, Hill responded, “A conference championship. Playoff wins. We would sure like to get further in the playoffs than we’ve ever gotten. That’s a big goal of ours. But first and foremost, our No. 1 goal is always going to be to win the conference championship.”
Hill and the Wildcats look to capitalize on their experienced roster and get back to the top of the Big Sky in 2022.