For the first time in nearly a decade, there’s a different coach manning the sideline for Weber State football following Jay Hill’s departure from Ogden this offseason to take on a new challenge at BYU. 

Hill left his mark at the school where he ran the program for nine seasons, giving newly hired head coach Mickey Mental a great foundation on which to build moving forward. 

“The culture here is strong,” Mental said. “I believe in the culture. I believe in what (Hill) is about as a football coach and as a person … I’m going to put my spin on (the program). … But the base roots and the base foundations of this program, I came here for those reasons as well.”

The new head coach brings a tireless drive to improve his team in his second year at the school after being hired as the offensive coordinator for the 2022 season — duties he will retain this year. When asked what he’s looking forward to most about the upcoming season, he said, “I actually enjoy camp and practice more than anything, to tell you the truth. The camaraderie; the competition; guys obviously figuring out their roles; guys growing; guys kind of being selfless throughout the process of getting better.”

Mental hopes to help his offense take a step forward this season and expects to be “very good on defense.” 

Leading the defense is senior linebacker Winston Reid, who came to Weber State as a walk-on from Copper Hills High. Since that time, he has become an FCS All-American and earned first-team All-Big Sky honors in 2022. 

On the defensive line, junior defensive end Okiki Olorunfunmi heads up a group that Mental feels has good depth. 

The Wildcats will rely on experienced players in the defensive backfield. Taking the bulk of the duties this year will be senior brothers Maxwell and LJ Anderson at cornerback and safety, respectively, senior cornerback Marque Collins, sophomore safety EJ Evett, and senior safety Naseme Colvin. Also in the secondary is junior cornerback Abraham Williams, who moonlights as a return specialist. 

Other specialists include junior kicker Kyle Thompson for field goals, sophomore Sloan Calder performing kickoffs, and junior Jack Burgess as punter. 

Junior quarterback Kylan Weisser gets in some work during the Wildcats fall camp in Ogden. | Weber State Athletics

On offense, junior quarterback Kylan Weisser should get the nod as the starter with his “steady and consistent” play, according to Mental. He is joined in the backfield by junior running back Damon Bankston who has impressed his head coach this offseason.  

Giving Weisser and Bankston protection is an offensive line headed up by senior siblings Noah and Ethan Atagi. Fellow senior Jordan Lutui also adds his experience to the line, having played in 38 games for the Wildcats. 

Catching passes from Weisser will be a pair of redshirt freshmen wide receivers that have impressed Mental in Tajon Evans and Treyshun Hurry. 

The Wildcats will have their work cut out for them in the Big Sky Conference, where six teams find themselves in the preseason rankings, including Weber State, which checks in at No. 13. 

“Our first part of our journey is just getting better each and every day,” Mental said. “Ultimately, you want to win the Big Sky and advance far in the playoffs. But at the end of the day, all that stuff takes care of itself if you approach each and every day at a high level and work at a high level. We’ve got good enough players, good enough coaching staff here to obviously do some great things. But more importantly, it’s about our daily process; daily routine.”

After facing off against FCS No. 23 Northern Iowa and FBS No. 14 Utah in back-to-back preseason contests, Weber State will begin conference play against reigning Big Sky champion Montana State, which is ranked No. 3 in the FCS. The Wildcats fell to the Bobcats twice last season, making this year’s rematch extra exciting.

“Anytime you can play a program like Montana State at home to open up conference play it kind of gets the juices flowing,” Mental said. “We expect a really good game.”

In Ogden, they’ve come to expect really good seasons. Mental and Weber State hope to deliver just that. 

2023 Wildcats schedule

  • Date | Opponent | Time | Location
  • Aug. 31 (Thurs.) | vs. Central Washington | 6 p.m. MDT | Stewart Stadium                      
  • Sept. 9 (Sat.) | at Northern Iowa | 3 p.m. | Cedar Falls, Iowa                              
  • Sept. 16 (Sat.) | at Utah | Noon | Salt Lake City                           
  • Sept. 23 (Sat.) | vs. Montana State | 6 p.m. | Stewart Stadium                                        
  • Sept. 30 (Sat.) | at Northern Colorado | 1 p.m. | Greeley, Colo.                                  
  • Oct. 7 (Sat.) | vs. Northern Arizona | 6 p.m. | Stewart Stadium    
  • Oct. 14 (Sat.) | vs. UC Davis | 6 p.m. | Stewart Stadium
  • Oct. 21 (Sat.) | at Eastern Washington | 5 p.m. | Cheney, Wash.                                  
  • Nov. 4 (Sat.) | at Idaho State | 4 p.m. | Pocatello, Idaho                                
  • Nov. 11 (Sat.) | vs. Idaho | 1 p.m. | Stewart Stadium                                       
  • Nov. 18 (Sat.) | at Cal Poly | 6 p.m. | San Luis Obispo, Calif.