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2008 BIG SKY PREVIEW: SACRAMENTO STATE
Two sophomores are vying for the quarterback spot, and incoming Jason Smith had the stronger first scrimmage of the fall compared to UCLA transfer McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Their main targets are Tony Washington and 2007 walk-on Dylan Lane. Washington was honorable mention all-Big Sky after making 29 grabs. The corps includes speedster Torrell Baker and big newcomers Chase Deadder and Jon Blea. But the biggest pluses are four letterwinners back on the offensive line - led by tight end-turned-left tackle Matt Navar - and sophomore tailback Bryan Hilliard. A local product (Laguna Creek), Hilliard ended 2007 with three straight 100-yard games, including a 243-yard outburst against Idaho State.
You have to like those linebackers: Mike Brannon and Cyrus Mulitalo were all-Big Sky first-team picks, Mulitalo for the second time, and JC transfer Mike Hickman was honorable mention. The trio combined for 245 stops and 39.5 tackles for loss in 2007. The problem will be refortifying a very good defensive line, where sophomore Chris Clark (four starts) is the most experienced returnee, and filling in the safety spots vacated by four-year starters Brent Webber and Brett Shelton. Dorian Brown and Matt Evans, who both toiled at linebacker last fall, may be the picks at safety; fifth-year senior Kevin Davis leads the way at the corner. Helping Clark up front will be junior Bill Sherman and converted O-lineman John Garth.
Notable: Bryan Hilliard’s rushing total of 826 yards in 2007 was five times that of ‘06 team rushing leader Kris Daniels (160 yards on 66 carries).
Quotebook: “In my experience at the JC level, there was usually a big jump between the first and second year for most players… We are hoping for that same progression.” - Marshall Sperbeck, second-year Sac State coach
Stud to watch: Cyrus Mulitalo. The 245-pound senior linebacker was under-recruited, but he hasn’t been under-appreciated in the Big Sky. His 240 tackles rank fifth in Sac State history, and he took an interception 60 yards for a TD in 2007.
Pay attention to: Mike Brannon. He came in the same time as Mulitalo but is ahead of him in tackles for loss (40 to 26). He ranks fourth in school history in that statistic, and third in career sacks (18.5).
Forecast: 7th by coaches, 8th by media
2007: 3-8, 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference
Starters returning: 8 on offense, 6 on defense.
Coach: Marshall Sperbeck, 2nd season (3-8)
Quote: “The pieces are in place. We have the tools, we just have to put it all together.”
- LB Cyrus Mulitalo
By Fritz Neighbor