WSU football preseason rankings and awards

It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Weber State University Football Team. Last week, the Big Sky Conference released their preseason rankings, and two Wildcats were named preseason All-Americans.

The Big Sky Conference released two polls last week, a media poll and a coaches’ poll. WSU is ranked in the middle of both polls. In the coaches’ poll, they are ranked in sixth place, just behind Northern Arizona University, but in the media poll, the ’Cats jumped in front of NAU and earned a fifth-place ranking.

The first three slots were the same in both polls, with last year’s national champion, Eastern Washington University, claiming the top spot. The Eagles are followed by Montana State University and the University of Montana.

WSU is coming off a 6-5 record in 2010.  They were 5-3 in conference play, finishing in a three-way tie for third place. WSU has six All-Conference performers returning from last year’s squad, and has 38 letter-winners and 14 starters returning. Head Coach Ron McBride will return for his seventh season with the Wildcats.

WSU will look to younger players to fill the holes left by many stars who graduated last season. Despite the challenge of replacing the likes of Cameron Higgins, Vai Tafuna and Joe Collins, WSU tight end Brian Jankowski said he feels the team will adapt and have a good season.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in this season, and a lot of confidence

in our players,” Jankowski said. “It’s going to be hard to replace the players that we’ve lost, but I feel that the players who are coming in, they’re going to know their role. They’re going to buy in, and I have a good feeling about this season.”

Jankowski said that the team has been working individually and as a group over the summer to prepare for the upcoming season. He said that, aside from daily workouts, they’ve been working on routes and developing a plan for this season.

“There’s been a lot of team chemistry over the summer, and a lot of goals being set,” he said.

The other big news for WSU football was the announcement that J.C. Oram, an offensive lineman, and Nick Webb, a linebacker, were named preseason All-Americans. McBride said that Oram is one of the keys to WSU’s offense.

“J.C. took it upon himself to become a leader on the offensive line last season, and did a tremendous job of keeping our young freshmen together,” McBride said. “He is physically strong, mentally tough and has excellent technique. He is a difference-maker up front.”

Oram is one of six players from the Big Sky to be named to the All-American first team, and one of six players who was a unanimous selection. He anchored one of the best offensive lines in the conference last season and provided great protection for Higgins, at one point leading the conference in fewest sacks allowed.

Webb, a 6-foot-4-inch, 245-pound linebacker, is the only Wildcat to make the squad on defense. Webb, a native of Salt Lake City, has played in 35 games in his three-year career with the Wildcats. Last season, he ranked seventh in the Big Sky in total tackles with 99, including 69 unassisted tackles, the seventh-most in WSU single-season history.

The Wildcats will begin the 2011 season Sept. 3 at the University of Wyoming. The following week they will play at Utah State University. The home and Big Sky season will begin Sept. 17, when they host Sacramento State University.