08/30 Great West Teleconference Notes

Today, the Great West Conference held its first coaches media teleconference of the 2010 season. All five coaches chimed in with their outlook for the season and fielded questions from the media.

Each Monday afternoon after the call, I’ll post some tidbits here so you can stay updated on the league.

** All five schools are in action this weekend, with four playing FBS opponents. Thursday, North Dakota is at Idaho. And Saturday, UC Davis is at Cal, USD is at Central Florida, Southern Utah is at Wyoming, and Cal Poly hosts Humboldt State.

** Talk about parity. Each coach said they believe any team could win the conference title, but the majority gave the early edge to 2009 champion UC Davis. Cal Poly was tied for 25th in the FCS preseason coaches poll, and UC Davis was picked to repeat in the preseason GWC poll.

** Cal Poly finished last season with four straight losses to close out a 4-7 record. Second-year head coach Tim Walsh said though his Mustangs could easily have been 9-2 or 2-9, the key was closing games. “We’re making sure we’re not just great starters, but great finishers. We’re a much deeper team then we were last year.”

** USD coach Ed Meierkort fielded the most questions of any coach, and as expected, the majority revolved around his team’s season opener at Central Florida. On the game and the Sept. 11 matchup with Minnesota, Meierkort said, “We’ve got to improve in this game. The scoreboard can almost be irrelevant in these games.” As a kind of reward for his team’s opener, Meierkort said the Coyotes will spend Sunday at Disney World in Orlando.

** Picked to finish fifth in the Great West, North Dakota might surprise some teams because of one factor: It’s running game. Not only do the Sioux return leading rusher Mitch Sutton, last season’s GWC Rookie of the Year, they bring back Josh Murray. Murray sat out last season because of academic eligibility issues after earning first team all-conference honors in 2008. Said head coach Chris Mussman, “He’s (Josh) been everything we thought he was before. It gives us a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield. He’s one of those guys who’s good at everything he does.”

** The progression took another huge step forward last season for Southern Utah, which improved from zero wins in 2007 to five last season. And again, the Thunderbirds will boast one of the nation’s top wide receivers in Tysson Poots, a first team selection by numerous publications. Poots is the leading returning FCS receiver in the country in yards per game, receptions per game and scoring after finishing second in all three categories in 2009. Said head coach Ed Lamb, “He’s particularly good when teams underestimate his ability. Sometimes on video, guys that are big like that don’t seem as dynamic … Every year, I think it gets less and less likely for teams to overlook him.”

** Not only does UC Davis open the season as defending conference champs, but the Aggies open the season at Cal of the Pac-10. Aggies head coach Bob Biggs said his program had been in talks with Cal about a possible game, and when a team dropped off the Golden Bears’ schedule, Cal asked UC Davis to make the trip. “It’ll be a great challenge for us, but one our kids have really been looking forward to.”

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