Five short seasons ago, Weber State finished with a 2-10 record and were struggling to find their way out of the Big Sky basement. After two dismal seasons under head coach Jody Sears, the Wildcats were in desperate need of change. Enter former Utah assistant, Jay Hill, who now in his fifth season, has turned the program around to not only one of the best in the Big Sky, but one of the best FCS teams in the nation.
Leading the 2017 team to an unprecedented two FCS playoff wins and a 5th place final ranking in the FCS Coaches poll, Hill managed to dig Weber out of the trenches and claimed a share of the Big Sky title (their first since 2008), and expectations for the 2018 team remain high. However, there are a few holes in the offense that will need to be filled before we know what to expect from this year’s Wildcats.
One of the biggest losses for the Wildcats is quarterback Stefan Cantwell. The former team captain accounted for 25 passing touchdowns with only 7 interceptions on the season. Factor in his 597 rushing yards and eight additional touchdowns on the ground, and Cantwell was as reliable as you could ask for.
While the competition to replace Cantwell remains open, redshirt freshman Kaden Jenks, and Cantwell’s former back-up Braden Miles appear to be the early front-runners. Miles led the offense during Weber’s spring game with 8 of 12 through the air for 130 yards while Jenks impressed with a 67-yard touchdown pass to seal the offense’s win. Miles, a redshirt sophomore, did see limited action in three games last season, finishing the season, 5 of 8 for 38 yards.
Luckily, whoever is under center will have the luxury of throwing to sophomore wide receiver, Rashid Shaheed. While Shaheed’s value was exposed as a return specialist, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaging 29.7 yards per return, he’s also a solid receiving threat. Racking up an impressive 545 yards on only 25 receptions, Shaheed is the only proven commodity in a field of relatively inexperienced receiving options.
On the ground, senior running back Treshawn Garrett returns to add some stability and veteran leadership to the young offense. Garrett averaged a respectable 5.4 yards per carry last season with 129 touches, highlighted by a 98-yard run against UC Davis last September, the longest such play in Weber State history.
With a relatively inexperienced core of athletes throughout the offense, the matchup looks to favor Utah’s typically stout defense.