Sacramento State Hornets
2006 record: 4-7 (4-4)
Head Coach: Marshall Sperbeck (Nevada â€™84)
Previous tenure: HC Foothill College (California) for 15 years.
Star Player: LB Cyrus Mulitalo, Jr.
Key Returnees: Torrell Baker WR/PR, Brent Webber SS, Mike Brannon LB, Cyrus Mulitalo LB, Brett Shelton FS, Dallas Mauga DL, James Henderson FL
Key Addition: RB Tyreece Jacks (JUCO)
Key Losses: Marcel Marquez QB, Jason Barnes WR, Andre Taylor WR/KR, Tony DeMonaco DB, Tyson Butler LB
Interesting Notes: The roster has only 2 non-California players on it, and FB Damion Shelton is one of two players playing in the NFL out of Sacramento State.
Last yearâ€™s starting QB Marcel Marquez is now out of the picture, and in his place comes senior QB Crosby Wehr. Wehr, a back-up in â€™06, had a strong spring performance, including a solid drive that totaled 64 yards and a touchdown. Wehr had very limited playing time last year, throwing only nine times all year. Wehr will be challenged by the Brentwood, California native Jason Smith. Smith is a 6â€™1 190lbs freshman QB who red-shirted in 2006.
The running game looks weak going into 2007 unless JUCO transfer Tyreece Jacks can come in and start right away. Jacks is an undersized back, but displays 4.4 speed according to rivals.com, and rushed for 1100 yards and 10 tdâ€™s as a sophomore. FB Seth McDaniels is the returning rushing yardage leader, but is mostly a blocking back.
Senior WR Tyler Fanucchi looked like a go-to threat in the spring after recording five catches for 85 yards. Fanucchi is a transfer from Iowa. Torrell Baker returns to the receiving corps. Baker hauled in sixteen catches last year, rushed for 131 yards, and average 7.1 yards per punt return. The WR corps will greatly miss Jason Barnes and Andre Taylor.
The Hornets defensive unit dominated the spring game, winning 44-28 using a specialized point system that awarded points for a 3 and out, a turnover, and defensive scores. The Hornets return big time playmakers in Cyrus Mulitalo, Brent Webber, and Dallas Mauga.
The defensive line should have plenty of pass rush ability with Mauga and James Henderson returning for 2007. Mauga, a senior, recorded three sacks and nine tackles-for-loss in â€™06. Henderson, also a senior, logged 6.5 TFLs, and brought down the opposing teams QB four times in 2006.
The linebacking unit returns two of itâ€™s biggest playmakers in Cyrus Mulitalo and Mike Brannon, both only juniors. Mulitalo logged an amazing 120 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, and two sacks last season. Brannon brought down 54 ball carriers, 11 of them behind the line, and picked off two passes to boot.
Brent Webber returns to lead the defensive backs. Webber is a ball-hawking strong safety who came down with six INTs and 56 stops a year ago. Heâ€™s flanked by Brett Shelton at free safety. Shelton totaled 56 tackles last season.
Kicker Juan Gamboa returns for his junior season after strong outing in â€™06. Gamboa was 9-12 in field goal attempts, missing two from 40+ and one from 30+. Gamboa also recorded 12 touchbacks. The Hornets lost the services of Punter Mitch Lively who averaged a solid 43 yards per punt. The return game should be strong this season with Torrell Baker returning to handle kick and punt return duties. Baker averaged 7.1 yards per punt return, and 14.5 per kick return in 2006.
Last year, Boise State opened their undefeated season by dominating Sacramento State 45-0. This year itâ€™s Fresno State as the first game of the season, which looks much more promising for Sac State. The only other blow out on the schedule was at the hands of Montana as the Grizz ran through the Hornets 59-14 in Missoula. If Sacramento Stateâ€™s offense can come together, they could easily be a 7-4 team instead of 4-7.
The defense will have to keep the Hornets in games while the offense gets into rhythm. The loss of their starting QB and both starting WRâ€™s will hurt, but Wehr and Fanucchi showed good chemistry in the spring game. Seven of the Hornets eleven games were decided by eight points or less, and this is only more evidence that defense will be an important factor in competing for a Big Sky Conference championship.