Before the regular season rolls around in late summer, Southern Utah University football will host its Spring Game to culminate the spring training season. The intersquad scrimmage is set for Saturday, April 16, at 1 p.m and is free to the public.
The team began spring practices on Monday, March 21, and the Spring Game allows a preview into what can be expected for next season.
Next season will bring a lot of change for SUU football as they move from the Big Sky Conference to the Western Athletic Conference. The team will also be led by new Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald who made the jump to the FCS level from NCAA Division II powerhouse Frostburg State University.
The roster itself is seeing a lot of fluctuation as well with old faces entering the transfer portal and a lot of new players coming in. In fact, the 2022 roster is slated to have about 40 freshmen. With a new coaching staff working to establish a winning culture, veteran players are expected to lead by example.
“Us older guys just have to make sure we set the standard high and consistently do the right things everyday,” said redshirt sophomore Lyle Santos. “Not just out at practice and in the weight room, but with everything. We are aiming to build a solid foundation.”
Coach Fitzgerald even admitted that players sticking around on the roster may not have the same roles that they did in the fall last year.
“It is important to me that everybody in this program gets a clean slate,” said Fitzgerald. “What they’ve done in the past does not affect them now. They’ve got a chance to prove themselves to a new coaching staff.”
Offensively, starting quarterback Justin Miller is returning alongside his leading receivers Ethan Bolingbroke and Brandon Schenks. However, Miller’s subpar 2,416 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 61% completion means his job might not necessarily be a lock. The spring game will offer a glimpse into what the quarterback situation may look like.
Bolingbroke and Schenks are slated to come back in the fall but both will miss the Spring Game due to injuries.
As for the rest of the roster, very few notable players are returning. On the offensive line, right guard Lyle Santos is the only current player who started all 11 games last season. Sophomore running back Isaiah Williams ran the ball 32 times last season for 206 yards and scored four touchdowns, but looks to be the lead back now.
The defense is undergoing a lot of change as well with redshirt junior Francis Bemiy being the most productive returning player. The defensive end led the team with four sacks and added 48 tackles last season. That number was good for fifth on the team. Redshirt sophomore Aubrey Nellems notched 48 tackles as well and looks to see an increased role as the most experienced returning linebacker. The secondary will see the most change, returning practically none of the major contributors from 2021.
The Spring Game will start with a practice first at 1 p.m. and the intersquad game will start after an hour at the Eccles Coliseum and is free to attend.
Story by: Christian Esparza
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics