The Purple and White Game will start at 6 p.m. with a chalk talk kicking things off at 4:30 p.m.
This weekend marks the end of the first spring under new head coach John L. Smith. Smith replaces Ron McBride after McBride retired at the end of a 5-6 season. The Wildcats finished the season in third place in the Big Sky, only two games behind perennial leaders Montana and Montana State. Smith will be looking to lead Weber State to the next level for the program and make the FCS playoffs.
Smith is not a stranger to the state of Utah. A former linebacker and quarterback for Weber State, he graduated in 1971. Smith was the head coach of Utah State before becoming the head of Michigan State. His record as a head coach is 132-86 at four different schools.
“I am thrilled to come back to Weber State and I am grateful for this tremendous opportunity to coach the Wildcats,” Smith said at his introductory press conference. “There are so many strong things in place at Weber State. I just look forward to adding to them and building on the success of the Wildcat football program.”
In his first offseason, Smith added 18 signees in his first class. Among them includes Clearfield High graduate A.J. Wilcox, who could play defensive end for Weber State.
Smith’s main job will be to take the success he instilled at his other coaching stops and install them into the Wildcats. He is one of 18 coaches in NCAA history to take three separate programs to bowl games. His Humanitarian Bowl appearance with Utah State in 1997 was the school’s first in 36 years. He took that success to Louisville, where he led the Cardinals to an 41-21 record and five bowl games.
Competing in the Big Sky will not be new for Smith. He has worked as an assistant at Montana and Weber State, while his first head coaching job was with Idaho when they were a member of the conference. The trick will be leading this group past a pair of Montana squads which became national powers in recent seasons.
Smith has been without starting quarterback Mike Hoke. Hoke, who will be in his final year of eligibility next season, is recovering from shoulder surgery during the offseason, and has sat out the spring practices. He passed for over 2000 yards last season, throwing 19 touchdown passes against just four interceptions.
While Smith will not be able to observe what he has at quarterback until the fall practices, it has given him time to evaluate the future of the position. Junior Jordan Adamczyk has taken the majority of snaps through the first two scrimmages of the spring. In the first scrimmage, Adamczyk threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He topped himself in the second scrimmage by throwing for 343 yards and one touchdown, including a 90 yard pass which set up a rushing touchdown.
The running game is also impressing the head coach. Senior C.J. Tuckett and Junior Josh Booker received the majority of carries through the first two scrimmages, with Sophomore Barrington Collins also receiving carries. Booker, the leading rusher from last season, is coming off a productive sophomore campaign which saw him named to Second Team All-Big Sky last season. However, the bulk of the carries have come in short yardage situations to Tuckett. Tuckett finished with the most rushing touchdowns last season with 10. Look for Smith to use both Booker and Collins to split carries once the season starts, with Tuckett getting the ball in short yardage situations.
With a new system being installed, there will be improvements made through the course of spring ball. After each practice, the offense has especially shown improvement.
“There were some improvements today but we still need to clean up some things,” Smith said. “Offensively I liked how we were able to move the ball and there were some things we can build on from today. As is always the case in the spring there is still work that needs to be done.”
Where a lot of the work needs to be done is on the defensive side of the ball. Judging a defensive squad in spring ball can be harsh, especially with a new scheme being installed and a new defensive coordinator being named in the middle of the spring. Jody Sears, who was the co-defensive coordinator at Washington State, was also the defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington.
Coming back for Sears will be senior linebacker Nick Webb. Webb finished second on the Wildcats with 101 tackles last season while being named First Team All-Big Sky. Junior Anthony Morales will join Webb in the linebacker group. Morales finished as the team’s leading tackler last season with 110, including 10 tackles for loss and two sacks. Morales made Second Team All-Big Sky.
The season will start on Saturday, Sept. 1 when Weber State will face the first of two BCS-level schools in its opening weeks.
After traveling to Fresno State, the Wildcats will return to Utah and face BYU the following week. McNeese State out of the Southland Conference will be the first home opponent for Weber State before starting conference play.