While the man operating the Sacramento State offense is new, the Hornets' best chance for success, at least initially, lies in their running game. Four running backs could return at the position, giving Coach Steve Mooshagian plenty of options and experience.
Junior Ryan Mole (5-10, 195) has gained 1,626 yards on the ground in his career to rank sixth all-time at Sacramento State. Mole joins former All-American Charles Roberts and Rob Harison as the only three Hornet players to record multi 200-yard games. He was injured for more than half of the Big Sky season last year, but was still third in the Big Sky with 827 yards (4.5 average) and scored two touchdowns. Mole was named second team all-Big Sky for the second consecutive season. He's a power back that plays off his blocks very well and also has deceptive speed. Mole also caught 17 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown last year for the Hornets.In 2004, Mole was named co-Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and honorable mention all-Big Sky after rushing for 858 yards. He was also named as a I-AA honorable mention Freshman All-American.
He was originally recruited by San Jose State but chose to go to Sacramento instead.
The Santa Maria, California product had shoulder surgery and missed spring ball. If he is not ready, coaches may let him redshirt in 2006. This would be a huge blow not only to him but also to the Sacramento State offense.
Senior Kris Daniels (5-7, 175) is capable of stepping into the lineup; he did that last year when Mole went out and responded with 356 yards (3.8 average) and found the end zone four times. While Mole will try to run through blocks, Daniels is more shifty and elusive. Daniels rushed for 132 yards against the stout Montana State defense. So Boise State defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski has seen Daniels having served as the Defensive Coordinator for the Bobcats prior to coming to Boise. Daniels will also be the Hornets' top kickoff returner.
Daniels rushed for 115 yards against Cal Poly in 2004 in essentially his only action of the season. He also ran for 100 yards on 23 carries his freshman season. Daniels has always possessed a nose for the end zone; he scored 29 touchdowns as a senior at South San Francisco High School.
Sophomore Torrell Baker (5-9, 175) is a converted receiver who coaches want to get on the field. He caught 11 passes for 109 yards and a TD last season. Baker was a running back in high school, rushing for 1,153 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman Dalen Mason (5-9, 190) was Sacramento State's offensive scout team player of the year last year, and he could be a factor, especially if Mole cannot return this year.
After featuring a one-back offense, Mooshagian will utilize a fullback this season. Junior John Alanis (6-0, 225) and freshman Blake Milton (5-10, 225) were on the roster in the spring and have a head start to earn that starting role.
Alanis was a teammate of quarterback Tim Brockwell at Glendale Community College, which won the NJCAA National Championship last fall. He caught 30 passes for 351 yards and a TD playing fullback for an 11-0 team.
Three transfers could win the spot as well. Junior Ryan Hastie (6-0, 240) comes to Sacramento State from the University of Oregon, Seth McDaniels (6-0, 230, So.) is a transfer from Fresno State and Rainbow Mauga (5-8, 220, Sr.) is a JC transfer from Grossmont. Mooshagian wants his fullback to be versatile, occasionally lining him up as a receiver. This may tend to favor Alanis but like the starter at quarterback, a decision on the fullback may not be made until the final week.
With a new starting quarterback, Mooshagian's hand may be forced to try to run the ball on the Broncos, something that fellow Big Sky member Portland State did very well last year. With a big offensive line and the talent in the unit, this could be a good test for the Bronco defensive line.