2015 Record: 9-3 (6-2)
Head Coach: Bruce Barnum (9-3; second year)
Returning Starters: 8 Offense/5 Defense
Key Losses: RB David Jones; RT Mike Davis; FS Patrick Onwuasor; LB Jeremy Lutali; CB Aaron Sibley
2015 Offense: 420 ypg (251 rush/136 pass); 34.2 ppg
2015 Defense: 384 ypg (192 rush/192 pass); 22.3 ppg
Offense: Head coach Bruce Barnum took over a program that hadn't challenged for a playoff berth in 15 years and promptly took them to a 9-3 record and the second round of the FCS playoffs. A big reason for the success of the Vikings was the play of quarterback Alex Kuresa who showed himself to be a dual-threat, using both his arm and leg to make plays and this year he'll be counted on to be even better. The loss of David Jones will definitely impact the running game, but the Vikes do return four of their five starters along the offensive line and they feel they have some candidates to replace him in Nate Tago, Steven Long and Paris Penn. At receiver, last year's leading receiver, Darnell Adams, returns after posting 22 receptions for 478 yards and six scores. He's joined by seven other receivers with experience. Since Barnum took over the offense five years ago as the offensive coordinator, the Vikings have been more of a "ground-and-pound" team, totaling over 2,000 yards on the ground in each of those five seasons. That could change this year with Kuresa back and more comfortable in their system.
Defense: Five starters return for the Vikings on defense, with the strength being up front and in the secondary. The loss of top corner Aaron Sibley will definitely hurt, but Xavier Coleman, the starter on the other side, returns and he was almost as dynamic as Sibley was. Defensive end Davond Dade only started the final five games, but he still wound up leading PSU in sacks with six. He'll be counted on to be even better this fall. Two former starters at end, seniors Michael Doman and Savali Tamalemotu, will move inside to tackle when the Vikings want to play an even front. The linebackers are young and inexperienced, but they have some speed and athleticism as well.
The Bottom Line: Portland State has brought some excitement back the Rose City after several years of dormancy. They look to have outstanding leadership and coaching and they have been aggressive on the recruiting trail. Barnum and his staff are building a solid program, but this year looks like it could wind up being a bit of a rebuilding year for them as they have to replace quite a few leaders from last year's squad. That being said, Kuresa will always give them a chance to win with his ability to make plays with both his arm and legs. As long as the defense can ramp up things with their youngsters quickly and they can hold strong against the run with a lighter defensive front, they should be able to make some waves in Big Sky play and they could sneak back into the FCS playoffs with a little bit of luck.