TEAM PREVIEW: Ricks College

One more time, literally. With the announced change of Ricks College becoming BYU-Idaho, came the announced end of Intercollegiate Athletics at the school. Where there was early concern that the final season of football could be disastrous, the outlook as the season arrives is one of optimism.

 

Coach: Ron Haun (20th season 168-39-2)
2000 Record: 8-3 / WSFL 5-3
Final Ranking: NJCAA #9
Online: Ricks Website

PLAYERS REPORT: August 15, 2001

PRACTICE BEGINS: August 16, 2001 - 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM

Players returned, recruits signed, and the Vikings could once again be in the chase for a WSFL Championship.

"We look real solid along the defensive line," says head coach Ron Haun. "This area will be a real plus for us."

Three defensive tackles anchor the unit, all with experience. Sean Tidwell of Nampa is a returning starter from last season. "Sean is older, mature, smart, and a leader on the field." Spencer Ray earned starting time as the 2000 season progressed. "Spencer worked really hard this spring. He was a very pleasant surprise." Carl Tuitavuki started as a freshman before his mission. "Carl may have been our most outstanding player in the spring. No one could handle him." All three are in the 300 pound range, with strength and mobility and "could be a real force for us."

Tidwell, a transfer from the University of Utah, could also move to defensive end where Adam Ullrich and Josh Huntsman are lined up. "We're inexperienced here. Sean can help us get past that." Ullrich and Huntsman both saw time as reserves behind graduated Josh Rollins, a first-team All-WSFL selection now at Wyoming. Ullrich and Huntsman also made significant contributions as special team players last season. Add to the group Sefo Raas from 1999, Clint Stewart, a redshirt in 2000, Isaiah Womak of Rigby, and Shawn Murphy of Alpine, UT, and you have depth and talent.

Going into the season, there are more questions than answers at linebacker and defensive back. "People will have to step up, but the talent is there to do the job." Dan Bates of Boise, looks to handle the strong side. In the middle, Brigham Tomco of Washington, has the inside track. On the weak side, Kody Kraus of Rexburg, Brock Williamson of Preston, and freshman Levi Bills of Skyline High in Salt Lake, all have the potential to take charge. Kraus played as a freshman before his mission, and competed on the track team since his return. His speed is impressive. "Kody played really well for us as a freshman." All three are very athletic. Freshman Nick Hyde of Preston, and return missionary Richard Tauteoli of Magna who played prior to his mission, will also figure in answering this puzzle.

Defensive back always seems to be a concern in the program, but players have stepped forward and made the coaching staff feel a lot more comfortable. Ben Allen of Boise is home from his mission, and "plays a lot like Jay Hill. He has speed and is very aggressive." Ben Franz of Rexburg will be the other corner. "He played a lot last year and has really improved." At safety, Eric Tavaga is back. He started as a freshman prior to his mission. Mike Overly of Boise was a red shirt last season and has looked very good in practice. Both have speed and love to hit. Three recruits are critical to this area. Brandon Henrie of Orem, and Allen Belcher of Uintah should both push for starting positions, with Josh Steele of Highland High in Salt Lake doing the same.

The punting chores belong again to Jon Clark. The kicking duties are in the hands of James Marshall of Blackfoot.

Where last year the offensive line was a constant concern, this year looks much more solid. "We have eight to ten big, solid kids. We feel good here." Two starters return in Aaron Acker and Cade McMullin. Acker will line up at center. Neither began last year as starters, but were starting by the end of the season. David Cousin of Idaho Falls is also back from last year, and another who steadily improved as a freshman. Coming over from defense last year is Peni Holakeituai, a 6'6", 310 pound giant "with the potential to be a major force." Returning from missions are Adam Hinckley of Idaho Falls, and Gary McGiven of Springville, UT. Rick Adolpho, Matt Smith, and Victor Martinez are back and will add depth with the potential to start.

Three freshman recruits are expected to make an impact as well. Eric Freeman of Orem, Jordan Berger of Florida, and Chad Olson of Orem, are all "good looking freshman. We feel good about the offensive line, and that's an important area for us."

"There are a lot of people to look at as far as running backs and receivers go. We 'look' as good as last year, maybe better, but some guys have to step up and take charge."

Tight end begins with Jon Clark, a part time starter from last season, and Nathon Brown, a reserve from last season. Neither is as imposing as Viking tight ends of the past, but both can catch the ball and run with it. Sean Tidwell's brother Scott will line up here, too. A key recruit here is Johnny Harline of Orem, a player with plenty of Division One opportunities.

At wide receiver, Richard Novotny is back with experience from last season. Jared Doman watched last season as a red shirt, and has looked solid in practice. "Jared works hard and does a good job of catching the football." Coming off missions are Cody Startin, Damon Mortensen, and Chris Nash. Nash started prior to his mission. Chase Palmer of Lone Peak(UT) and Mike Millward of Skyline(UT), are both excellent athletes that can be major contributors. "No one has great speed, but they are all good 'possession' type players, which is what we've always had."

Running back is a crucial position in the Vikings offensive schemes. They must carry the ball, catch the ball, and block blitzing linebackers. Three with experience have returned for the 2001 season. Travis Christensen and Scott Thompson, both from the Boise area, and Shane Calder of Rexburg have the inside track. Each came on strong as the season progressed. Thompson scored two touchdowns in the Real Dairy Bowl. Rick Swensen of Orem had a strong spring at fullback. Chad Harrigfeld of Idaho Falls is back from a mission and eager to contribute. Isaac Folsom of Salmon, Troy Sheide, and Ryan Johnson are other new-comers with great potential.

Now we come to the focal point of junior college's top passing offense, the quarterback. How does a team replace a record-setting signal caller like Marc Dunn, who moved on to Kansas State?

"There's just a big question mark here right now." Dallas Stevens of Rexburg, red shirted as a freshman, then went on an LDS mission. He's home and pencilled in as the starter. Robbie Haas also red shirted as a freshman, then went on a mission. Luke Knuppenburg of Kentucky and Jeff Rammell of Rexburg will push Stevens and Haas.

For the third year in a row, a WSFL team played for the national championship, and this time the title came to the WSFL as Glendale won its second NJCAA title. They're solid again this season, along with Arizona Western. Both beat the Vikings last year, but both have to play in Rexburg this year. Snow will also come to Rexburg, but the Vikings will travel to St. George to meet the Rebels in the final game of the season, and don't be surprised if a league championship is on the line.

The Western States Football League has grown with the addition of Pima College of Tucson, and New Mexico Military of Roswell. The Vikings have a full schedule without any non-conference games included.


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