They're a bunch of heavy hitters looking for a nickname that will both define them and give them some street cred. But the moniker has to roll off the tongue, and it needs to be snappy.
"Hammerheads" is nice, but it's already been taken, a nickname given to Sacramento State's offensive line a generation ago by late Hornets coach Bob Mattos.
One thing for sure: Through the first three games of the season, the Sac State secondary is making a name for itself. It has played a big role in the Hornets' 2-1 start that includes a road victory at Colorado, a Pacific-12 Conference team.
Although the secondary lacks a nickname, its players have ones for each other. There's "Ry-Dog" or sometimes "Ry-Heem" for Ryan McMahon, "Arm" for Josh Armstrong and simply "Bill" for Robert Beale. But then there's "Spank" for Markell Williams and arguably the best nickname, "Smurf" for Osagie Odiase.
"When I first came into the program, I was like 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds," Odiase said. "So I guess I was Smurf-like. But now I'm 5-11, 180."
And Odiase is certainly fast and perhaps the Hornets' best cover man. In the Hornets' 28-17 win over Northern Colorado last Saturday, Odiase had a career-high 11 tackles, including one for a loss. The junior from Sante Fe Springs also recovered a first-quarter fumble and had an interception in the third quarter as the Bears were driving.
Odiase, who also had three pass breakups against Northern Colorado, was selected as the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career.
Northern Colorado threw 55 times last Saturday for 327 yards. But the Hornets' no-name secondary made three interceptions (McMahon and Beale each had one).
"Smurf", "Ry-Dog" and the rest of the unit will be tested again tonight when the Hornets host North Dakota at 6:05 in the Big Sky opener for both teams.
North Dakota (2-1) is coming off a 49-41 loss at San Diego State, where UND quarterback Marcus Hendrickson passed for 434 yards (second-most in school history) and four touchdowns.
North Dakota has the fifth-ranked offense in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, averaging 514.33 yards a game. Its passing attack (337) is eighth.
Hendrickson's main target is junior wide receiver Greg Hardin, who became the first player in school history with three touchdown catches in consecutive games. Hardin shares the FCS lead with seven receiving touchdowns and 42 points.
"(North Dakota is) very explosive," Hornets coach Marshall Sperbeck said. "Their quarterback is a doing a good job of keeping plays alive and getting the ball downfield. His receiving corps (is) a nice blend. You have a big guy in there, another guy who can run and catch, and a little guy who can make people miss underneath. It's going to be a challenge for us."
Big Sky teams like to pass. Idaho State is second among FCS teams in passing yards (443.5 a game).
Facing a team with a pass-happy quarterback only gets McMahon's motor running.
"I like to hit; I like the contact," said McMahon, a senior cornerback and former walk-on at USC who joined the Hornets last season and had 86 tackles. "You have to make the most of your opportunities out there. You don't want to be on the game film as getting beat or run over (by a receiver)."
It's in the film room where the defensive backs do the most bonding. Odiase said he and the rest of the defensive backfield often get together at someone's house for even more film work than they get on campus. Then it's off to an all-you-can-eat buffet or a restaurant down the street for Philly cheesesteaks.
That's called building chemistry, and Hornets defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Anthony Parker loves to see it.
"I think they're coming together quite well," Parker said. "They're all very coachable, they like each other, and they're a good group of characters. The guys who've been around take it upon themselves to bring the new guys along and to get them to conform to the culture. It's always a work in progress, but they're doing a nice job."
Now if they can just come up with a catchy nickname.