After an erratic 2013 season, the Sacramento State football program seeks more consistency as it opens spring practice on Monday.
The Hornets finished a disappointing 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the Big Sky Conference in a season of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good included one-sided wins over Big Sky teams Weber State, Northern Colorado and North Dakota; a stunning 43-42 come-from-behind victory late in the season at Portland State; a courageous but tough-luck 51-48 overtime loss to playoff-bound Montana; and a dramatic 63-56 overtime win over NAIA Southern Oregon that prevented an 0-3 start.
The bad included a 24-0 loss at San Jose State to open the season; a 24-21 overtime loss at home to Southern Utah in a game the Hornets appeared to have well in hand; and a 39-38 loss at home to Northern Arizona, which finished second in the Big Sky race behind Eastern Washington, after the Hornets led 31-14 early in the third quarter.
The ugly included a 55-0 televised rout by Arizona State in the second game of the season and dismal conference losses to intrastate rivals Cal Poly 42-7 and UC Davis 34-7 late in the year.
Sac State put up impressive offensive numbers behind record-setting junior quarterback Garrett Safron, but the Hornets had one of the worst defenses among the conferences 13 teams, ranking 10th in scoring defense (33.2 points per game) and total defense (446.9 yards per game).
The Hornets retooled the defensive coaching staff in the offseason. Two assistants were let go, and four-year defensive coordinator Anthony Parker was demoted to safeties coach. He was replaced by former Weber State head coach Jody Sears, who went 4-19 in two seasons before being fired.
Although Sears struggled in his head-coaching stint, he had been a respected defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington and Washington State.
Change is part of the business, Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck said. Were excited to have a coach with Jodys background on our staff. He knows the Big Sky; hes coached in the Pac-12.
One of Sears first priorities will be to fill a big gap at linebacker. All-Big Sky first-team selection Todd Davis, who led the Hornets in tackles last season, is departing.
Other exiting senior starters include All-Big Sky first-team guard Tyler Worthley, second-team punter Justin Weldon and wide receiver Morris Norrise, and honorable mention defensive back Markell Williams.
In all, Sac State is losing two offensive and six defensive starters.
Big Sky honorees back are wide receiver DeAndre Carter (first team), Safron (second team), wide receiver Shane Harrison (honorable mention) and defensive end Darnell Sankey (honorable mention), who could be moved to outside linebacker.
Sac State has eight mid-year enrollees joining the team for spring workouts, highlighted by UCLA defensive-line transfer Brandon Tuliaupupu, a 6-foot-1, 302-pound junior. He played in five games for the Bruins last season.
Also joining the Hornets is 6-1, 230-pound linebacker Morgan Nevin from Santa Barbara Junior College. The former Truckee High School star, who redshirted at SMU in 2011, led California community college players in tackles last season.
For the second year in a row, Sperbeck will bring in a high school recruiting class peppered with intriguing area players.
Among those scheduled to enroll in the fall are nickle back Joey Banks and wide receiver Jabarri Johnson from Franklin; defensive back Ernest Jenkins and defensive lineman Printess Johnson from Burbank, and linebacker Tyler Meteer of Del Oro. Meteer was The Bees co-Defensive Player of the Year last fall.
Last year, freshman tight end Stone Sander (Placer) and defensive back Marcus Green (Franklin) saw action before their seasons were cut short by injuries. Redshirt freshman Russell Smith (Del Oro, via Nevada) started the entire season at linebacker, while redshirt freshman tight end Cole Hikutini (Pleasant Grove) worked his way into the starting lineup and became an impact player late in the season.
Call The Bees Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.