SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento State football team will take its first step towards the 2018 season as the team officially opens fall practice on Monday, Aug. 6, from 9-11 a.m. All practices are open to the public and media and a complete schedule can be found by selecting the link at the top of the page.
The Hornets are coming off a 2017 season in which the team went 7-4 overall and 6-2 in Big Sky Conference games. Sacramento State's seven victories over NCAA Div. I teams were the most in program history while the conference record was also the best since joining the Big Sky. Following the season, Jody Sears was named the Big Sky Co-Coach of the Year and 14 players earned all-conference honors.
Sacramento State returns 57 players from last season's roster, including 17 starters (7 off./8 def./2 specialists). Unlike a year ago, a lot of the questions on offense are answered prior to the start of 2018. Quarterback Kevin Thomson will lead the offense after averaging 290.2 yards of total offense per game and setting the school record with 9.14 yards per play. Thomson also completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 1,828 yards and 17 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He also rushed for 494 yards and nine scores.
The trio of Bryant Perkinson, Elijah Dotson and Isaiah Gable all shined at running back as freshmen last season and will share the duties in the backfield. Perkinson compiled 591 rushing yards and four touchdowns while Dotson finished with 1,017 all-purpose yards and Gable averaged 5.33 yards per carry.
Thomson will have two of the most explosive targets in the FCS in receivers Andre Lindsey and Jaelin Ratliff. The pair ranked first and second, respectively, in the subdivision last season with 30.24 yards per catch and 26.52 yards per catch. The duo also combined for seven 100-yard games during the year and had 11 touchdowns. Johnnie Rucker, Alexis Robinson and Damon Jackson also return to the receiving corps. John McGill returns at tight end after redshirting a year ago.
The team returns three starts on the offensive line in center Ivan Espiritu, guard Wyatt Ming and tackle Taylor Tappin. Nick Bianco and Ruben Meza have also started games during their careers and will fight for a starting role along with sophomore Thomas Parker and a handful of newcomers.
Sacramento State set its Div. I-era record with 43 sacks last season from 18 different players. Defensive end George Obinna has been named a preseason all-Big Sky selection after recording 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles-for-loss. Obninna will play along side Seperini Amuma and Dariyn Choates who will man the interior of the line. The other end spot could feature Josiah Erickson, Killian Rosko, Sione Liku or JC transfer David Perales.
With 69 combined career starts, the linebacking position is the most experienced group on the team. Not only have the trio of Immanuel Anderson, Manoah Pearson and Marcus Bruce each made double-digit starts, all three have earned all-Big Sky honors. Anderson has made 32 career starts and enters the season with 238 career tackles which ranks 10th in school history. Pearson has also cracked the career top 20 at Sacramento State with 198 career tackles. Bruce broke out last year with 57 tackles and a career high four fumble recoveries.
Mister Harriel and Dre Terrell were both named all-Big Sky last season in the secondary. Harriel was a first team all-conference selection and has been named preseason All-America by multiple outlets. Last season, he led the team with 87 tackles (5.0 for loss, 2.0 sacks) and also had three interceptions. Terrell paced the team with five interceptions and added 61 total tackles. The other two starting positions are up for grabs and could include Caelan Barnes, Allen perryman, Michael Wright, Daron Bland, Malik Jeter and Dhaamir Lomax.
Kicker Devon Medeiros and long snapper Ian Lauvai are the returning specialist. Medeiros was a second team all-Big Sky selection in 2017 after tying the school record with 14 field goals. He led the team with 84 points and finished the year by making his final five field goal attempts. Owen Hoolihan, a transfer from Prairie View A&M, has transferred to Sacramento State and will likely handle the punting. Hoolihan, a native of Oberon, Australia, had 15 punts of at least 50 yards last season.
Sacramento State will start the year on Sept. 1 against St. Francis (Ill.) at Hornet Stadium. The team will then play on the road at San Diego State, Northern Colorado and Montana before returning home on Oct. 6.
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