Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The Lumberjacks finished in a tie for second place with Western Oregon last year after winning their first GNAC football title in 2011.
HSU received three of six first-place votes and outpointed Central Washington, which won its seventh title last fall, 22-19 in the annual GNAC Coaches preseason poll.
The Wildcats finished two points ahead of Azusa Pacific, which closed its 2012 season with four consecutive wins, and Western Oregon for second place. Both the Wolves and Cougars earned 17 ballot points.
Simon Fraser ended up in fifth place in the balloting, three points ahead of Dixie State.
Ricciardulli rushed for a GNAC record 1,579 yards last season and is one of six returning all-conference players for sixth-year head coach Rob Smith, who has won three GNAC football titles including two with Western Washington in 2001 and 2003.
Kyle Morris who passed for 671 yards at Idaho State in 2010 is the ‘Jacks probable starter at quarterback. Also available is Murray State transfer Spencer Phillips and 2012 starter Casey Mintz.
Central Washington, under first-year head coach and long-time assistant John Picha, should be outstanding on defense with former University of Idaho starter Conrad Scheidt joining a cast which includes five 2012 GNAC selections including GNAC Defensive Player of the Year Stan Langlow.
Western Oregon coach Arne Ferguson returns a league-best seven all-conference picks, matching Central Washington’s total, led by GNAC Defensive Lineman of the Year Gustave Benthin and wide receiver Tyrell Williams.
Running back Terrell Watson, who rushed for 1,094 yards last season, and starting quarterback Nick Owens are among a league-best 42 returning lettermen for eighth-year coach Victor Santa Cruz at Azusa Pacific.
Santa Cruz’s team lost its first seven games a year ago, but rallied to win its final four contests.
Simon Fraser, meanwhile, has the league’s best 1-2 receiving combo and Dixie State has the league’s top returning quarterback.
The Clan will be led by All-American wide receiver Lemar Durant, who caught a GNAC-record tying 91 passes and earned two All-American awards, and Bobby Pospischil, who grabbed 83 passes.
Griff Robles returns for the Red Storm after passing for 2,033 yards and 16 touchdowns and running for 450 yards and five touchdowns.
Robles’ support cast will include 2011 consensus All-American Joe Don Duncan who was the nation’s leader in receptions among tight ends two years ago before taking an injury redshirt season.
The 2013 season kicks off Saturday, Sept. 7 with five contests including a conference game between Simon Fraser and Humboldt State at Arcata.
Other first-week matchups will feature two Division II intersectional contests and two contests against Football Championship Series (FCS) teams.
Azusa Pacific travels to Michigan to take on Grand Valley while Central Washington hosts Texas A&M – Kingsville in Division II contests.
Western Oregon makes its debut at Eastern Washington, while Dixie State opens its season at Idaho State in the Division II/FCS contests.