Portland State football kicked off their preseason practice schedule at Stott Community Field last Thursday as the Vikings begin preparation for their opening game of 2013 against Eastern Oregon University.
Portland State football kicked off their preseason practice schedule at Stott
Community Field last Thursday as the Vikings begin preparation for their opening game of 2013 against Eastern Oregon University. The matchup will take place at Jeld-Wen Field on Aug. 29 and will provide the team with an immediate assessment of where they stand after a 3-8 record last season.
Fourth-year head coach Nigel Burton has been working with his team over the summer to try to improve upon their 11th-place finish in the Big Sky Conference in 2012. Though Portland State was expected to finish higher than they did, a host of injuries and the relative inexperience of the team led to a disappointing campaign in the Park Blocks.
Burton will have several returning starters on the roster against Eastern Oregon, including quarterback Kieran McDonagh, who started all 11 games for the Vikings last year as a freshman. The Vikings have been solid offensively over the past two seasons and displayed tremendous balance in 2012, averaging 222 passing yards per game and 216 yards rushing.
McDonagh was a key factor in that success, throwing for 2,187 yards and 14 touchdowns and running the ball 89 times for 406 yards and nine touchdowns. The quarterback was also a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, which recognizes the nation’s best freshman. Though McDonagh is the clear starter going into the new season, he’ll get excellent backup from Collin Ramirez and Paris Penn.
PSU’s running game is also set to do some damage this year as the team returns seniors DJ Adams and Justin Lilley and junior Shaquille Richard to the backfield. Also entering the fold is freshman Steven Long out of Lake Oswego, who should help to round out an excellent core of running backs.
Sophomore Thomas Carter is the standout at the receiver position, showing excellent versatility in leading the team with 32 receptions a year ago. He will be joined by juniors Alex Toureen, Roston Tatum and Kasey Closs, who will likely be the frontrunners for the remaining receiver slots.
The Vikings will have talent to spare on the offensive line, where coordinator Brad Davis has done a remarkable job over the past four seasons. Portland State brings two seniors back to the starting lineup, center Mitch Gaulke and right tackle Mitchell Van Dyk, along with junior left guard Cornelius Edison. New recruits Chad Bach and Ryan Brown join the team this year to add further depth to the line.
The clear area of improvement ahead for Portland State is on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings gave up an average of 401.5 yards and 36 points per game in 2012. much of the damage came in the air, where they allowed 275.3 yards per game and surrendered 29 passing touchdowns over the course of the season. The run defense was more successful and, fortunately for the Vikings, seniors Nick Alexander and Zack Ka’ahanui are back in the lineup to anchor the defensive end and defensive tackle positions.
One of the toughest tasks for Burton and defensive coordinator Jaime Hill in the offseason was finding replacements for linebackers Khalil Bass and second-team All-American Ian Sluss. Senior Jaycob Shoemaker and sophomores Zach Walen and Brandon Brody-Heim will be expected to contribute immediately for the Vikings.
With a tough Big Sky schedule on the way, the Vikings will certainly have their work cut out for them in 2013. But as they move into the new season with proven talent at premiere positions, an excellent home field advantage at Jeld-Wen Field and host of quality recruits, fans of Vikings football have plenty of reasons to be excited for the future.