This year, due to reduced numbers at certain positions, the squad will not split into two teams as such, but rather, the scrimmage will be an offense vs. defense affair. There will be no clock other than the play clock.
Heading into the fall the Thunderbirds will return five starters on offense, four on defense and two specialists from last season and in addition a handful of reserves and newcomers have emerged as factors during spring ball.
The two definite leaders, one on each side of the ball, heading into the fall are quarterback Brad Sorensen and defensive tackle Cody Larsen.
Sorensen, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound senior from Grand Terrace, Calif. (Colton HS/San Bernardino CC/BYU), is a two-time first-team all-Great West Conference selection who was on the Payton Award Watch list last season. Following a record-breaking sophomore season in 2010 - when he completed 261-of-390 passes for 3,163 yards and 21 touchdowns, leading the Thunderbirds to the GWC championship - he completed 288-of-425 attempts for 3,143 yards and 17 scores last year. He carries a career completion percentage of .674 into the season after completing 549-of-815 passes at SUU.
Larsen, a 6-4, 285-pound senior from Draper, Utah, (Jordan HS) is also a two-time all-GWC selection as well as a two-time academic all-Great West honoree. Last year he tallied 7.5 tackles for losses and six sacks among his 26 total tackles while dominating the interior line for the Thunderbirds and in 2010 he helped the team to the GWC championship by tallying 29 tackles, including 6.5 TFLs and 4.0 sacks. He also led the team with six quarterback hurries in 2010.
In addition to those two, the Thunderbirds have offensive linemen Zach Brackus (6-5, 316, Sr, Salt Lake City; Murray HS) - a three-year starter at left guard - and Gavin Farr (6-3, 288, Jr, South Ogden, Utah; Northridge HS) - a two year-starter at center, back, as well as Dylan Fox (6-2, 285, Sr, Cedar City, Utah; Cedar HS), who started 10 games at fullback last year before moving to center for the season-finale. Fox is penciled in as the starting center this fall, with plans to shift Farr to right guard. The final returner on the offensive side of the ball is WR Fatu Moala (6-2, 185, Jr, Kearns, Utah; Kearns HS/Utah). Moala caught 26 passes for 370 yards in the fall and has looked good in the spring.
On the defensive side of the ball SUU has junior linebacker Chad Hansen (6-3, 225, Murrietta, Calif./Murrieta Valley HS/Mt. San Jacinto JC), senior defensive end Jeff Tukuafu (6-4, 262, Heber City, Utah; Wasatch HS) and senior free safety Brennan Fjord (6-0, 202, Sugarland, Texas; Clements HS/Snow JC).
Hansen was a consensus first-team all-GWC selection last season when he led the T-Birds with 104 tackles, including a team-high 53 solo stops. Tukuafu tallied 27 tackles last season, with 4.5 for losses and three sacks, and he has been a force this spring. Fjord, who joined the team last spring after transferring from Snow JC, played in all 11 games with nine starts last season. He finished the year with 32 tackles, 19 solo, broke up a pair of passes and recovered a fumble.
The returning specialists are kickers Colton Cook and Brock Miller. Cook handled the kickoff and field goal duties while handling most of the PATs last season, while Miller was the team's directional kicker and punter. Cook connected on all 27 of his PAT attempts and 14 of his 19 field goal tries in 2011 while Miller was 5-5 on PATs and averaged 40.8 yards per punt on 18 attempts, pinning opponents inside the 20 seven times, with one touchback and five fair catches.
-- SUU --