CWU V. Simon Fraser

CWU football players charge out before a game against Simon Fraser Clan at Tomlinson Field in Ellensburg last season.

In this season’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference football preseason coaches poll, Central Washington University was not picked as the favorites to win the conference according to a press release from the GNAC.

The back-to-back GNAC champs finished second behind Azusa Pacific University (8-4, 7-1) who handed the Wildcats (8-3, 7-1) its only home loss in the final game of the regular season to share the conference title with CWU.

Western Oregon (5-6, 4-4) was picked third, and Simon Fraser (1-9, 0-8) last. Azusa Pacific received two first-place votes, and CWU and Western Oregon each had one.

Azusa Pacific returns a plethora of its starters on the offensive end, including quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr., who completed 195 passes for 2,679 yards with 23 touchdowns and four more on the ground. He was 26-of-33 with 425 yards and five touchdowns in the final matchup versus CWU.

Defensively, Azusa Pacific returns two First Team All-GNAC players in junior defensive back Quentin Frazier who recorded 66 tackles and three interceptions, and senior linebacker Willie Fair who notched 75 tackles and two fumble recoveries.

While CWU was one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, ranking second in Division II with 540.9 yards of total offense per game and 47.7 points per game, it loses three notable starters.

All-American lineman James Moore (AFCA First Team All-American, First Team D2CCA & Don Hansen All-Super Region 4, First Team All-GNAC, GNAC Offensive Lineman of the Year), quarterback Reilly Hennessey (First Team All-GNAC, Second Team Don Hansen All-Super Region 4) and running back Cedric Cooper (First Team All-GNAC, Don Hansen Third Team All-Super Region 4).

It also lost its head coach Ian Shoemaker who left for the offensive coordinator position at Division I FCS Eastern Washington University. The baton was bequeathed to Chris Fisk. He was hired on at CWU in 2016 as the offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator. This will be his first stint as a head coach at the collegiate level.

And he’ll look for junior running back Michael Roots to lead the way. Roots and Cooper in 2018 were one of the premier tandems in the nation, as CWU ranked sixth with 272.6 yards per game in Division II. Both Roots and Cooper ran for over 1,000 yards, and had 27 touchdowns in between them.

Roots had two different stints before setting his stake at CWU. He was a walk-on at San Jose State and then transferred to Southern Oregon the following season.

The GNAC Newcomer of the Year will be complemented by two Division I FCS transfers: Sophomore Rey Green from the University of Montana, and junior Eric Wilkes out of Weber State University.

The Wildcats return senior offensive lineman Nicholas Streubel, a First Team All-GNAC selection.

In the receiving corps, junior Tony Archie looks to build off his solid sophomore campaign. In 2018, he hauled in 28 catches with 438 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, CWU brings back nine starters, including senior linebacker Donte Hamilton (First Team All-GNAC and Third Team Don Hansen All-Super Region 4 honors) who tallied 88 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, and senior defensive back Tevin Gray (First Team All-GNAC), who had 49 tackles (33 solo) and four interceptions.

CWU added redshirt senior linebacker Hamilton Hunter, a transfer from Oregon State University.

Billy Greer (First Team All-GNAC) returns on the defensive line. In 2018, he recorded 45 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and 3.5 sacks. The year prior, Green compiled 11 sacks in 10 games played to earn First Team All-GNAC and D2CCA All-Region Second Team.

CWU opens the 2019 season on the road in Moscow, Idaho versus Division I FCS University of Idaho on Sept. 7. In 2018, the Vandals finished 4-7, 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference.

The following game will be versus Ferris State University at Tomlinson Stadium on Sept. 14., the runner-up in the National Championship.

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