SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — College Sports Madness has ranked Cal Poly No. 24 in its Football Championship Subdivision preseason poll and picks the Mustangs to finish third in the Big Sky Conference.
Excerpted from College Sports Madness' web site:
The triple option spread offense does not need a quarterback who can throw the ball, but it does need a smart quarterback who can run the offense effectively and efficiently. Dano Graves usually lived up to those expectations. As a senior last season he threw for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns with just four interceptions and added 686 yards and nine more scores on the ground. He is now on the coaching staff as the quarterbacks coach. Khaleel Jenkins, who started a game back in 2015, is the most experienced option at quarterback. He has been biding his time and should be ready to lead the offense. Joe Protheroe figures to lead the team in rushing again after tallying 1,334 yards and 13 scores last season. Speedster Kyle Lewis and Jared Mohamed will get plenty of opportunities as well. The offensive line has some big holes to fill with three starters gone, but plenty of talent remains, including center Joey Kuperman.
The front three will have to rebuild around nose tackle Augustino Elisaia and tackle Jack Ferguson. This is not a group that will get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but Cal Poly needs to find some big bodies that can push the line of scrimmage. That is especially important with three starters gone at linebacker. Anders Turner will look to turn into a leader after recording 32 tackles as a starter last season. The return of R.J. Mazolewski from injury will help. He recorded 71 tackles two years ago. Sophomore Nik Navarro is one to watch. He played sparingly as a freshman, but has a lot of talent and potential. The secondary, which was the weak spot of the defense last season, could be the best unit in 2017. All four starters are back and plenty of depth too. Kevin Griffin and Jerek Rosales are experienced senior cornerbacks and senior safety B.J. Nard is the team's top returning tackler with 59. Kitu Humphrey had a very strong freshman campaign beside Nard and could emerge as one of the better playmakers on the team. As long as the experience starts turning into better production, the Cal Poly secondary will be in very good shape in 2017.
The Bottom Line:
Cal Poly literally kicks off the season with an August 26th matchup against Colgate. Their other non-conference games are road trips to San Jose State and Northern Iowa. That is a tough opening stretch. The conference slate could have been much worse though since North Dakota, Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State are not on the schedule. If the Mustangs can survive that opening stretch of games and fill those holes in the defensive front seven in the process, they will not just compete for a spot in the playoffs, but a Big Sky title as well.
Athlon Sports released its preseason FCS poll last month with Cal Poly listed No. 22.
The STATS FCS media and FCS Coaches polls will be released next week. A year ago, the Mustangs finished No. 24 in the media poll and 21st in the coaches poll.
College Sports Madness can be found on the Internet at www.collegesportsmadness.com.
Cal Poly opens its 2017 season Saturday, August 26, against Colgate at 4:05 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium, with the non-conference contest to be televised nationally by ESPNU.
In other Cal Poly football news:
• Three Mustangs earned College Sports Madness Big Sky Preseason First-Team honors, with two more on the second team and a pair on the third unit.
Named preseason offensive player of the year was quarterback Gage Gubrud of Eastern Washington. Safety Cole Reyes of North Dakota was tabbed as the preseason defensive player of the year.
Bubba Schweigert of North Dakota was named preseason coach of the year and Northern Arizona wide receiver Chance Brewington is predicted to be the freshman of the year.
• College Football America 2017 Yearbook has announced its FCS Starting Lineup, a version of a preseason All-America team.
Lone Cal Poly honoree is senior fullback Joe Protheroe, who earlier this week was named to the Walter Payton Award watch list. That award goes to the offensive player of the year in the FCS.
Protheroe, an All-Big Sky Conference Preseason Team member for the second straight year, also was named on Friday to College Sports Madness' 2017 FCS Preseason All-American First Team.
Protheroe is a two-time STATS FCS All-American and two-time first-team All-Big Sky Conference honoree. He rushed for 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns last year and enters his final season as a Mustang with 2,297 career rushing yards, No. 8 on the university's all-time career rushing chart.
A graduate of Clayton Valley Charter School in Concord, Calif., Protheroe was the Big Sky's top rusher last fall and No. 9 in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Only other player from a Big Sky school on the FCS Starting Lineup is North Dakota safety Cole Reyes. Colgate senior defensive lineman Pat Afriyie also is in the FCS Starting Lineup.
To purchase the College Football America 2017 Yearbook, go to one of these sites:
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/2uxqZdD
Photo above of Joe Protheroe courtesy of Alexander Bohlen