It's a bit challenging to preview FCS teams like Sacramento State because of the lack of media coverage. There is no Bill Connelly preview, no accurate stats on ESPN or pro-football reference. I basically have a depth chart and some local media coverage.That being said, here are the expected starters and a little about about what you can expect from the Sac State offense.
Daniel Kniffin (So., 6-2, 200), Kolney Cassel (So, 6-2, 200).
Kniffin, in his first game as a starter, completed 22 of 34 passes for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns. His team essentially cruised against Eastern Oregon in the season opener, racking up a 31-0 halftime score en route to a 41-20 win that saw Kniffin sitting by the end of the third quarter.
Jordan Robinson (Jr., 5-11, 195), Demetrius Warren (Jr., 5-6, 185).
Robinson had a solid outing with 76 yards and a single touchdown gained on 17 carries. Warren is listed as the backup, but his 3 carries for 27 yards were outpaced by 7 carries and 44 yards from Hunter Rockwell.
Robinson is definitely the starter after leading the team in carries and yards (158 carries, 893 yards, 5 touchdowns), but expect several backs to rotate in behind him.
Shane Harrison (Sr., 6-2, 210), Nnamdi Agude (Jr., 6-3, 195), Isiah Hennie (So., 5-7, 150).
Harrison reeled in 8 catches for 125 yards in Sacramento State's win over Eastern Oregon. Agude caught 4 passes for 40 yards while Hennie managed 47 yards on 3 catches to go with a touchdown reception.
Harrison started off the season with the better performance, but Agude is the clear number one target. He amassed 1156 total receiving yards last season to go with 10 touchdowns, making him by far the most productive returning receiver.
Stone Sander (So., 6-4, 230), John McGill (Fr., 6-3, 240).
Neither Sander nor McGill contributed in any major way catching the football in 2014. Both are young but possess solid size for the position. Stone caught 2 passes for 26 yards. Beyond that, there isn't much I can say about these two.
LT Lars Hanson (Jr., 6-8, 305), LG Ruben Meza (Fr., 6-5, 265), C Anthony Viveiros (Sr., 6-1, 280), RG Lake Aiono (So., 6-3, 330), RT Jonathan Bade (So., 6-5, 250).
The offensive line has a mix of youth (one freshman, two sophomores) and experience (two seniors) on the starting offensive line. The size of the various starters is all over the map as well. Aiono is huge at 6-3 and 330 pounds, while Ruben Meza and Jonathan Bade would need to gain at least thirty pounds to see the field for a Pac-12 program.
The offense was extremely efficient against Eastern Oregon, which likely means the line performed well both blocking for the pass and the run. That being said, Eastern Oregon was simply overmatched as an NAIA program in the Frontier Conference. Facing Elijah Qualls, Joe Mathis, and the rest of the Husky defensive front will be a fundamentally different experience.
WR Nnamdi Agude
An experienced contributor with a wiry 6-3 frame, Agude could cause problems for Washington's secondary. It's still unclear if he has the same rapport with Kniffin that he did with the young starter's predecessor, but he is most likely the most physically talented target on the roster.
QB Daniel Kniffin
Alright, so listing the QB as a key player isn't a shocker. Still, for this team to make things stressful for the Huskies, Kniffin will need to step up and make some tough throws.
He is almost certain to face pressure from Mathis, Littleton, and Feeney, and in my opinion it's unlikely the run game will earn more than incremental gains against the Washington front seven. If he can stand tall and test members of the Washington secondary not named CB Sidney Jones and FS Budda Baker, Agude and Harrison have the size and experience to make some contested receptions.
Against other Big Sky schools, this is a pretty scary offensive that will no doubt entertain the fans. Enough of a run game to keep defenses honest and a young quarterback that, in an extremely small sample size, seems poised enough to take advantage of a pair of big wide receivers.
I still think this will be an ugly outing for the Sac State offense. Kniffin looked good against Eastern Oregon, but he is awfully short on starting experience to stroll into Husky Stadium and pull a Vernon Adams.
Even if the result was a loss, several individual Husky defenders flashed their talent. Joe Mathis looked unblockable at times in the second half. Azeem Victor racked up double digit tackles and made it look like a normal day at work. Budda Baker seemed to range across the entire secondary. They are the type of players Sacramento State does not practice against.
I suspect the size of Washington's defensive line essentially shuts down the run game (provided the poor tackling exhibited in the first half of Boise State does not reappear) on arrival, leaving Mathis/Feeney/Littleton/Wooching to tee off against Sac State's pass protection and Kniffin to move the ball through the air without letting Sidney Jones or Budda Baker make a back-breaking play.
I could see a few successful drives and a little bit of discomfort in the first half if Kniffin really brings it, but I don't see this as an Eastern-type trap. Sac State's offense will eventually make a few major mistakes, and unless the Husky offense is a hot mess, that should be enough to bury the visiting Hornets.