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OGDEN — For the sixth straight year, the Weber State football team found itself ranked in a national FCS preseason poll.
The American Football Coaches Association released its team rankings Monday, with the Wildcats checking in at No. 20 in the preseason poll. It's the lowest preseason Coaches poll ranking the team has received over the last six seasons.
Weber State finished the 2021 season a few spots out of the top 25 at No. 28 after ending the year with a 6-5 record. The Wildcats took sixth in the Big Sky behind Sacramento State, Montana State, Eastern Washington, Montana and UC Davis. Each of those teams are ranked in this preseason poll, with Montana as the highest at No. 2.
As the Wildcats retool for the upcoming season they return a bevy of starters, a few of which took home All-Big Sky honors last year. Noah Atagi returns to anchor the offensive line, while Eddie Heckard will be one of the leaders of the Wildcat defense. Weber State was picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky this year.
The Wildcats offense typically doesn't have problems scoring points: the team averaged 31.3 points per game last season but struggled in other offensive categories. In February, the team hired a new offensive coordinator from the Division II ranks in Mickey Mental.
The hope for the Wildcats is that Mental's offensive acumen will translate to the FCS level. His previous team ranked ninth in the country in Division II and averaged 40.6 points per game, good for sixth best in the nation at that level.
The 2021 season proved to be a challenging year for the growing team. Weber State's worst loss came at the hands of Utah, with none of the FCS losses being by more than two touchdowns; however, a close loss is still a loss and the team will look to come out on the other side of those close games this upcoming season.
A challenging schedule awaits the Wildcats, including games against the five other ranked Big Sky teams and some other quality opponents.
As head coach Jay Hill returns for his ninth season at the helm, he'll look to get his team back into the FCS playoffs for the sixth time during his tenure in Ogden.
Weber State opens the season on Sept. 1 at Western Oregon.