ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State football team opens the new season with a new coaching staff and will compete in a new conference. The Trailblazers began the 2016 season Thursday with the opening of its fall camp. The squad opens camp with 110 players on the current roster, including 62 additions from last year.
Numbered among the squad are locals Blake Barney, Keanu Faumuina and Lukas Hildebrandt from Dixie High School, Ben Gottfredson and Keihin Bracken from Snow Canyon, Peter Brown, A.J. Yergenson and Nick Warmsley from Desert Hills and Tristan Duran from Pine View.
Dixie State will return 20 starters from the 2015 squad, including nine on offense and 11 on defense. Four starters from the offensive line return in 2016, along with the 2015 statistical leaders in passing (sophomore quarterback Tyson Blackner), rushing (senior running back DeJon Coleman) and total offense (sophomore quarterback Barney).
The Trailblazers also welcome back redshirt senior wide receiver Aubrey Reed. Reed was an integral part of DSU’s passing attack in 2014 before an early season-ending injury last year.
Junior safety Colton Olson, who garnered first team All-GNAC honors in 2015 with a team-high 100 tackles and two interceptions, leads the returning starters on defense, while four defensive linemen and two linebackers also return.
Junior kicker Alex Giordani and senior punter Corey Stens lead the returning starters from the special teams unit.
“All of our positions, and I mean ALL of them, are open,” said DSU head coach Shay McClure. “Obviously the players that were here for spring ball have a leg up on what we expect and our offensive and defensive schemes, but the people we brought in, whether they be incoming freshman or transfers, were recruited because we felt they could contribute.”
McClure begins his first season as DSU head coach after serving as director of defense last season in his first season on the coaching staff. McClure is joined by offensive coordinator Reilly Murphy and defensive coordinator Shawn Howe on a staff which features four returners from last season and eight newcomers for the 2016 season.
“Defensively, we are basically tweaking what we did last year,” said McClure. “Offensively we are doing a complete overhaul. We plan to run multiple sets. We have great talent at the skill positions and our linemen have put in the offseason work.”
Unlike last year, when former coach Scott Brumfield platooned quarterbacks to begin the season, the Trailblazers will not employ that strategy this year.
“We will have a starting quarterback, period,” said McClure. “That is not to say that we won’t utilize different skills in various offensive sets.”
McClure is excited to continue what was started in spring camp. “We laid out our expectations last spring,” said McClure. “We were fortunate to get some transferring students in here and the squad as a whole made great strides.”
The Trailblazers, who were picked to finish ninth in the RMAC Preseason Coaches Poll, open the season with consecutive home RMAC games, beginning with their season-opener on Thursday, Sept. 1, against New Mexico Highlands at 6 p.m.
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