by Zachary Maag
College football is back in Cedar City, and that means it’s a fresh start for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. They hope to perform much better this season after a disappointing 1-5 record in the shortened spring season. That record can be somewhat misleading though. All five of their losses ended in one-possession games that could have gone either way. The team’s focus this year will be on finishing games in the fourth quarter. They are returning a veteran core along with some fresh faces on this year’s squad.
The Thunderbirds have not had a winning season since 2017 when they went 9-3 and won the Big Sky conference title.
Since then, they have had a combined record of five wins and 24 losses in the last three seasons. This could be their toughest year yet. They are playing two very talented FBS schools to start their season in San Jose State and Arizona State. Along with that, they have a very challenging schedule in the Big Sky. With SUU leaving the Big Sky for the WAC next season they would love to leave the conference they have been in for the past nine years on a winning note.
Justin Miller – QB
When building a winning football team a great quarterback is needed. SUU might just have a star in the making. Justin Miller was an All-American as a sophomore and threw for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns in just six games. He had a season-high of five passing touchdowns in his first game against NAU last season and threw for 422 yards at the Kibble Dome in Idaho, against the Vandals.
La’akea Kaho’ohanohano – LB
His talent and will to win are unmatched. The FCS first-team All-American cannot be stopped on the defensive side. Last spring, he led the team with 57 total tackles and seven sacks in six games played. He had a season-high against the University of Idaho when he recorded 12 total tackles.
Dayne Christiansen, RB
Although the Thunderbirds focus most of their offense on a high-flying passing attack, they will need to be productive on the ground if they want to play winning football. This is where Sophomore Dayne Christiansen comes in. In his first season with SUU, he carried the ball a total of 35 times for 240 yards. That comes out to an average of 6.9 yards per carry, which is considered elite in most circumstances. He will need to show that he can perform consistently, but as of right now he is a great option if the Thunderbirds want to mix it up.
Overall, the Thunderbirds have a plethora of talent but a very tough season ahead of them. Southern Utah University will kick off its new campaign by heading to San Jose State to play the Spartans on August 28, 2021 at 8 pm MT. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports.
Featured image courtesy Southern Utah University Athletics