Park City, UT (Sports Network) - Two of the new standouts in the Big Sky
Conference, Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen and North Dakota defensive
end Ross Brenneman, have laughed off some good-natured ribbing at the Summer
Kickoff media day festivities.
Both got married earlier this year, unlike the bachelor boys who are the
other 11 players representing their teams in the new 13-member FCS super
"It's funny because I think we have pretty different perspectives," Brenneman
Brenneman and Sorensen play on two of the four new teams in the Big Sky, and
it's also funny how the newcomers seem to have different perspectives than the
old guard. Each is impressed by the other, and those from the former Great
West Conference believe that moving into the Big Sky is a little jump in
class, while some of the returning standouts have enough respect for Cal Poly,
UC Davis, North Dakota and Southern Utah, that they don't see a step up.
A step up? "You know, I think so," Brenneman said. "I think the biggest thing
for us is having consistency in our scheduling tough opponents. In the Great
West, we were only five teams. So that's only four games a year, which is
pretty challenging to schedule teams. Now we're in the Big Sky, you've got
tough teams week-in and week-out."
Maybe not? "It's two good conferences merging, that's how I see it," said
Portland State left tackle Kyle Ritt.
The Great West, though short-lived with an eight-year run, was always
respected on a national level. Two years ago, Cal Poly knocked off Big Sky
power Montana when the Grizzlies were ranked No. 1 in the FCS. Last year, the
Great West was even more impressive against the Big Sky, winning six of the
nine meetings, including Southern Utah going 3-0 against its future conference
Southern Utah may be more than two months away from playing its first Big Sky
game, but the Thunderbirds already boast the conference's preseason offensive
player of the year in Sorensen, an NFL prospect. That's saying a lot
considering Montana State returns a two-time Walter Payton Award finalist in
quarterback DeNarius McGhee.
"I think it's big-time for the conference to add in that depth. Some good
teams," said the preseason defensive player of the year, Montana State
linebacker Jody Owens. "You know, we have Sorensen over there. He's a big-time
player. We're just adding some good players and then get more teams into the
The Big Sky's hope is that it can secure a 14th member eventually and the
teams can be split into two seven-team divisions. They will continue to play
eight conference games, and because of that, commissioner Doug Fullerton
estimates there will be enough good teams with good records to have four or
five annually qualify for the FCS playoffs.
Defending co-champions Montana and Montana State as well as Eastern Washington
should fare well when the Big Sky preseason poll is released Tuesday, but the
newcomers will help underscore the depth of the conference race.
"I think it's great. It's going to incorporate more competition," Ritt said.
"I think with so many teams, and so many good teams coming in, it's going to
be an all-out battle for the top spots in the Big Sky this year."
"We'll never overlook a team, even if it's D-II, D-III," Northern Arizona
running back Zach Bauman said. "I know that everybody has athletes."
The players representing their teams at the Big Sky Summer Kickoff are Bobby
Erskine, UC Davis defensive end; Andre Broadous, Cal Poly quarterback;
Nicholas Edwards, Eastern Washington wide receiver; Kevin Yost, Idaho State,
quarterback; Greg Hardy, Montana tight end; Owens, Montana State linebacker;
Brenneman, North Dakota defensive end; Bauman, Northern Arizona running back;
Clarence Bumpas, Northern Colorado linebacker; Ritt, Portland State left
tackle; Jeff Badger, Sacramento State, linebacker; Sorensen, Southern Utah
quarterback; and Mike Hoke, Weber State quarterback.
The Sports Network