Before Friday, Idaho’s linebacking corps arguably was the Big Sky’s best.
That contention is getting closer to inarguable now.
The Vandals were the only team to land two linebackers on the all-conference preseason team, released at the beginning of the Friday’s broadcast of virtual media days on Pluto TV.
Strongside senior backer Christian Elliss, a first-team honoree in 2019, was joined by junior middle linebacker Tre Walker — a second-teamer in 2019 — in a vote by media members.
Elliss appears to be following in the footsteps of his family. The brother of New Orleans Saints LB Kaden Elliss and son of UI defensive line coach Luther Elliss, a 10-year NFL veteran, compiled 104 tackles, including 12½ for loss, to rank second on the Vandals last season in both categories. The savvy, 6-foot-3, 233-pound sure-tackler led Idaho with 4½ sacks.
Elliss has been included on several “NFL draft hidden gem” lists.
“I love the creativity that linebackers get,” Elliss said during the broadcast. “I love defense in general. I like ... just being able to react to the ball. I think in my position specifically, I enjoy being able to cover guys, being able to pass rush, being able to blitz, being able to meet guys in the hole.”
Elliss said his primary individual goal this season is to force more turnovers.
“The game is really about the ball, it’s about getting the ball back for our offense,” he said. “So forcing turnovers — interceptions, strip-sacks — that’s what I’ll be focusing on.”
Walker, a HERO Sports sophomore All-American in 2019, had a team-high 138 tackles — sixth-best in program history. The hard-hitting, 6-1, 235-pounder’s 74 solo stops were first in the Big Sky. He added nine for loss.
Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere, a Walter Payton Award contender last year, was named preseason offensive MVP, and Montana linebacker Jace Lewis earned the distinction on defense. Grizzly linebacker Dante Olson claimed the award in 2019.
Weber State, an FCS semifinalist last year and the near-unanimous favorite to win the league for a fourth consecutive time, had the most honorees with eight.
Three players — Montana State guard Lewis Kidd, Weber State guard Ty Whitworth and Portland State safety Anthony Adams — were unanimous selections.
The Vandals, who went 5-7 in 2019, were predicted to finish ninth by coaches and eighth by media members in the preseason polls released Thursday.
“I think my team goal is the same as everybody else’s — we want to win the Big Sky,” Elliss said. “We want to go and actually play in the playoffs, and do better than we did last year.
“I think our defense needs to stay on top of it. I think our defense needs to not allow as many points as we did this last year. We’re getting everyone back except for two DBs.”
All-Big Sky preseason teams
QB: Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington; RB: Josh Davis, Weber State; Elijah Dotson, Sacramento State; FB: Clay Moss, Weber State; Athlete: BJ Perkinson, Sacramento State; WR: Samuel Akem, Montana; Samori Toure, Montana; Pierre Williams, Sacramento State; OL: Conlan Beaver, Montana; Ben Bos, Weber State; Lewis Kidd, Montana State*; Tristen Taylor, Eastern Washington; Taylor Tuiasosopo, Montana State; Ty Whitworth, Weber State*; TE: Marshel Martin, Sacramento State; K: Luis Aguilar, Northern Arizona; PR: Rashid Shaheed, Weber State; KR: Malik Flowers, Montana.
DT: Bryce Rodgers, UC Davis; Jared Scheiss, Weber State; DE: Josiah Erickson, Sacramento State; George Tarlas, Weber State; OLB: Nick Eaton, UC Davis; Christian Elliss, Idaho; ILB: Jace Lewis, Montana; Tre Walker, Idaho; DB: Anthony Adams, Portland State*; Daron Bland, Sacramento State; Robby Hauck, Montana; Eddie Heckard, Weber State; Devon King, UC Davis; P: DJ Arnson, Northern Arizona; ST: Emmanuel Daigbe, Portland State.
Offensive MVP — Barriere.
Defensive MVP — Lewis.
* — Unanimous selection
Borghi makes another watch list
Washington State running back Max Borghi will be considered for the Maxwell Award, presented annually to the premier player in college football.
The Cougar junior was one of eight Pac-12 players to be named to the Maxwell watch list, the third such list Borghi has cracked. He’s also up for the Doak Walker and Biletnikoff trophies.
Borghi was an All-Pac-12 Conference honorable mention selection last season after recording 1,435 all-purpose yards with 16 total touchdowns, second-most in the league. The native of Arvada, Colo., was the only player in a Power 5 Conference with 800-plus rushing yards and 550-plus receiving yards after rushing for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns, also catching a team-high 86 passes for 597 yards and five scores.
Big Sky announces nonrevenue sports can start in middle of September
FARMINGTON, Utah — The Big Sky Conference’s Presidents’ Council approved delaying the first date of competition for its Olympic sports during the fall season to the middle of September, it was announced.
Men’s and women’s golf can start competitions on Sept. 14, while soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country can begin Sept. 18. Men’s and women’s tennis, as well as softball, also can participate in fall activities Sept. 18. The start date for football will be assessed at a later time.
Schools can continue permissible activities at their discretion while abiding by NCAA legislation, campus policies, and local and state regulations.