Cedar City • Who replaces Brad Sorensen?
That’s the big question as Southern Utah football coach Ed Lamb and his team open spring practice Tuesday.
Lamb welcomes back six starters on offense, seven on defense and two specialists as the Thunderbirds attempt to improve on last season, when they finished 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Sky Conference.
Lamb’s most challenging job will be finding a replacement for Sorensen, his record-setting quarterback.
Sorensen, an expected mid-to late-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, ended his three-year collegiate career as Southern Utah’s all-time leading passer. The list of those hoping to replace him as the Thunderbirds’ starter is a long one.
It includes senior Jacob Allie, who has played fullback and tight end but will move to quarterback this spring; redshirt freshman Aaron Cantu, a transfer from East Los Angeles College who led the nation in passing yards last season; University of Utah transfer Mitch Dahlen; freshmen Tannen Pedersen and Mike Sharp, who signed in 2010 and has returned from a church mission; and walk-on Kenny Schmidt.
Among the returning starters are sophomore linebacker Zak Browning and sophomore defensive end James Crowser. They were Football Championship Subdivision freshmen All-Americans last season.
Browning averaged 11.6 tackles per game. He had 18 tackles in a victory at Montana — the most by a freshman since Arkansas State’s Steve Smith in 2002.
Crowser finished the season with 7.5 sacks, which was a school record for a freshman and ranked second in the Big Sky. He finished with a total of 61 tackles.
Offensively, senior Fatu Moala leads a receiving corps that returns intact. He had 65 receptions for 810 yards and nine touchdowns and was a second-team all-conference selection.
Southern Utah’s kicking game will be a strength, thanks to the return of seniors Colton Cook and Brock Miller. Cook made 19 of 22 field-goal attempts and was named to the Big Sky’s all-conference second team. Miller averaged 43.3 yards per punt, which ranked 11th in the country.
Southern Utah’s 2013 football schedule
Aug. 29 • at South Alabama
Sept. 7 • vs. Fort Lewis
Sept. 14 • at Washington State
Sept. 21 • at Sacramento State
Sept. 28 • at Northern Colorado
Oct. 5 • vs. UC Davis
Oct. 12 • vs. Portland State
Oct. 19 • at Eastern Washington
Oct. 26 • vs. Idaho State
Nov. 9 • at Weber State
Nov. 16 • at Montana State.