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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jay Hill, a longtime Utah assistant coach, is in his first spring practice as Weber State's head coach Saturday, April 12, 2014.
Weber State football: Jay Hill energizes Wildcats in first year

Optimism replaces resignation following Smith-Sears fiasco.

First Published Aug 23 2014 11:21 am • Last Updated Aug 23 2014 11:04 pm

It has been a frustrating 28 months for Weber State football.

As the 2014 season approaches, however, there is renewed hope that the Wildcats can rise from the rubble of the John L. Smith fiasco and re-emerge as competitive in the Big Sky Conference.

At a glance


All times mountain

Date Opponent

Thursday at Arizona State, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 6 N.D. State, 6 p.m.

Sept. 13 at Sac State, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 at Stephen F. Austin, 5 p.m.

Sept. 27 at SUU, 6 p.m.

Oct. 11 Cal Poly, 1 p.m.

Oct. 18 at Montana State, 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 25 Portland State, 1 p.m.

Nov. 1 Northern Arizona, 1 p.m.

Nov. 8 at North Dakota, 11 a.m.

Nov. 15 Northern Colo., 1 p.m.

Nov. 22 at Idaho State, 2:30 p.m.

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Remember Smith?

He’s the veteran Division I coach who was given a second chance in his profession by Weber State athletic director Jerry Bovee, only to quit four months into the job.

Smith never coached a game at Weber State, but the wounds his abrupt departure inflicted on the Wildcats are undeniable. They are 4-19 over the last two seasons, including 3-13 in the Big Sky.

Enter Jay Hill, a former Utah assistant.

Hired last winter after Smith’s emergency replacement, Jody Sears, was fired, Hill has already started to change the culture at Weber State.

Optimism has replaced resignation. The future, once dreaded, is now embraced.

"We are considerably ahead of where we were in spring ball," Hill says. "Our players continue to buy into what we’re preaching. The discipline and attention to detail has been good. ... They are giving us everything they’ve got."

This season, Hill must find a new quarterback. Austin Chipoletti, who started nine of the final 10 games last year as a freshman, transferred to Alabama-Birmingham. Sophomore Billy Green, a sophomore transfer from BYU, will likely replace Chipoletti. He earned the job after a spirited training camp battle with returnee Jadrian Clark.

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Asked about Green, Hill said, "He brings a calmness to the offense. The game isn’t too fast for him. He sees situations well ... [and] he’s a good, accurate passer."

On defense, the Wildcats are "very solid" in the secondary. Up front, they have gotten a boost from transfer tackles Jake Gallegos (Utah State), Likio Pope (Utah) and McKay Murphy (Utah).

"Those guys really solidified our depth, which we drastically needed," said Hill. "... Our big issue on defense are the linebackers. We need some guys to step up."

Quickly. Weber plays four of its first five games on the road, including the opener at Arizona State.

"It’s a huge test for us," Hill said. "If we can stand toe-to-toe with a Pac 12 team — a good Pac 12 team — then we know we’ve got something going."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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