Ogden • Few college football teams endured a more tumultuous offseason than Weber State.
Veteran coach Ron McBride stepped aside and was replaced in January by John L. Smith, who turned his back on the Wildcats and bolted for Arkansas less than five months later.
When the shock waves subsided, new defensive coordinator Jody Sears was promoted to head coach and given the job of steadying the ship abandoned by Smith.
His task continues Monday, when Weber State opens preseason practice.
"A lot of things have happened in the last seven months, from a program standpoint and personal standpoint," Sears said. "But that's life. It's not about what happens to you the circumstances. It's how you react to them."
Asked if his players seemed anxious to put all the distractions aside and get going again, Sears said, "Yeah, I think there is a little extra flavor among the kids in terms of, 'I can't wait to get on the field.' "
Weber State finished 5-6 last season, with a 5-3 record in the Big Sky Conference. But the Wildcats weren't competitive in late-season losses to Montana (45-10) and Montana State (44-24).
Thirty-six lettermen return, including 14 starters. Four players sophomore fullback Tevia Tolutau, junior running back Josh Booker, senior defensive end Trevor Pletcher and senior offensive lineman Tytan Timoteo were first- or second-team All-Big Sky picks last season.
"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here," Sears said. "We're just going to practice, work hard and play ball."
Weber State's nonconference schedule could not be more taxing, starting with games against Fresno State and BYU.
"Those games are going to be awesome opportunities for our kids to grow and mature," Sears said. "We'll get a good idea on just where we are as a football team."
In the Big Sky, the Wildcats catch a break. They don't play preseason favorite Montana State, and expected contenders Eastern Washington and Montana visit Stewart Stadium.
"We are very eager to get started," Sears said.
• Weber State finished with a 5-6 record last season, 5-3 in the Big Sky Conference.
• New coach Jody Sears spent the past three years as co-defensive coordinator at Washington State.
• The Wildcats return 14 starters, including all-Big Sky Conference first-team fullback Tevia Tolutau.
See full schedule > C7
Weber State's 2012 football schedule:
Sept. 1 • at Fresno State, 8 p.m.
Sept. 8 • at BYU, 1 p.m.
Sept. 15 • vs. McNeese State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 22 • vs. Eastern Washington, 6 p.m.
Sept. 29 • at UC-Davis, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 • vs. Cal Poly, 6 p.m.
Oct. 13 • at Sacramento State, 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 • at Southern Utah, 1 p.m.
Nov. 3 • vs. Montana, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 • vs. Northern Colorado, 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 17 • at Idaho State, 4 p.m.