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The State Hornet

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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

PREVIEW: A new era dawns on Sac State football before 2023 season

A refreshed team looks to claim the school’s fourth Big Sky championship
Alyssa Branum
Junior quarterback Kaiden Bennett takes a snap during redzone drills in Sacramento on Aug. 23, 2023. Bennett is competing with junior quarterback Carson Camp for the starting job this season.

The Sacramento State football team has seen a lot of reshuffling since their historic 2022 season, a season that saw the program claim its first FCS playoff win and first undefeated regular season.

Expectations should be higher than ever, however, Sac State will open their season ranked 10th in the nation and 4th in the Big Sky media poll. All that wariness comes off the heels of a coaching shift and the loss of star players.

Despite departures of coaches and star players, the vast quantity of returning coaches and players has created a sense of consistency for the program.

Old faces, new places

Sac State promoted from within this offseason, making defensive coordinator Andy Thompson the newest head coach. Quarterback coach Bobby Fresques would step into the roles of offensive coordinator, associate head coach and playcaller.

RELATED: Sac State introduced Andy Thompson as new head football coach

The Hornets also retained key coaches such as associate head coach Kris Richardson and secondary coach Cherokee Valeria. Sac State only made four new additions to the staff, making for a smooth transition.

“When you surround yourself with good people and stick with what has been working, it makes for an easy transition,” Fresques said. “I always think of a saying my dad used to use, ‘Many hands make the burden light.’”

A coach goes to the bank, he needs his quarterback

Both starting quarterbacks from last season graduated leaving a massive question mark at the quarterback position going into the 2023 season. Two juniors have emerged as starting options: Kaiden Bennett and Carson Camp.

Bennett has been at Sac State for two seasons with minimal action in both. The highlight of Bennett’s skills is his game changing speed. Even though Bennett saw limited action last season, he still averaged six yards a carry.

“KB is very explosive, his speed is elite,” Fresques said. “When he is on the field he can score from anywhere. If he gets in the open field, that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Camp is the newcomer to the quarterback room, transferring in from South Dakota University. He served as the starter for the Coyotes in 2021 and the first seven games of 2022. Camp hangs his hat on his rocket arm.

“He is built like an NFL quarterback, 6 ‘2”, 215 pounds and a strong arm,” Fresques said. “He’s a guy who can do a lot of what Jake Dunniway did, but he’s faster and bigger than Dunniway.”

Both quarterbacks lack experience in a college game setting, Fresques said. That will be one of the challenges the offense will have to overcome throughout the year.

There is still no announced starter only eight days before the start of the season, and this will most likely remain until later in the season. Both quarterbacks will be given chances at the starting job.


In the place of running back Cameron Skattebo steps senior running back Marcus Fulcher and sophomore running back Elijah Tau-Tolliver. Both talented backs possess elite tackle breaking abilities, so much so, they served as the Hornets’ returners last season.

Expect Fulcher to take a gigantic leap and fit the lead back role nicely, and for Tau-Tolliver to come in for a change of pace to stretch the field.

One of the Hornets’ stars is senior tight end Marshel Martin IV, who is sure to be a staple in the offense. Martin seeks to expand on the 65 receptions and 12 touchdowns performance from last season.

“The challenge is you have to get [Martin] the ball,” Fresques said. “ Sometimes he’d leave a game with three touches, if he is one of the best players in the country, I can’t see him leaving a game with three touches.”

Out wide, there are a lot of good wide receivers on this team, but none that jump off the page quite yet. Because of this, expect a wide receiver room by committee. Junior wide receiver Jared Gipson and senior wide receivers Carlos Hill and Parker Clayton should be the main pass catchers this season.

Other names to look for are junior Chris Miller, sophomore Devin Gandy and junior Anderson Grover, as players who could become mainstays later in the season.

The offense is built to play the big-play, electrifying style of football Thompson wants on the field.

“We want to be exciting,” Thompson said. “To have people come and say ‘Man, that was a lot of fun watching those guys. They play the game the right way.’”


The Hornet defense lost a huge piece in Swiss-army knife linebacker Marte Mapu to the NFL, but it is not without its experience. Most projected starters saw a lot of action last season and contributed to a group that had 21 takeaways.

RELATED: Marte Mapu becomes highest drafted Hornet into NFL

A trio of senior linebackers, Armon Bailey, Jeremy Harris, and Brock Mather will anchor the defense. Bailey was one of two defensive Hornets selected to the preseason All-Big Sky team and as long as he is playing at a high level, the defense won’t skip a beat.

Up front, the defensive line stars seniors Jett Stanley and Tyler Hardeman. The duo combined for 84 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss last season.

Bailey spoke highly of sophomore defensive lineman DeShawn Lynch, citing him as a breakout candidate on the defense.

The Sac State secondary will be run by senior cornerbacks Caleb Nelson and Dillon Juniel on the outside. Meanwhile, senior Eian Moore and junior Cameron Broussard will hold it down at safety.

“[Nelson], I think he was second team All-Big Sky, he should have been first,” Bailey said. “[Juniel] and Broussard are gonna have a great year. A lot of dudes on the defensive side can have breakout years.”

Last season, Sac State struggled against the deep ball; it’ll be an area they’ll need to patch up if the Hornets want to chase the Big Sky championship.

Kickers are people too

Kyle Sentkowski held down the position for the past two years, but after his graduation, the Hornets are left without a kicker.

A transfer from American River College, Zach Schreiner, should be the guy, as he offers the most experience. His maximum range sits around 50 yards and he was perfect on PATs last season for the Beavers.


This Hornet team rivals the talent of last season’s, but they’ll need to elevate. According to reports by Craig Haley of The Analyst, Sac State has the 15th most difficult schedule in the country, compared to last season’s 88th most difficult schedule.

“At the end of every season we always have something left to prove,” Bailey said. “Coming off that loss last year, it didn’t go the way we wanted to. We definitely want to go and finish it this year.”

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About the Contributor
Jack Freeman
Jack Freeman, Managing Editor
Jack Freeman joined The State Hornet in spring 2022 as a staff writer and is currently a junior majoring in journalism. He returns as a Managing editor, resident Indoor football aficionado, and Kellen Moore fan.
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