BERKELEY -- Southern Utah senior quarterback Brad Sorensen made two stops at San Bernardino Valley College and BYU before landing in Cedar City, Utah, but since joining the Thunderbirds, Sorenson has proven himself an effective weapon.
Last season, Sorensen was the Great West Conference's Offensive Player of the Year, going 288-for-425 with 11 picks, 3,143 yards and 17 touchdowns in 11 games with a 137.9 QB efficiency rating.
This summer, he was named the Preseason Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, a first-team preseason FCS All-American by The Sports Network, College Sports Journal, Phil Steele and Senior Scout Bowl, as well as a second-team preseason FCS All-American by College Sports Network and Beyond Sports Network.
"He's a guy that can get out of the pocket and if you're not careful, he can scramble and make some plays," said Bears defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. "They drop back with him most of the time."
In stark contrast to the pistol offense Cal faced last week against Nevada, Southern Utah runs a pro-set, which is good news for the Bears defense, which not only had to contend with the Wolf Pack's quick-hit offense last week, but also their own offense's conversion to a no-huddle.
"They throw the ball downfield. They're a pro-style run, play-action pass, they can spread you out and drop back pass as well," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "That's the thing about [Sorensen] -- he can put the ball anywhere on the field. He's got a very strong arm."
Sorensen is up for the Unitas Golden Arm Award, and is rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 9 quarterback in this draft class.
"He's an NFL draft pick [prospect] I've heard," said cornerback Steve Williams. "We've just got to go out there, read your keys and do your assignments, and I think we'll be fine. I think we should definitely run over these guys and come out with a victory."
With a shake-up in the secondary moving Josh Hill to starting nickel and Michael Lowe to safety, bumping Kameron Jackson to the bench, Pendergast is hoping for a better result defending the pass than last week, when Nevada QB Cody Fajardo completed 25 of 32 passes for 230 yards.
"You need to put pressure on him. He's not overly-mobile," Tedford said. "He can move a little bit, but we definitely have to pressure him and we have to do a good job of covering, because if guys are open, he's going to hit them, no matter where they are."
One thing that Sorensen doesn't have that Fajardo had in spades is mobility. Last season, Sorensen rushed 70 times for a net of -49 yards, taking a total of 31 sacks on the season for a loss of 212 yards.
"I think the quarterback's a really talented player," Pendergast said. "He's got a big arm, he's extremely accurate, he can make all the throws and I think they've got very good speed at wide receiver. They have a lot of different personnel groups and really create a lot of match-up problems for the defense. He's a guy that can get out of the pocket and if you're not careful, he can scramble and make some plays. They drop back with him most of the time."
When Sorensen does drop back, he has a few targets who could at the very least make things interesting for the reconstituted Bears secondary.
Sorensen has two big veterans on the outside in 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore Easton Pederson (11 games, 23 catches, 304 yards in 2011) and 6-foot-2, 183-pound junior Fatu Moala (10 games, 26 catches for 370 yards).
The big playmaker though, could prove to be 5-foot-7, 165-pound junior Griff McNabb in the slot. Griff spent the last three seasons at Utah, including one as a redshirt.
Last season, McNabb played in 12 games and led the Utes with 22 punt returns for 166 yards, finishing the season with a 7.5 yards per return average. He also caught two passes for 13 yards.
McNabb could have a bit impact in the return game, having tallied a long punt return of 31 yards in the fourth quarter of a Sun Bowl win over Georgia Tech, leading to the touchdown that sent the game into overtime.
In 2010, McNabb Played in eight games, had two catches for eight yards and a touchdown (vs. Colorado State) and returned three punts for 22 yards. He also returned two kickoffs for 36 yards, with a 24-yard kick return against Wyoming.
Giving Sorensen time to find his three key receivers is an offensive line with two sophomores on the left side, but which averages 6-foot-4, 300 pounds.
"Big offensive line. They've done a nice job there," Tedford said. "Sometimes, some of the non-conference opponents, you look at the size factor, and some of them are undersized. These guys aren't undersized."
Last week, redshirt freshman Todd Barr wreaked havoc on the Wolf Pack offensive line, and with the numbers up front still a bit thin, he'll be relied upon to work his magic again.
"We need to rotate the D-linemen, as we always have done, and he's brought some depth to the position," Tedford said. "It really depends on the type of offense that we're playing and the type of personnel packages that we're using on defense, but Todd's really played well through the spring and through fall camp. He plays fast and he's got a real knack for making himself skinny and getting through holes and he's got the speed to redirect and get where he needs to be."