Jody Sears became the 10th head football coach in Sacramento State history when he was named the head football coach on April 25, 2014. The elevation came just months after Sears was hired as the Hornets' defensive coordinator in the spring of 2014.
Despite taking over the team following spring practice, Sears helped unify a team which went on to record a 7-5 overall record, matching the highest win total in the school's Div. I era. The seven victories were the most by a first-year coach in Sacramento State history, surpassing the previous high by two wins. In fact, Sears joined College Football Hall of Famer John Baker as the only Hornet coaches to post winning records in their debut season at Sacramento State. Led by a high-powered offense which set or tied nine school single-season records, the Hornets scored 40 or more points in eight games.
Following the season, 14 members of the team earned all-Big Sky honors. Among that list was All-American wide receiver DeAndre Carter and kicker Brad Cornish who were each named first team all-league. Quarterback Garrett Safron, linebacker Darnell Sankey, wide receiver Nnamdi Agude and defensive end Jaycee Totty were each voted to the second team.
Sears also continued to serve as the team's defensive coordinator. His unit showed continued improvement throughout the season, helping spark the Hornets' three game winning streak to end the year. In the victory over UC Davis in the Causeway Classic, the defense forced five turnovers and also had a pair of fourth-down stops.
Asst. Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator/Off. Line
Three-time Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year Paul Wulff was hired as Sacramento State's assistant head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach in February 2016.
Wulff played collegiately at Washington State and began his coaching career as an assistant at Eastern Washington in 1993. He was elevated to offensive coordinator in 1998 and became the Eagles' head coach in 2000. In his eight years at the helm, Wulff guided EWU to a 53-40 overall record, a share of two Big Sky championships and three NCAA FCS playoff berths. He was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year following the 2001, 2004 and 2005 seasons and was a finalist for National Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2007.
Wulff coached 23 players to FCS All-America honors, including 15 offensive lineman. His teams also featured quarterback Erik Meyer who was the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, the Walter Payton Award winner and set the FCS record for pass efficiency. Wulff's offensive line was highlighted by Michael Roos who was an All-American for EWU before a long NFL career with the Tennessee Titans.
Paul Peterson joined the Hornet program in January of 2012 and serves as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
During his time leading the Sacramento State offense, the Hornets have produced some of the best numbers in school history. The 2014 team set or tied nine school single season records, including points (458), points per game (38.2), touchdowns (60) and total yards (5,780).
Individually, quarterback Garrett Safron also rewrote the school record book during his three years with Peterson. Safron compiled a school record 9,713 passing yards with 86 career touchdowns - 36 more than the previous record. Safron, who was a second team all-Big Sky selection during his final two years, also set school records for career attempts, competitions and competition percentage. He also owns nearly every single-season passing record.
Samuel Lawanson joined the Sacramento State coaching staff in June 2014. After two seasons coaching the Hornet running backs, Lawanson was named the team's Defensive Coordinator in Febraury 2016.
During his first season with the team, Lawanson coached Jordan Robinson to honorable mention all-Big Sky honors. Robinson was a key component to Sacramento State's record breaking offense, rushing for 862 yards and five touchdowns as well as catching 30 passes for 236 yards and four TDs.
Lawanson has coached on both sides of the ball during his career. Most recently, he was the manager of player development in 2013 and the defensive quality control coach in 2012 at Arizona State. Lawanson began his collegiate coaching career in 1999 as the running backs coach at Cal Poly. After two seasons, he moved to the University of Tulsa where he coached linebackers from 2000-2002 and the secondary in 2003.
Tyler Almond recently completed his fourth season on the Sacramento State coaching staff and his third coaching Hornet linebackers.
This past season, Almond coached a pair of all-Big Sky linebackers in Darnell Sankey and Henry Fernandez. Sankey was named to the second team and was among the nation's elite until a knee injury derailed his season. He finished the year ranked seventh in the FCS and third in the Big Sky with 11.0 tackles per game. Sankey also had at least 10 tackles in all seven complete games in which he played, including a career high 21 against Montana State. He finished the year with 99 tackles, eight for loss, forced two fumbles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Fernandez was an honorable mention all-league selection after leading the team with 106 stops. He had at least 11 tackles in each of the final three games.
During the 2013 season, linebacker Todd Davis was named to the all-Big Sky Conference first team. Davis led the league and ranked fifth nationally with 10.9 tackles per game. His 131 total tackles were the first most in school history while his 351 career tackles placed him second in the Hornet record book. True freshman Russell Smith ranked second on the team with 78 stops while starting all 12 games.
Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator
Former Sacramento State player Fred Kelley is in his third tenure as a member of the coaching staff. Kelley serves as the team's tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
Kelley coached three all-Big Sky selections during the 2014 season. Kicker Brad Cornish earned first team all-league honors after tying the Sacramento State single-season record with 14 made field goals and finishing the year with 98 points. Tight end Chris Broadnax and special teams standout Russell Smith each were named honorable mention. Broadnax caught 26 passes for 281 yards with a pair of touchdowns while Smith had 58 tackles in eight games and played on all four special teams.
In 2013, Kelley saw solid production from each of his position groups. Four tight ends combined to catch 43 passes for 396 yards and seven touchdowns. The group was led by freshman Cole Hikutini who ranked second on the team five TD catches. On special teams, Justin Weldon recorded the finest season by a punter in school history. Weldon was named second team all-Big Sky after averaging 44.9 yards per punt which placed him fourth nationally and second in the conference. Weldon also set Sacramento State records with a career average of 44.2 yards per punt and with a long of 78 yards which came against UC Davis.
James Montgomery enters his third season at Sacramento State. Montgomery will coach the team's running backs in 2016 after serving as an offensive assistant the past two years.
During his first season with the Hornets, Sacramento State set numerous offensive school records. The team broke are tied nine marks, including points (458), points per game (38.2), touchdowns (60) and yards (5,780). As an assistant coach on the offensive line, he helped mentor Aleksandar Milanovic and Derek Nielsen to all-Big Sky third team honors.
No stranger to Sacramento or Coach Sears, the Cordova High School graduate rushed for more than 4,900 yards and 82 touchdowns for the Lancers. He was a Parade Magazine All-American and a first team all-state selection from CalHiSports.com. As a senior, he rushed for 2,183 yards and 39 touchdowns and was the Sacramento Bee's Player of the Year.
Special Teams Coordinator/Rovers
Anthony Parker recently completed his seventh season at Sacramento State.
During the 2014 season, Parker was the team's safeties coach where he helped mentor Robbie Kendall to third team all-Big Sky honors. That season, Kendall started each of his games at safety before being injured on the opening kickoff against Portland State. While playing out of the secondary, he had four tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks.
Parker served as the Hornets' defensive coordinator from 2010-13. In 2010, he saw his unit respond by finishing third in the Big Sky Conference in total defense and scoring defense. Led by second team All-American, first team all-Big Sky selection and Arizona Cardinal signee Zack Nash, the Hornet defense recorded 26 total sacks and 66 tackles-for-loss. The defense also intercepted 10 passes and recovered 16 of the 17 fumbles it forced.
Jason Pollak enters his third season with the Sacramento State coaching staff and his second as the team's primary receivers coach.
The 2014 season was a record-breaking campaign for the Hornet receivers. Senior DeAndre Carter earned All-America honors and was a unanimous first team all-Big Sky selection and junior Nnamdi Agude was named to the all-Big Sky second team. Together the duo was only pair of FCS teammates to each surpass 1,000 receiving yards during the regular season.
Carter led the Football Championship Subdivision and the Big Sky with 1,321 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns. His 99 receptions were also the most in the FCS and ranked second in league history. He was a model of consistency throughout the season, amassing at least 100-yards in six games and averaging 10.1 receptions and 139.2 yards in the eight league games. Carter earned national player of the week honors during the season after setting the school record with 16 receptions for 237 receiving yards and four touchdowns against Southern Utah. He left Sacramento State as the career leader with 35 receiving touchdowns and also ranked third in career receptions (207) and third in career yards (2,760). Following the season, Carter signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens.
Henry Fernandez is in his first season as a member of the Sacramento State coaching staff where he will assist with the linebackers.
A four-year letterwinner with the Hornets, Fernandez started all 12 games as senior where he earned honorable mention all-Big Sky honors at linebacker. During the season, he led Sacramento State with 106 total tackles which tied him for the ninth-highest single season total in school history. He had 10-plus tackles in six games, including his final three. Fernandez played a big role in the team's victory over UC Davis in the Causeway Classic where he had a career high 15 tackles, including two for loss, and forced a fumble.
The Oxnard, Calif., native concluded his career with 183 total tackles with 4.0 sacks and 10.0 tackles-for-loss. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two in his 42 career games.
Director of Operations
Ryan Smaha was hired as the team's Director of Football Operations in May of 2014. Smaha came to the Hornets after serving as an assistant coach for Jody Sears at Weber State for two seasons.
During his time at WSU, Smaha was the Widlcats' special teams coordinator. During his first season, he coached punter Tony Epperson who led the nation in punting average before a season-ending injury. The team finished in the top half of the Big Sky in punting and kickoff return average that season.
Smaha came to Weber State from Idaho State where he was an assistant coach for the Bengals in 2011 coaching the outside linebackers. Prior to ISU, he spent the 2010 season as the tight ends coach at Western Oregon where he assisted the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in run game planning. During the summer of 2010 Smaha helped coach the SWARCO Raiders in Innsbruck, Austria.
Grant Smith joined the Sacramento State staff in the summer of 2014 and serves as the video coordinator for the Hornets. In his role Smith oversees all video production for the team, including practices, games and highlights.
Prior to coming to Sacramento State, Smith was a video assistant at Oregon State from April 2010 until December 2013. With the Beavers he edited game and practice film and assisted with highlight editing. Smith graduated with a bachelor's degree in new media communications in December of 2013 from Oregon State.
Kerica Brakel joined the Sacramento State football staff in June of 2014 and will serve as the team's administrative assistant. In her position, Brakel handles the day-to-day activities for the office and also coordinates all special projects.
No stranger to Hornet athletics, Brakel was a four-year letterwinner for the Sacramento State women's golf team. During her career, she played 95 rounds for the team which is the third most in school history. Prior to taking the position with the football program, Brakel was an assistant with the Hornet Club.
Brakel graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in business administration in 2013.