UNC faces transition to 1-AA

Updated: August 16, 2003, 5:22 PM ET

GREELEY, Colo. -- Northern Colorado begins Division 1-AA play this season, and everyone knows it will be a challenge.

"We haven't even broken ice as to where we have to go to be Division 1-AA-type football in terms of finances," coach Kay Dalton.

The Bears will begin play with the equivalent of 40 scholarships. Division 1-AA teams are allowed 63 full scholarships.

"So we do have a long ways to go," Dalton said. "I don't have a problem with the quality of our players. I do have a problem with the depth of our players."

Dalton faces other issues. Among them are naming a starting quarterback, assembling a receiving corps decimated by graduation and replacing the defensive end tandem of Anthony Dunn and Steve Frye.

The quarterback race is between Steve Cutlip, Tony Christensen, Josh Stewart and Nick Hager. Cutlip alternated with Mark Passard for the first four years last year before sitting out the remainder of the year for transcript/eligibility issues.

"Right now it's between Cutlip and Christensen," Dalton said. "If I think I know who it is I will name him. If I don't we will take it a couple of games and play halves like we did last year."

Finding a receiving corps comparable to year ago when Eric Nelson, George Carroll and Justin White earned all-North Central Conference notoriety won't be easy. Vincent Jackson, 22 receptions for 445 yards and three touchdowns is best of the lot that must replace the threesome that combined for 111 catches for 1,802 yards and nine touchdowns.

"We're having to look at lot of young wide receivers and in our style of offense, the receiver people get to play a lot," Dalton said.

At defensive end, Jason McMillan and Jeff Spletzer must replace the tandem of Dunn and Frye. Dunn was the North Central Conference Defensive Player of the Year after a 10-sack season.

Dalton has unexpected voids to fill. Nose guard Dusty Hoffschneider transferred to Wyoming as did Tyler Holden, who was penciled in to start at wide receiver. Offensive lineman Craig Brooks chose not to return because of the transition. Kicker Mike Swim did not return for personal reasons.

There is some good news for the Bears. Running back Adam Matthews is back after year where he ran for a school-record 1,372 yards and redshirt freshman Andre Wilson has been a pleasant surprise.

They will run behind a line that includes Shaun Farner and Bret Garegani at the tackles and 6-foor-6, 320-pound Chance Covert at right guard.

The Bears have their linebacker corps back in Ryan Palmer, Scott Tongren and Cabel Rohloff. Sophomore Greg Gebhardt is the lone newcomer in the secondary that includes strong safety Erik Viken, free safety Reed Doughty and cornerback Hassan Rashad.

Colorado transfer Justin Zaitz replaces Swim as the kicker.

"I'm looking forward to the year," Dalton said. "But I'm an honest pessimist."

The Bears plays open the season at home Sept. 30 with Division II New Mexico Highlands. Five of their six road games are against 1-AA opponents.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index