When CWU takes the field at 1 p.m. Saturday (April 28) for the annual spring football game, the team will come out with something new to defend that they haven't had in years past: a national ranking.

CWU ended last season as the seventh-ranked team in the nation, after losing in the second round to Texas A&M Commerce, which went on to win the national championship.

But last season the Wildcats graduated all-conference defensive players Kevin Haynes and Bo Banner. Rebuilding the defense will be a tough task for the Wildcats.

Not only did key players graduate, but defensive coordinator Scott Power left just a day before spring practices began, leaving the Wildcats to scramble for a defensive coordinator.

For the time being, Benny Boyd, last season's special teams coordinator, has filled in as the defensive coordinator.

Head coach Ian Shoemaker says Boyd has taken on the leadership role well, and that after spring football he will bring in candidates for the full-time defensive coordinator job. Benny Boyd is in the mix of the candidates.

During halftime of the spring game, the number 44 will be handed down from Kevin Haynes to the next captain of the defense.

The good news comes on the offensive side of the ball. Returners this season include QB Reilly Hennessey, running backs Christian Cummings and Hasani Childs, as well as nearly the entire offensive line, which Coach Shoe says will be the key for the offense to remain dominant like last season.

Shoemaker also noted that the biggest goal for the spring game will be to keep all the players healthy after the roster took some hits during spring practices.

The spring football game will mark the last "official" game at Tomlinson Stadium before the renovations. The football field will make the conversion to field turf over the summer and add LED lights to allow night games in Ellensburg.

The Wildcats open the 2018 season at Eastern Washington University in Cheney on the red turf of Roos Field.

The home opener for the remodeled Tomlinson Stadium is currently set for Sept. 15 against Humboldt State, time to be determined.