3 August 2010 1 Comment

Mountain West Preview

Author: sportsfreek82

TCU: 12-0 (8-0)
Offense: TCU had been known as mostly for their defense nationally until last year, when the offense helped the team take the big step into a BCS bowl game. QB Andy Dalton returns this year after a solid season last year in which he won MWC Offensive Player of the Year. Dalton took a big step forward last year in going from just a game manager to game changer. Dalton has all of this top targets back this year starting with WR Jeremy Kerley. Kerley is a big play threat on any play and he can catch along with run the ball out of the back field. WR Jimmy Young is a good possession type receiver that is reliable and WR Antoine Hicks is the big deep ball threat for the Horned Frogs. TCU will have RB Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker split the duties in the back field just like last year. The line returns four starters including C Jake Kirkpatrick, a Remington award finalist last year, and T Marcus Cannon who didn’t give up a sack last year. The offense once again will be dangerous and provide plenty of fire works.
Defense: The defense is the bread and butter of TCU football. The Horned Frogs will miss DE Jerry Hughes, but still have plenty of athletes to strike fear into opponents. The line returns the three other starters from last year and will be solid once again led by DE Wayne Danials and DT Cory Grant. Not one player can replace Hughes production by themselves but as a group they can. LB Tank Carder will be joined by a new LB partner in the 4-2-5 system TCU uses. Tanner Brock looks to step into the other LB role after being a big contributor on special teams last year. The secondary will be led by S Tejay Johnson, but will have two new starters at CB in Jason Teague and Greg McCoy, who both have served well as back ups in past years. The defense does have some holes to fill but have the depth to still be a top notch defense in the nation.
Special Teams: Jeremy Kerley is arguably the best return man in the nation able to take back a kick at any time to change the course of a game. K Ross Evans and P Anson Kelton did a very good job last year and should once again this year.
Overall: Head coach Gary Patterson has built a very good program in Fort Worth and doesn’t look to stop anytime soon. The offense has plenty of fire power and will be tough to stop. The defense will be solid as usual for TCU. The Horned Frogs are motivated after last years tough lose to Boise St in the Fiesta Bowl and will come into the season trying to get back to a BCS game and winning it this time. Playing Oregon St the first game of the season will be tough but the Beavers are a second half of the season team helping out TCU. The big test in conference will be November 6th at Utah.

Utah: 11-1 (7-1)
Offense: Utah’s run game will be strong once again this year. The NCAA granted RB Matt Asiata another year of eligibility after being injured last year early in the year. He will be part of a tough 1-2 punch with RB Eddie Wide. QB Jordan Wynn goes into his first full season as the starting QB and is a good duel threat QB. Wynn will still be asked to mange the game for the most part, but could become a game changing player if he keeps developing. WR Jereme Brooks will be the top target for Wynn this year. The rest of the WR core is young and will need to grow quickly to help the team have a balanced attack. The line will once again be solid with four starters back to protect Wynn and open up holes for Wide and Asiata.
Defense: The Utes return only four starters this year but will still be very good thanks to such good depth. The line will be the strongest unit on the defense with DT Dave Kruger and Sealver Siliga returning. The LB corps is the area of most concern for Utah after Nai Fotu blew out his knee in the spring and will red shirt. The experience is suspect other then LB JJ Williams who started as a freshman in 2006 before going on his church mission. CB Brandon Burton is the only returning starter in the secondary but does have some good new starters joining him. There is plenty of experience for the secondary to still shut down opponents passing game.
Special Teams: K Joe Phillips and P Sean Sellwood did a good job in their first year of work last year and should once again this year. Shaky Smithson is a good kick and punt returner.
Overall: Utah lost two games by only one possession last year and then got thumped by TCU. The offense should once again be very good and provide plenty of fire power. The defense should take a little step back but is still one of the conferences top defenses. Utah plays a tough schedule once again this year opening against Pittsburgh at home and traveling to Notre Dame and Iowa St. The Utes will be looking for revenge this year when TCU comes into Salt Lake City in possibly the game that decides the conference champion.

Air Force: 9-3 (6-2)
Offense: Air Force’s running attack year in and year out is always up there as the top in the nation, and nothing will change this year. The return of QB Tim Jefferson to lead the Falcons attack helps. Jefferson had some bumps with academics and injuries last year but looks to be smooth sailing now. He makes good decisions whether he is running the option or passing, and can cause nightmares for defensive coordinators with his duel threat ability. Jefferson is joined in the back field with FB Jared Tew and RB Asher Clark. Tew averaged 4.1 yards per carry last year and is able to wear out defenses on the all important FB dive, but also has some nice break away speed. Clark has very good speed but can also run between the tackles. WR Kevin Fogler and Jonathan Warzaeka are good targets in the pass game and solid run blockers as well. The big issue for Air Force is the completely new line this year. As always the line is undersized but very quick. The zone blocking scheme is what makes the system run so smoothly and the new line does have a good amount of experience with it, to help make it a smooth transition.
Defense: Air Forces defense are usually undersized but very athletic and is the same way this year. Last years defense was one of the top in the nation and has some good pieces back from last years team this year. The Falcons run a 3-3-5 system to help adjust the lack of size with speed. DE Rick Ricketts is the only returning starter on the line and will have to help in a group effort to replace the production of departed Ben Garland. The LB core is the biggest question mark for the defense. Andre Morris Jr is the only returning starter and should produce once again. The questions are at OLB with Patrick Hennessey and Ken Lamendola missing spring practice due to injuries. If they cant compete all year there is some depth but not a lot. The secondary was outstanding last year and returns three starters to it. CB Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert shut down a lot of teams last year and look to do the same thing again this year. FS Jon Davis is a ball hawking safety that will jump at any chance he gets to intercept a ball.
Special Teams: K Erik Soderberg did a solid job last year and is back again this year. Air Force is looking for a new P and Keil Bartholomew looks to be the leading candidate. Reggie Rembert will be the main return man along with shutting down opponents pass games.
Overall: In Troy Calhoun’s first three years as head coach he has taken the Falcons to a bowl game all three years. That trend should continue again this year with all of the leading rushers back to lead the offense. Along with a good chunk of one of the top secondary’s in the nation. If the offensive line can jell quickly Air Force could be challenging for the conference title. The October 2nd game at home against Navy is huge for the Falcons as they try to regain control of the Commander in Chiefs Trophy.

Colorado St: 8-4 (4-4)
Offense: For the first time in head coach Steve Fairchild’s career at CSU he will have a starting QB who is not a senior. Instead he will have either true freshman Pete Thomas or red shirt freshman Nico Ranieri starting this year. Both provide good duel threat ability and who ever wins the job will be asked to be more of a game manager then play maker. The running game is the strength of the Rams offense and is the focal point of it as well. RB Lenard Mason and John Mosure both had time as the starter last year will provide leadership for the possession. While UCLA transfer Raymond Carter and red shirt freshman Chris Nwoke provide some very good depth allowing CSU to go four RB deep. The receiving core is young and inexperienced this year. WR Tyson Ligget and TJ Brocky will have to provide the leadership for the unit. Brocky could also be used in a wildcat package as he was once a QB at CSU. The offensive line is a big question mark this year with only one starter returning in T Paul Madsen. G Jake Gdowski and T Mark Starr at least have some experience so the line isn’t totally green this year, but they will be the key to CSU season.
Defense: Since Larry Kerr has come back to CSU to once again lead the defense two years ago, it has improved both years. CSU returns seven starters on the defense that should help out the young offense. DE Cory Macon returns as a starter on the line this year and will help provide a good pass rush with DE Eugene Danials on the other side. The combination of Guy Miller, Ty Whittier and Nuku Latu should do a good job stopping the run. The LB core is the strength of the defense, led by the athletic playmaker in Mychal Sisson. Alex Williams also returns as a starter this year. The return of LB Ricky Brewer will make the group even better after he served a one year suspension for violating an undisclosed team rule. The secondary will be decent with the return of FS Elijah-Blu Smith and SS Ivory Herd. CB Momo Thomas, DeAngelo Wilkinson, and Marcus Shaw are a decent combo to have. It should be interesting to see how the Rams use S Mike Orakpo, younger brother of Texas star Brian.
Special Teams: K Ben DeLine and P Pete Kontodoiakos both did a solid job last year and are back this year. Momo Thomas and Lou Greenwood will look to add a spark to the return game.
Overall: CSU took a step backwards last year with a 3-9 (0-8) record, but looks to rebound this year. The team will focus on running the ball and playing good defense to help regroup this year. Both should be solid and help out the team. Coach Fairchilds probably wont name a starter until a few days before the opener against rival Colorado. The Rams have a good non-conference schedule to help build confidence and get off to a good start. The key to the season is how quickly the o line can jell. With three of the starters having some experience that should help the line jell quicker. If things go well this year the future could be bright for CSU.

BYU: 7-5 (4-4)
Offense: BYU lost both its star QB and RB from last year and have a good battle going for the starting job at both. QB Riley Nelson backed up Max Hall last year and has a good feel for the offense, Jake Heaps was regarded as the top pro style QB in this years recruiting class and has all of Provo buzzing, and James Lark has played well to make the competition a three man race going into fall camp. Who ever wins the race has solid targets in WR O’Neill Chambers and Jacobson McKay. BYU will have a new starting TE which is also a big part of there offense and there will be a battle for that job between Mike Muehlmann and Devin Mahina. With the dismissal of RB Harvy Unga from school in the spring the Cougars lost a three time 1,000 yard rusher. There was depth behind Unga though. RB JJ Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya will split the duty as Unga’s replacment. One positive for BYU’s offense is that four offensive linemen return led by LT Matt Reynolds.
Defense: BYU’s front seven has some rebuilding to do as only two starters return this year in NT Romney Fuga and LB Jordan Pendleton. The line does get help with NT Eathyn Manumaleuna returning from his church mission this year. The LB core isn’t as luck as there is little experience to fall back on and could be a trouble spot for BYU. The secondary is where the experience is at with three starters returning. SS Andrew Rich will lead the secondary.
Special Teams: K Mitch Payne and P Riley Stephenson both return this year after good seasons last year. One of them has to step up on kick off duties though as both struggled last year. O’Neill Chambers will be the return man again and do another solid job at it.
Overall: Bronco Mendenhall hasn’t faced this much adversity since probably his first year as BYU’s head coach. The offense will not be as powerful as it was last year with a brand new QB and RB this year. Having a veteran line will help the offense a good amount though. The defense could have some issues this year with basically a brand new front seven. Some one will have to step up and get pressure on the QB to let the secondary do its job. A tough schedule will not let the new QB and RB gain confidence as they are thrown right into the fire as the first four games are vs. Washington, at Air Force, at Florida St, and vs. Nevada. BYU fans may have to deal with a few more losses then they are use to this season.

Wyoming: 5-7 (3-5)
Offense: Just like the way Wyoming surprised everyone in the Mountain West so did QB Austyn Carta-Samuels. As a true freshman last year he after three games he was named the starter and took off. Carta-Samuels provides a very good duel threat ability and takes care of the ball. The top three WR from last year return this year in David Leonard, Zach Bolder and Chris McNeil. Head Coach Dave Christensen wants to have a better run game this year, and should with RB Alvester Alexander returning. The line will have a new right side but everyone else returns.
Defense: Wyoming will have a 4-3 base defense this year instead of the 3-4 they had last year. The line lost its top four players from last year, but the Cowboys have moved Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton up to DE from LB to help with that problem. The LB core is young but has decent experience and will be led by Brian Hendricks. The secondary returns all four starters that did a decent job last year. The Gipson brothers, Marcell and Tashaun, do a good job at CB and along with FS Chris ProsinskI.
Special Teams: K Ian Watts and P Austin McCoy both return and did a good job last year. With the depth at WR and CB gives the Cowboys plenty of options at return man.
Overall: Wyoming was able to sneak up and surprise everyone in the Mountain West, but wont be able to do that this year. Carta-Samuels will be one of the top QB in the conference and continue to help lead the Cowboys. With an improved running game the offense will be even better. The line is the big question for the defense and will have to step up. The LB and secondary should be able to lead the defense. Wyoming had four fourth quarter comebacks last year and may not be as lucky this year. Wyoming will take a small step backwards this year as teams are better prepared for them this year.

San Diego St: 5-7 (2-6)
Offense: QB Ryan Lindley returns for his third year as a starter for SDSU and needs to improve on not throwing as many interceptions. (16 last year) Lindley does have some of his top targets back in WR DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. TE Alston Umuolo is also a formable target as well. Head Coach Brady Hoke is ready for the run game to step up and help the offense now. Last years starting RB Brandon Sullivan has moved to FB and Ronnie Hillman and Walter Kazee will split duties at RB. An improved running game will help the team and also take pressure off Lindley. The line returns only two starters led by C Trask Iosefa, but could have three JUCO transfers in at the new possessions so they will at least have some experience.
Defense: The Aztec’s run a 3-3-5 defense and need to be improved from last year to help the team make a bowl game. The line needs to get more pressure on the opposing QB. To help with that Ernie Lawson was moved from NT to DE, allowing Jerome Long to start at NT. JUCO transfer DE Perry Jackson should help as well. LB Miles Burris is the only returning starter at the LB core, but is surrounded by a good amount of experience, just not as starters. The secondary did a good job last year and should again this year. Andrew Preston is the new starter at the “Aztec” possession, which is a S/LB hybrid. CB Jose Perez, S Dey Juan Hemmingsm and S Brandon Davis will help lead the secondary.
Special Teams: P Brian Stahovich had a very good season last year and should once again this year. K Bryan Shields is SDSU new K after transferring from Utah St. The depth at WR provides plenty of options for returner.
Overall: Some people believe that SDSU is ready to take the next step and go to a bowl game this year. If that is the case then the run game and defense are going to have to step up. The pass game is once again in good hands with Lindley, and just needs to have less int this year. A soft early schedule will help the run game and defense grow confidence, but a tough four game stretch at the end of October and early November is just too much this year.

UNLV: 2-11 (1-7)
Offense: New head coach Bobby Hauck is changing UNLV’s offensive philosophy from a spread attack to more pro style down hill running game. First thing Hauck needs to do is decide on a QB. Last years starter Omar Clayton is back and is competing with back up Mike Clausen and Caleb herring. Clayton looks to have a leg up on the competition but no starter was named coming out of spring practice. Who ever wins the battle will have two good WR to throw to in Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson. The run game is the focus of Hauck’s offense and there will be a committee of RB in it this year. The Rebels could use up to as many as five RB in there system this year. The line returns four starters but has to work on the new blocking schemes.
Defense: UNLV’s defense was pretty bad last year and needs to improve a lot. The line needs to get more pressure on the opponents QB, but has only one returning starter in DT Isaako Aaitui. There is not much experience and depth on the line as well. The LB core has good experience and depth, led by Starr Fuimaono and Ronnie Paulo. The secondary was a small bright spot on the defense last year led by CB Quinton Pointer and CB Deante’ Purvis.
Special Teams: UNLV will have a new P and K this year. Ben Jaekle looks to have the edge for the K job. Nolan Kohorst looks to be the P and could challenge for the K job as well.
Offense: Hauck didn’t come into an awful situation at UNLV and does have some good players to build around, but not a lot on the offense that fit his system. The defense is key to how good Hauck’s first season will be. The more they improve from last year the better the Rebels will be. Hauck will still run some spread offense until he gets his players, but it will be a rough first season for him in Las Vegas.

New Mexico: 2-10 (1-7)
Offense: New Mexico first order of business when fall camp starts is deciding on a starting QB. There are five candidates for the job, Stump Godfrey, Tarean Austin, Brad Gruner, Tate Smith, and B.R. Holbrook. Holbrook looked to be the leader coming out of spring practice. The Lobos are also focused on having a better run game this year and return the top three rushers from last year led by RB Demond Dennis. WR Ty Kirk and Bryant Williams will provide good targets for who ever the QB is. The line could be shaky as only the LT Byron Bell and LG Karlin Givens return.
Defense: The strength of the Lobos defense will be the line. DE Jaymar Latchison can provide pressure on the opposing QB as well as stuff the run and will lead the line. Highly touted freshman DT Calvin Smith could get a good amount of playing time as well. LB Carmen Messina is the only returning starter and will have to lead the young group. The secondary had issues last year and could once again this year as CB Anthony Hooks is the only returning starter to a very young group as well.
Special Teams: K James Aho had a good season last year and should have another one this year. New Mexico will have a new P in Ben Skaer. The combo of RB and WR will compete for a job at return man.
Overall: Last year was a tough year for New Mexico and this year may be the same way. The offense will have a lot of questions with a new QB and pretty new line as well. The defense is very young and will need to play better then last year to help out the offence. If the Lobos can win a few games this year and build some confidence for next year that will help. This team is just too young to compete in the tough Mountain West Conference.

One Response to “Mountain West Preview”

  1. fromolwyoming 13 August 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    I don’t see CSU finishing 8-4 after going 3-9 last year. I think they will have a better record, but let’s be realistic here. Like saying UNM will go 10-2 this year.

    As for Wyoming, Defense is looking to be a stength this year compared to last year. And the Offense is now implementing more complex plays. As for the overall record, can’t really say much until they actually play a down of football.