Three Sentence College Football Team Previews: Mountain West
Quick three sentence previews giving you what you absolutely need to know about every Mountain West team going into the 2017 season.
2017 Mountain West Previews: Quick Version
With fall camps underway across the country and Week 0 college football games creeping up on everyone, we have decided to help get you up to speed with a quick hit on each Mountain West team.
Air Force Falcons
– The Falcons lost 10 of 11 starters off of last years Air Force squad and that includes one of the best players, and name, in Air Force history in Weston Steelhammer; the Falcons return only 18 percent of its production is back and this will put extra pressure on the offense to outscore teams in 2017.
– Speaking of the offense, Air Force returns just 25 percent of that production but the Falcons offense seemingly reloads with the next man in line, and at fullback that looks to be Parker Wilson; quarterback Arion Worthman took over mid-way last year due to an injury to Nate Romine and he look confident leading the run-option attack.
– One player to watch who could break out and be a household name in the Mountain West is running back/returner Tim McVey; last year, he had 11 total touchdowns — one was on a kick return — and is the leading returning rusher for the Falcons offense.
Boise State Broncos
– The big question on offenses is if Alexander Mattison can step in and replace Jeremy McNichols who was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in last year’s NFL Draft; McNichols is the third-straight Boise State running back to be a starter in the NFL and each replacement has stepped in seemingly.
– Boise State finally has the same offensive coordinator in back-to-back years in Zak Hill and that could play huge dividends since the offense lost their top receiver in Thomas Sperbeck and arguably their best running back in school history in Jeremy McNichols.
– The Broncos have lost three of their last four games against teams which utilize a run-option attack in New Mexico and Air Force, and those conference losses have kept Boise State from appearing in the Mountain West title game in each of the past two years; so is this the year they finally figure that out?
Colorado State Rams
– The Rams return nearly every key offensive player from a team that was one of the best in the country in the second half of last year; if Colorado State can keep that up and there are no recurring issues with starting QB Nick Stevens then the Rams will be in contention for the conference title and possibly more.
– While Colorado State’s defense returns 74 percent of its production from last year they do lose a huge contributor in linebacker Kevin Davis who recorded 88 tackles 10.5 for a loss and three sacks; the next man up who could be Deonte Clyburn who sat out all of 2015 with a blood clot.
– The new on-campus stadium is a huge boon to Colorado State football and the Rams are circling the Nov. 11 home game against Boise State; the Rams have never defeated the Broncos since the two joined the Mountain West and if a division title is in the cards for Colorado State this is a must-win game.
New Mexico Lobos
– The loss of Teriyon Gipson on the surface may seem like a big deal but for the Lobos unique run-option attack offense it is next man up and that has proven to work extremely well for New Mexico; the name to know is Tyronne Owens as he has the most yards of any returning back.
– Now the defense is where the Lobos need work as there are so many times that New Mexico will be able to just outscore teams; if they are to get over the hump and appear in their first-ever Mountain West title game they need that defense to at least be average.
– This seems like a broken record but if Lamar Jordan, or any New Mexico signal caller, can complete 60 percent of their passes then this would make the offense very good; this year that falls all onto Jordan as the designated throwing quarterback Austin Apodaca has graduated.
– New offensive coordinator David Yost is bringing in his version of the spread passing attack to Logan and he wants to have an uptempo pass; through spring and fall camps the coaches seem to be happy but we will see for real once Week 1 gets here when the Aggies face Wisconsin.
– Losing Rayshad Lewis to Maryland was a huge blow to this pass-heavy, up-tempo offense as he and Ron’Quavion Tarver had the potential to be one of the best receiving duos in the country, but now the Aggies will rely on lesser experienced players.
– The running game last year was a complete mess once Devonte Mays went down with a season-ending injury, and his backups LaJuan Hunt and Tonny Lindsey brought very little to the table and those two are back and are expected to lead the Aggie running game.
– All eyes will be on Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen as he is projected to be not just a first-round quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft but possibly the first player taken overall; however, Allen will be without key offensive players who are already in the NFL in wide receiver Tanner Gentry, running back Brian Hill and center Chase Roullier.
– Brian Hill was arguably the best running back in Wyoming school history but he is now with the Atlanta Falcons and there needs to be someone to step up and replace 1,860 yards and 22 touchdowns, and the early candidates to do so are Kellen Overstreet — he sat out all of 2015 with an injury — Nico Evans (11 carries last year) and sophomore Milo Hall (zero carries last year).
– It took a few years but the Wyoming defense might be the better unit on this Cowboys secondary as they return 87 percent of their production and have a the preseason Mountain West defensive player of the team on their roster in Andrew Wingard, and the reigning freshman defensive player of the year in linebacker Logan Wilson.
– Jeff Tedford is the new head coach taking over for Tim DeRuyter who was let go last year and the alleged quarterback guru is expected to huge things early and often — just look at his bonus incentives — Tedford has not been in the college game since he was let go from Cal back in 2012.
– Quarterback play has been an issue for Fresno State over the past few years and it has been expected that Chason Virgil will be the starter, but things have changed quickly after a week of camp when the Bulldogs added former Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMayrion who is immediately eligible.
– The offensive line was terrible last year and were second to last in sacks allowed with 31 and the running game was last in yards per carry at 3.17 per attempt, but there is a reason for optimism as there are 71 career starts returning.
– Wide receiver Marcus Kemp is doing good things so far with the Kansas City Chiefs and that means there needs to be a replacement and the buzz at Warriors camp is that John Ursa is going to be the next guy up; plus there are Devan Stubblefield and Isaiah Bernard sat out last year to help out this group.
– Hawaii has struggled to have a solidified quarterback as the starter in years, and they have that guy now in Dru Brown who took over part way through last year and led the Warriors to a bowl win; with a full offseason and no competition this could be Brown’s year to challenge as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
– Defense is the big question mark for the Warriors as they were dead last in the conference at points allowed per game, total yards per game and 11th in yards allowed per play; but there is talent and specifically in possibly the linebacker in the league in Jahlani Tavai but he will need help.
– The offense will have a brand new look with Jay Norvell coming in to install a pass-happy offense called #PackAttack with the help of Matt Mumme as his offensive coordinator and former NCAA pass record holder Timmy Chang as the quarterbacks coach.
– Leading that attack looks to be Alabama quarterback transfer David Cornwell who has named the starter headed into camp, but there are concerns with him as he has not thrown a pass at the FBS level and has not played in a complete game since 2012 when he was in high school.
– The running game was expected to be the bright spot with the Wolf Pack having the best running back in the conference heading into 2017, but he decided on July 4 to transfer to Iowa; those looking to replace Butler on the depth chart are Kelton Moore, Blake Wright and maybe Notre Dame transfer Justin Brent.
San Diego State
– The Aztecs lose the NCAA all-time leading rusher but they do have plenty of depth in Rashaad Penny who rush for 1,018 yards and had 11 touchdowns as a back and Jawuan Washington who averaged 8.02 yards per carry and had six touchdowns on just 55 touches; the biggest issue in the ground game is the offensive line that lost four of their five starters from last year’s team.
– The one thing missing from San Diego State’s offense is a passing game and they have not needed one since their ground attack has been one of the best in the conference, but second-year starter Christian Chapman has declared he is on for a breakout season and if he does that this could make the San Diego State offense the best in the conference
– While zero players made the preseason all-conference list for San Diego State their defense will be just fine and very likely will be the best in the Mountain West; that unit will be led by the likes of linebacker Sergio Phillips and defensive backs Ron Smith and Parker Baldwin.
San Jose State
– First time head coach Brent Brennan returns to the Bay Area where he spent six years coaching the offense and knows the ins and outs of what it takes to be competitive with San Jose State; one of his main goals is to fix the poor rushing offense and defense.
– The ground game does look to be better than last year as the Spartans very likely will have a one-two punch in Zamore Zigler and DeJon Packer as those two have shown the best after a pair of fall camp scrimmages.
– The secondary has always been good for San Jose State over the past few years but part of that was because teams were able to run at will over the Spartans; linebacker Frank Ginda is hoping to stop that trend and get this rush defense to at least average in the conference.
– First of all let’s all pump the brakes on redshirt freshman Armani Rogers being compared to Cam Newton; Rogers has yet to play a single down of FBS football and while he seems to have talent lets see it in action before proclaiming him the best quarterback ever to come through UNLV.
– The ground game has a lot of potential with Lexington Thomas and Charles Williams and very well could challenge San Diego State as the best running back group in the West Division, and with experienced backs toting the ball that should help Armani Rogers be a better quarterback.
– Wide receiver health took a big hit last year with Rebels forcing to have players change positions just filled out a unit each week, but when healthy this unit could be one of the best in the conference led by Devonte Boyd.