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2011 Mountain West Preview - Team Breakdowns
Colorado State QB Pete Thomas
Colorado State QB Pete Thomas
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 30, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Mountain West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finishes


Preview 2011

M-West Team By Team


- 2011 Air Force Preview | 2011 Boise State Preview 
- 2011 Colorado State Preview2011 New Mexico Preview
- 2011 San Diego State Preview | 2011 TCU Preview
- 2011 UNLV Preview | 2011 Wyoming Preview

- 2011 Mountain West Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Mountain West | 2011 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 Mountain West Preview

Predicted Finish

1. Boise State
Predicted Overall Record: 11-1
Predicted Conference Record: 7-0

Offense: This should be an interesting test to see if the Boise State system is the Boise State system after finishing second in the nation in yards and scoring. Gone is offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin to Texas and in comes Brent Pease after spending the last few years as an assistant and a receivers coach. The problem will be those receivers with Austin Pettis and Titus Young gone, leaving a gaping talent hole. However, Heisman-caliber QB Kellen Moore is good enough make everyone look good, and while there might not be the big plays of last year, all will be fine as long as the receivers run precise routes. The running game will be strong as long as Doug Martin is healthy, but a reliable No. 2 back is a must in case D.J. Harper gets hurt again. The line is a work in progress with lots of shuffling and plenty of question marks, but three starters are back including Nate Potter, who’ll be a top 50 NFL pick next year, and Thomas Bryd, an undersized but talented center.

Defense: The offense gets all the credit and all the respect. After all, the Broncos were second in the nation behind Oregon in yards and points with an ultra-efficient, unstoppable attack. However, the defense also finished second in the nation in yards and points allowed and it was No. 1 in sacks and second in tackles for loss. This might be a no-name defense, but it’s going to be really, really good, especially in the front seven. The starting defensive line will be a terror in opposing backfields with all four positions getting to the quarterback on a regular basis. The linebackers aren’t household names, but they’re all great hitters and they’re all built like NFL-sized defenders. The secondary loses three key players in Jeron Johnson, Winston Venable, and Brandyn Thompson, but it’ll be fine thanks to the terrific pass rush helping the cause.

2. TCU
Predicted Overall Record: 11-1
Predicted Conference Record: 6-1

Offense: Everything came together for the TCU offense last season with four-year starting QB Andy Dalton leading an all-star cast that dominated throughout the regular season with depth, explosion, and clutch playmaking ability. While the attack isn’t starting from scratch, it’ll have to rely on a slew of new players to try to maintain the same high level of play. It all starts at quarterback where the tremendously talented Casey Pachall has major expectations to live up to. The backfield is loaded with outstanding runners with the trio of Ed Wesley, Matthew Tucker, and Waymon James forming a terrific rotation. The receiving corps loses Jeremy Kerley and Jimmy Young, but Josh Boyce is a great young target and the recruiting class is loaded with future stars. The problem could be the line that has to replace four starters, and while the production might not fall off the map, replacing talents like OT Marcus Cannon and C Jake Kirkpatrick will be a problem.

Defense: The TCU defense had to move on after losing some phenomenal NFL-caliber players in Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington, and everything turned out more than fine. The defense finished first in the nation in both points and yards allowed, so you’ll have to forgive everyone around the program if no one appears too worried about another year with some major holes to fill. Tank Carder and Tanner Brock form a devastating linebacking tandem in the 4-2-5 alignment, and they should do a little bit of everything to eat up tackles. The defensive front should have a nice rotation on the inside, while Stansly Maponga has the potential to be the next great pass rusher on the outside. The secondary that led the nation in passing yards allowed has the most work to do, but Greg McCoy is a terrific corner to build around and, as usual, TCU is loaded with very big, very smart, very athletic safeties who won’t miss a stop.

3. Air Force
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 5-2

Offense: You know what you’re going to get. The Falcons are going to run for 300 yards per game, it’ll hit on a few big passes here and there and average over 15 yards per catch, and it’ll be maddeningly efficient at moving the ball. There are replacements needed in key spots, but reloading has never been an issue. Fortunately, there’s a fantastic veteran to rely on under center with Tim Jefferson back to provide a good passing arm as well as a great leader for the ground game. Asher Clark will be one of the Mountain West’s most effective runners, and Jonathan Warzeka will be as deadly as a 20-catch receiver can be. The line returns three starters and is as talented and as athletic as any in the Troy Calhoun era.

Defense: The Air Force defense couldn’t get into the backfield, it couldn’t hit the quarterback, and it got flattened by TCU and most of the better running teams on the slate. It was still a terrific season with the defense finishing second in the nation in pass defense, 28th in scoring defense, and 37th in total defense. Okay, so it’s not like the Falcons faced a ton of teams who know how to throw a forward pass, but it was still an impressive year and the D should be great again. Moving back and forth between a 3-4 and a 4-3, the defense will do what’s needed to make up for the glaring lack of size up front. The strength is at inside linebacker, while the safeties, particularly Jon Davis, are terrific. A pass rush has to come from somewhere and more takeaways would be nice, but with eight starters returning, everything will be fine.

4. San Diego State
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 4-3

Offense: Rocky Long might have tried to change things up a bit at the end of his tenure at New Mexico, but for the most part he liked to pound away with the running game. Now he and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will use the athletic, veteran line and the quickness of the backfield to try to get even more production on the ground. The star of the show, though, is quarterback Ryan Lindley, an NFL-caliber bomber who needs to cut down on his picks and has to make up for the loss of star receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. The receiving corps might be iffy, but all the other parts are there for the offense to be effective, even if it’s not as productive as it was last year when it ripped of 457 yards and 35 points per game.

Defense: Now head coach Rocky Long took over the defensive coordinator gig last year and did a tremendous job. The 3-3-5 alignment worked with the D finishing 43rd in the nation in total defense and led the Mountain West in tackles for loss. Long will still run the defense, but he has a lot of work to do with a razor-thin line that doesn’t have sure-thing starters, much less quality backups. The defensive backs can all hit and they can all move, but it’s going to take a little while to find the right safety combination to go along with rising-star corner Leon McFadden. Miles Burris is one of the league’s best all-around outside linebackers and a terror in the backfield, and he’ll combine with Logan Ketchum to make lots and lots of big plays. The overall problem is size and proven depth, and while the defense will take a step back, it’ll be ultra-aggressive and should be decent as the season goes on.

5. Colorado State
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 3-4

Offense: The offense is making a bit of a shift to try to take advantage of its star. The coaching staff has wanted to get back to the good old days of CSU football by pounding the ball, but the offense finished 118th in the nation in sacks allowed and the running game didn’t do much. Now there will be more of a pro-style look with sophomore QB Pete Thomas on the verge of becoming a big-time player. He needs time to work and needs to cut down on his mistakes, but he also needs help. Lou Greenwood leads a decent receiving corps that needs to find the end zone, while former UCLA transfer Raymond Carter needs to provide some semblance of a ground game. Four starters return to a line that has to be night-and-day better.

Defense: The defense returned nine starters last year, but it didn’t matter. The run defense was flattened and blown past, the secondary didn’t do much of anything, and production was non-existent way too often. There will be more shifting between the 4-3 and the 3-4 depending on the personnel and the matchup, and while there’s little bulk, it’s an athletic front seven led by possible Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, LB Mychal Sisson. The corners are deep and could be a strength, but someone has to make a play for the nation’s 118th-ranked team in pass efficiency defense.

6. UNLV
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 2-5

Offense: The Rebels tried to run away screaming from the old spread attack, but the idea of going to a power offense with finesse players failed finishing with the nation’s third-worst offense while averaging a mere 18.38 points per game. The key problem was an offensive line that wasn’t built to smack anyone around, and now it’s being rebuilt to try to be more physical for a promising group of young speed backs. The receiving corps has plenty of weapons to spread the ball around, with Phillip Payne the main target, so the big question will be the quarterback. Caleb Herring is a promising, talented passer, but he’ll be pushed for the job by JUCO transfer Sean Reilly.

Defense: The Rebel defense had been bad, and then it got a whole bunch worse. How bad have things been? The D had allowed 40 points or more ten times over the previous two years and allowed that many or more eight times in 2010. It allowed 39.69 points per game, had no pass rush whatsoever, and got picked clean by anyone who could throw a forward pass. It’s been the same problem for years; no pass rush, no production in the secondary, no hope. There are still major questions on the line, but the linebacking corps could be bigger and more talented if JUCO transfer Princeton Jackson is as good as advertised. The secondary is deep at corner, and young and promising at safety. The key, though, is getting more from a line that was miserable throughout the season.

7. Wyoming
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 1-6

Offense: Offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, the former Bowling Green head coach, has a lot of work to do. A LOT of work to do. The hope was that the pieces would start to come together last year, but instead the attack was 116th in the nation and did absolutely nothing until the final month of the season. None of the three top quarterback options have ever thrown a pass with true freshman Brett Smith needing to step up after likely starter, redshirt freshman Emory Miller, left the team. The receiving corps desperately needs Chris McNeill to turn into a No. 1 target to carry an inexperienced group, while Alvester Alexander has to carry the running game again. The offensive line is in a constant shuffle mode with some of last year’s key starters relegated to backup roles to try out some new ideas after a few disastrous years.

Defense: The defense has to start being more disruptive, and this year it’ll have to start taking more chances after doing little to get into the backfield and nothing to take the ball away. The defensive front has got to be a strength with all four starters returning, and if it’s not, it’s uh-oh time with five starters being replaced in a smallish, athletic back seven. Tashaun Gipson is a great corner to work around, but the safeties are a question mark. The linebacking corps will see some movement with Brian Hendricks going from the middle to the outside, and while the stats will be there for the corps, the group needs to be tougher against the run.

8. New Mexico
Predicted Overall Record: 2-10
Predicted Conference Record: 0-7

Offense: The offense was supposed to start working last year with good young prospects and lots of athletes to work with, but instead of averaging 315 yards and 16.3 points per game like it did in 2009, the attack finished dead last in America in yards averaging 266 per game while averaging just 15.83 points per game. Once again, there’s potential to be better with three decent quarterbacks who all saw time last year, nice backs who should produce if they get holes to run through, and tremendous athletes at receiver with TE Lucas Reed an all-star target and Ty Kirk a dangerous outside threat. Now the line has to be better. Far better. David Reaves will take over the offensive coordinator gig after working with the quarterbacks last season, and he has nowhere to go but up. There’s too much experience and too many athletes to be so miserable, and if the line can start blocking someone, the O will be better.

Defense: The defense should’ve been far better than it was. It improved as the season went on, but it went from getting bombed on through the air over the first half of the year to getting steamrolled over in the second half. There’s no excuse to not be far better with nine returning starters, good depth, and a new 4-2-5 alignment that maximizes the talent and experience at safety. Linebacker Carmen Messina should be an all-star, and Reggie Ellis, Ugo Uzodinma, and Calvin Smith are BCS-level tackles who have to start playing up to their talent level. After finishing 120th in the nation in scoring defense, dead last in run defense, and 119th in the nation in total defense, there’s nowhere to go but up.

- 2011 Air Force Preview | 2011 Boise State Preview 
- 2011 Colorado State Preview2011 New Mexico Preview
- 2011 San Diego State Preview | 2011 TCU Preview
- 2011 UNLV Preview | 2011 Wyoming Preview

- 2011 Mountain West Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Mountain West | 2011 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 Mountain West Preview