2012 Mountain West Preview - Team Breakdowns
Boise State RB D.J. Harper
Boise State RB D.J. Harper
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 1, 2012


Preview 2012 - CFN Mountain West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finishes


Preview 2012

M-West Team By Team



- 2012 Air Force Preview | 2012 Boise State Preview 
- 2012 Colorado State Preview2012 Fresno State Preview
- 2012 Hawaii Preview | 2012 Nevada Preview
- 2012 New Mexico Preview | 2012 San Diego State Preview
- 2012 UNLV Preview | 2012 Wyoming Preview

- 2012 Mountain West Preview
- 2012 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2012 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 Mountain West Preview | 2010 Mountain West Preview 

Predicted Finish

1. Boise State
Predicted Overall Record: 11-1
Predicted Conference Record: 9-0

Offense: Last year there was a huge question mark about whether or not the Boise State offense could keep the production going after losing a pair of NFL receivers in Austin Pettis and Titus Young, question marks on the line and a new offensive coordinator. Now it’ll be up to another new offensive coordinator, Robert Prince, to try to make the nation’s ninth-best offense and fifth-best scoring offense going. The bigger problem is losing Kellen Moore at quarterback and Doug Martin out of the backfield. Fortunately, the line should be solid and the receiving corps is experienced and solid. D.J. Harper has to stay healthy at running back and a new quarterback – likely junior Joe Southwick – has to do the impossible and replace Moore, but Boise State always plugs in the holes and keeps on rolling.

Defense: Once again the defense was amazing, and it could be again despite the loss of nine starters. It broke down against TCU and gave up passing yards the San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, but secondary was strong and should be a rock despite the last of both starting safeties and the nickel defender. The corner situation is great, but it could be better with more of a pass rush. The hope will be for JUCO transfer Demarcus Lawrence to become a star on one side and for the tackles to crash into the backfield on a regular basis. J.C. Percy and Blake Renaud could be the Mountain West’s best linebacking duo. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has to figure out a way to generate more of a pass rush, but overall the numbers should be terrific.

T2. Fresno State
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-3

Offense: Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm has lots of great pieces to work with from an offense that was excellent, but wasn’t able to make up for the problems on defense. Quarterback Derek Carr should be among the Mountain West’s top offensive stars and a great leader for the new spread attack helped by Robbie Rouse, a big-time back coming off a 1,549-yard, 13 touchdown season. The big line is strong on the outside with both starting tackles returning and a veteran center in Richard Helepiko to lead the way. However, there should be plenty of movement to find the right combination. Top target Jalen Saunders transferred and Devon Wylie is gone, but there are plenty of good options for the four-wide system. There are plenty of speedsters and enough experience to get by with Rashad Evans and Josh Evans good enough to put up big numbers.

Defense: The defense was miserable getting ripped apart for 436 yards and 35 points per game, and worse yet, it couldn’t come up with any big plays tying for a nation-low with just nine takeaways. The run defense was bad and the pass defense worse giving rookie defensive coordinator Nick Toth a lot of work to do. There should be a good rotation in the middle up front in the 3-4 with Anthony Williams and Tyeler Davison big bodies to stuff things up. There needs to be more of a pass rush hoping for all-star Travis Brown to do even more at one outside linebacker spot. With end Tristan Okpalaugo moving to a hybrid linebacker, the corps is loaded with veterans. The secondary should be night-and-day better with the return of two key safeties. Free safety Derron Smith is back after suffering a broken arm, while strong safety Phillip Thomas should be one of the team’s leading tacklers and an all-star now that he’s back from a broken leg.

T2. Nevada
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 7-2

Offense: The Nevada offense will keep on being the Nevada offense. After an epic 2010 season there was supposed to be a drop-off – the Pack merely finished eighth in the nation in rushing and cranked out over 6,500 yards of offense while averaging close to 32 points per game. There are changes with new offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich more of a passing mind and with breakout star quarterback Cody Fajardo bulked up a bit and looking to throw more, but the running game will still rock with a slew of quick, talented backs working behind another strong line. The receiving corps is paper thin, but if Brandon Wimberly is back to form after missing all of last year recovering from a gunshot wound, and if tight end Zach Sudfeld can stay healthy, the passing game will be a positive.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Bradeson has a slew of veterans and upperclassmen to work with, but will it translate into talent? The Wolf Pack secondary is loaded with seniors, but corner Khalid Wooten and safety Duke Williams have to make more plays when the ball is in the air. The defensive line loses all the top pass rushers and has to hope for some young prospects to turn great springs into terrific seasons, while the linebacking corps has terrific promise and needs to stay healthy. There’s size, athleticism and everyone looks the part. Now the production has to start coming on a consistent basis.

4. Air Force
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-3

Offense: How does the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense replace the winningest quarterback in school history? Tim Jefferson might be gone, but Connor Dietz has been around long enough to know what he’s doing running the tremendous ground game. He’s not much of a passer, but he’s a good decision maker and very, very quick. Fullback Mike DeWitt should be able to pound away once again without a problem as the steadying force for the attack, but leading rusher Asher Clark has to be replaced. There’s more power than raw speed in the backfield with the depth a bit lacking among the tailbacks. Only two starters return on the line with left tackle Jason Kons the best blocker on the lot, but the Falcons never have problems finding replacements. The receiving corps is always along for the ride needing to make big plays when the chances are there, and Mikel Hunter get deep.

Defense: Will the Falcons ever get into the backfield? New co-defensive coordinators Steve Russ and Chartlon Warren will try to get more production out of the run defense. Rushing the passer isn’t always high on the team’s priority list, and last year it showed getting gouged way too often by good ground games. Sophomore Nick Fitzgerald is back and should be the best producer up front, but there are no sure-thing pass rushers. The linebacking corps gets back the team’s best playmaker in the backfield, Alex Means, but has to replace three other starters. On the plus side, the new defenders in the mix have plenty of experience. The secondary welcomes back Anthony Wooding at safety and has to hope three juniors can go from being nice backups to steady producers.

T5. Hawaii
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 4-5

Offense: Head coach Norm Chow and offensive coordinator Tommy Lee should ramp up the offensive production, but it might not be the normal Hawaii offense everyone is used to moving to more of a pro-style scheme. There will still be plenty of passing and lots and lots of yards through the air, but it might turn out to be a bit more of a conventional balanced attack – and for good reason. The running back situation is terrific with several good options to play around with and work more into the scheme, while the line full of promising underclassmen has the potential to grow into the best front five the program has had in a long time. The quarterback situation will be up in the air until late this summer, but there’s no real concern; Chow is simply giving everyone a shot. However, the receiving corps appears a bit average with lots of experience but without an obvious gamebreaker.

Defense: The defense was tremendous at getting to the quarterback and getting into the backfield, and it wasn’t bad against the run, but it struggled way too much against the better offenses and was wildly inconsistent. Seven starters are gone, but there won’t be much of a problem filling in the blanks at linebacker or in the secondary. The defensive backs can fly and Art Laurel is a pass rushing terror of an outside linebacker, but they all need help from a retooled defensive front that has nice potential at all four spots even if the experience isn’t there. Defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer might not be as aggressive as the former coaching staff was, but he’ll make sure the pressure is coming from several spots.

T5. San Diego State
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 4-5

Offense: The Aztec attack has some major rebuilding to do, but the production might not be all that bad after a little bit of time. Gone are QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman, but the backfield is full of quick options and should work more in a running back by committee approach. The quarterback situation has been whittled down to Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz and last year’s backup Adam Dingwell with the starter getting a terrific receiving corps to work with. Gavin Escobar is one of the nation’s best tight ends, while USC transfer Brice Butler upgrades the talent level of an experienced group. Even though the line has to come up with some major replacements after a terrific year, it’ll be a quick and athletic front five that should be fine with a little bit of time.

Defense: Head coach Rocky Long took over the defensive coordinator job a few years ago and has done a strong job improving a mediocre situation. The 3-3-5 alignment gets plenty of speed and athleticism on the field, but it has been inconsistent. Any team on the schedule that could throw was able to do it without a problem even against the five defensive backs. The secondary should be good with plenty of safety prospects and star corner Leon McFadden, but getting help from the pass rush needs to be a must after leading the Mountain West in sacks and tackles for loss. The linebacking corps loses star Miles Burris, but a slew of good young options are expected to pick up the slack while rising sophomore Jake Fely should put up huge numbers. The issue will be a quick line that has no size whatsoever. It’ll take a steady rotation to keep everyone healthy, but everyone up front can move. What the D will lack in size and strength it will make up for in aggressiveness.

7. Wyoming
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 3-6

Offense: The offense did a nice job running the ball, and while it was inconsistent and struggled with the better teams, it took a big step forward thanks to the emergence of quarterback Brett Smith. While he provided just the spark needed as a dual threat playmaker, he made too many true freshman mistakes and struggled with ball security. Smith will be the team’s best runner, and while top back Alvester Alexander might be gone there are several veterans to work into the rotation led by sophomore Kody Sutton. Chris McNeill is a good No. 1 target who should be Smith’s go-to guy, while Robert Herron and Trey Norman are speedsters who can stretch the field. The problem could be up front with a shuffling line that needs Nick Carlson to grow even more after showing he could handle the work at center. Only two starters are back on the line that will move around the parts when needed.

Defense: The line has to be more aggressive and it has to start doing more against the run after being gouged for 232 yards per game and failing to get into the backfield on a regular basis. New defensive coordinator Chris Tormey has a few decent veterans in tackle Mike Purcell and end Ben Durbin to start with. The linebackers can move and has maturity in the middle in Oliver Schober who should be one of the team’s leading tacklers now that he knows what he’s doing. The strength of the defense and possibly the team could be at safety if all-star candidates Luke Ruff and Luke Anderson can come back healthy after missing most of the offseason hurt. The coaching staff is trying to form a steady rotation at all four spots and needs to come up with a shut-down corner.

8. Colorado State
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-7

Offense: New head coach Jim McElwain has to work some offensive magic for an attack that finished 101st in the nation and struggled to score. Gone is Pete Thomas, the supposed franchise quarterback who took off to NC State, and in steps either Garrett Grayson or big-armed redshirt freshman Conner Smith to try to turn things around. Bruising running back Chris Nwoke will be the featured star of the offense with workhorse ability and surprising speed, but the proven depth is lacking. The receiving corps has veterans with the top three targets returning and a star in the making in Marquise Law. The line has to be more physical and more consistent, and it could be with three starters returning and a good center in Weston Richburg to lead the transition. However, the pass protection that was a nightmare last season didn’t make a big improvement this offseason.

Defense: The run defense was among the worst in the nation and the pass defense was statistically okay because everyone spent time pounding away. The one positive was Nordly Capi and the pass rush, but he was kicked off the team along with third-leading tackler Mike Orakpo after their part in a fight. Using a 3-4, the Rams have a few big ends but desperately needs Arizona State transfer Calvin Tonga to show up in the interior. With more good linebackers than linemen, the new alignment works helped by the return of the team’s two leading returning tacklers Shaquil Barrett and James Skelton. Momo Thomas and former safety Shaq Bell are better corners than the stats might indicate, and while the safeties are questionable, they can run.

T9. New Mexico
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 1-8

Offense: Offensive coordinator Bob Debesse will try to revamp an attack that finished 113th in the nation in yards and dead last in scoring averaging a paltry 12 points per game and scoring more than seven points just twice in the final seven games. B.R. Holbrook has been around the quarterback mix for years and should be fine as long as he doesn’t have to bomb away. He needs time to work behind a thin line that’s woefully lacking in depth. On the plus side, four starters return with former JUCO transfer Korian Chambers and versatile Dillon Farrell needing to establish themselves more at tackle. Tight end Lucas Reed is a good go-to target to revolve a passing game around and receiver Ty Kirk is one of the Mountain West’s fastest players. The running back combination of Demarcus Rogers and Kasey Carrier should be fine as long as the line does its job.

Defense: Bob Davie is a defensive coach by nature, and he has assembled a terrific staff led by new coordinator Jeff Mills. Reggie Ellis (Illinois) and Rod Davis (Texas A&M) are two transfers who were okay last season but are expected to do far more up front. The miserable pass rush has to hope to start getting something out of the linebackers in a 3-4 scheme. Tackling machine Carmen Messina is gone, but Dallas Bollema should make plenty of plays on the inside and Joseph Harris is moving from the line to a more natural outside linebacker position. The secondary that was last in college football in pass efficiency defense has a decent corner in Destry Berry and veteran safety Dante Caro to build around.

T9. UNLV
Predicted Overall Record: 2-10
Predicted Conference Record: 1-8

Offense: New offensive coordinator Brent Myers takes over after leading the Louisville offensive line and running game, fitting in with what head coach Bobby Hauck wants to do. The goal from the start of Hauck’s tenure has been to be more physical, and now he has the line to do it with all five starters back including three sophomores who took their lumps last season. The receiving corps is all but starting from scratch and the quarterback situation needs to be stronger with Caleb Herring and Nick Sherry needing to be more consistent. The ground game, though, should be the strength with Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle a speedy 1-2 punch to carry the attack.

Defense: The Rebels just can’t find any defensive production allowing 40 points or more 15 times over the last two seasons. The pass rush hasn’t shown up in years and the secondary hasn’t been able to come up with big plays on a consistent basis. The hope is that a deep D will be fresher and stronger led by a front four that should have a nice rotation on the ends. The tackles as big and can move, but now that have to stop someone’s ground attack. The linebackers might be the team’s biggest strength led by rising star John Lotulelei and with a strong group of second-teamers. And then there’s the secondary – it’s a big issue. The defensive backs can move, but they’re extremely green and need time. Unless the pass rush starts to come from the front four, it’s going to be a long year against teams that can throw efficiently.

- 2012 Air Force Preview | 2012 Boise State Preview 
- 2012 Colorado State Preview2012 Fresno State Preview
- 2012 Hawaii Preview | 2012 Nevada Preview
- 2012 New Mexico Preview | 2012 San Diego State Preview
- 2012 UNLV Preview | 2012 Wyoming Preview

- 2012 Mountain West Preview
- 2012 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2012 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 Mountain West Preview | 2010 Mountain West Preview