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Mountain West Preview 2006 - Unit Rankings

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 9, 2006


CollegeFootballNews.com 2006 Mountain West Preview Unit Rankings

Offenses
1. BYU
While BYU technically uses the spread offense and certainly has the ability to run the ball with Curtis Brown and an NFL-sized offensive line, this is a passing attack. John Beck is mobile, but he's a bomber with a good array of weapons to work with. Brown is a fantastic receiver, and tight end Jonny Harline is one of the nation's best. Now the wide receivers have to step up with the loss of deep threat Todd Watkins. This is an offense that can score in bunches, but it can't bog down like it did at times. With more experience in the system, the attack should be more consistent.
2. TCU
3. Utah
4. San Diego State
5. New Mexico
6. Wyoming
7. Colorado State
8. UNLV
9. Air Force

Quarterbacks
1. Utah
There's no wrong answer here. Brian Johnson might be the best player in the Mountain West when he's 100% healthy, but he still has to prove that he can be the same all-around player after coming off a knee injury. Brett Ratliff was tremendous in relief duty late last season and is more than good enough lead the Utes to the conference title. Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady provides a big passing option, and Kevin Dunn is a nice prospect to work on for the future.
2. BYU
3. TCU
4. San Diego State
5. New Mexico
6. Air Force
7. Wyoming
8. UNLV
9. Colorado State

Running Backs
1. TCU
There are three tremendous backs who could all see starting time at some point. Lonta Hobbs is the biggest of the three options and the most productive, but he has to stay healthy to get the number one job. Robert Merrill has been a solid back for the last few seasons and can carry the workload when needed. Aaron Brown is special when he gets the chance to get in a groove. The three should combine for about 2,000 yards if everything works right. William Jackson is a solid blocking back.
2. San Diego State
3. BYU
4. Wyoming
5. Colorado State
6. UNLV
7. New Mexico
8. Air Force
9. Utah

Receivers
1. Utah
The Utes will be fine despite losing top two targets Travis LaTendresse and John Madsen. A variety of injuries to the receiving corps last season allowed several young players get their feet wet, and it'll pay off with an exciting group forming around Brian Hernandez. Sophomores Brent Casteel and Marquis Wilson are fast playmakers who'll each get the ball in their hands in a variety of ways, while Derrek Richards brings even more speed. The depth is lacking in a huge way; there will be problems if injuries strike like they did last season.
2. BYU
3. TCU
4. Colorado State
5. UNLV
6. Wyoming
7. San Diego State
8. Air Force

Offensive Lines
1. BYU
While there's little in the way of developed depth and the starting five loses center Lance Reynolds and guard Brian Sanders, this should be the Mountain West's best line. Tackle Jake Kuresa is one of the league's best and a great anchor to run the offense behind, while the left side should grow into a strength with 345-pound guard Dallas Reynolds on the verge of really big things. Consistency will be the key early on; the starting five stayed healthy playing every game together but one last year.
2. Utah
3. New Mexico
4. Air Force
5. TCU
6. Colorado State
7. Wyoming
8. San Diego State
9. UNLV

Defenses
1. TCU
Seven starters return to the Mountain West's best defense after forcing a nation-leading 40 turnovers and holding teams to 108 rushing yards per game. Take away the wild 51-50 overtime shootout with BYU and the Horned Frog defense allowed a mere 15.7 points per game. The defensive line should be unreal when it comes to getting into the backfield thanks to the return of ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, but there will be early concern over the new tackles. Cornerback is a worry for the secondary needing seniors Vernon Russell and Mike Salvage to shine right away. Things are rock-solid up the middle with a great linebacking corps and excellent safeties.
2. Utah
3. San Diego State
4. Colorado State
5. BYU
6. New Mexico
7. Wyoming
8. Air Force
9. UNLV


Defensive Lines
1. TCU
Losing top tackles Zarnell Fitch and Jared Kesler hurts a little bit, but there's size returning in Jarracea Williams, Lorenzo Jones and Cody Moore to give hope that the situation inside is fine. Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz form one of the nation's best 1-2 pass rushing tandems, and there's experience behind them with Jamison Newby strong enough to start. Getting to the quarterback won't be a problem, so the only question is if the tackles can hold up inside.
2. Utah
3. BYU
4. Colorado State
5. New Mexico
6. San Diego State
7. Wyoming
8. Air Force
9. UNLV

Linebackers
1. TCU
All the key parts return to a linebacking corps that'll feature speed and two tremendous up-and-coming sophomores. Jason Phillips and Robert Henson finished 1-2 in tackles last year and should be the team's leaders once again. Phillips played like a veteran in the middle, while Henson tore up offense despite only getting two starts. David Hawthorne can start at either spot if needed, while LSU transfer Darius Ingram is a promising option on the strongside.
2. Utah
3. BYU
4. New Mexico
5. San Diego State
6. Wyoming
7. Colorado State
8. UNLV
9. Air Force

Defensive Backs
1. San Diego State
The Aztec secondary was excellent at times last season finishing 22nd in the nation in pass efficiency defense and second in the Mountain West in pass defense. Three starters return including the ultra-productive corner combination of Terrell Maze and Donny Baker. The one big loss is at one of the safety spots with Marcus Demps to be replaced by the combination of Brett Sturm and T.J. McKay. The big problem is with experience at backup corner, but the redshirt freshmen are speedy.
2. Utah
3. TCU
4. Colorado State
5. UNLV
6. New Mexico
7. Wyoming
8. BYU
9. Air Force

Special Teams
1. TCU
Chris Manfredini should be an All-Mountain West placekicker and punter Brian Cortney should be reliable, and now the hope is for more range from the entire kicking game. Losing All-America kick returner Cory Rodgers is a killer after he averaged 30.3 yards on kickoff returns and 15.3 yards per punt returns. Michael DePriest will be the main kickoff returner and will join Donald Massey to try out returning punts. The coverage units were amazing last year and should be rock solid again.
2. Colorado State
3. San Diego State
4. UNLV
5. BYU
6. Wyoming
7. Utah
8. New Mexico
9. Air Force