2008 CFN Mountain West Team Capsules
TCU RB Aaron Brown
TCU RB Aaron Brown
Posted Jun 20, 2008

2008 CFN Mountain West Predictions and Team-by-Team Thumbnail Views

2008 CFN Mountain West Preview

Predictions & Quick Team Previews

Team Previews & Predictions
Air Force | BYU | Colorado State | New Mexico
San Diego State
| TCU | UNLV | Utah | Wyoming

- 2008 CFN Mountain West Preview
- CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
Mountain West Unit Rankings

- Mountain West Schedules & Predictions

Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
QB Max Hall, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Jan Jorgensen, Jr.
Offense: The offense might not have been as explosive as its reputation, but it was good enough to lead the Mountain West in every major category except for rushing offense. There will be plenty of passing, lots of points, at least more than last year when the Cougars averaged 30 per game, and more balance. Nine starters return, and one of the losses, Manase Tonga, will be replaced by veteran Fui Vakapuna. It all starts up front as Dallas Reynolds and Ray Feinga lead a very big, very good line that'll give Mountain West Player of the Year candidate, QB Max Hall, plenty of time to work. WR Austin Collie and TE Dennis Pitta will combine for at least 100 catches again, while freshman sensation Harvey Unga is a superstar back ready for a bigger profile.
Defense: Only three starters return to the 3-4 D that finished 10th in the nation and ninth in points allowed, but one of them is DE Jan Jorgensen, an All-America caliber pass rusher. David Nixon is the only returning starter to what was a great LB corps in ’07, but there are several experienced reserves, like Shawn Doman, ready to step in. Even with all of the replacements, the front seven should be tremendous; the BYU coaching staff knows how to plug the holes. The biggest issue is at cornerback. Scott Johnson and Brandon Howard will get the first look at starting spots, and while they might be a bit green at first, they should be fine in time. If they’re not great, the scheme breaks down.

Predicted record: 9-3  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: RB Aaron Brown, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Jason Phillips, Sr.
Offense: Maddeningly inconsistent and almost never explosive, the TCU offense was a big disappointment. However, it might have been a step back to take a giant leap forward. Injuries shuffled things up a bit on the line, and now four starters return to a group that should be far better for the running game while continuing to be decent in pass protection. QB Andy Dalton needed all season to figure out what he was doing, but he eventually grew into a solid starter. Now he needs receivers, and while there's a ton of big-time upside in a corps with four good-looking sophomores, to go along with top tight end Shae Reagan, there needs to be more production. The big key will be the health of the running backs. If Aaron Brown can stay healthy, after breaking his ankle last year, and if Joseph Turner can return from a torn up knee, the running game will be devastating.
Defense: While the defense was hardly bad finishing 15th in the nation and tenth in scoring defense, it was a slight disappointment considering all the returning talent the Horned Frogs got back. This year's D should be rock-solid as long as the ends can shine in place of Chase Ortiz and Tommy Blake, who had a down year thanks to a variety of issues, and if there aren't a slew of early injuries. The 4-2-5 should be fantastic against the run with the linebacking punch of Jason Phillips and Robert Henson getting to everything the great tackles don't stuff. The corner tandem of Rafael Priest and Nick Sanders should be among the best in the Mountain West.

T1. Utah
Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: QB Brian Johnson, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: CB Brice McCain, Sr.

Offense: Considering Utah lost its two star offensive weapons, QB Brian Johnson and RB Matt Asiata, in the first game of the season, and its top receiving weapon, Brent Casteel, in the second game, the offense turned out to not be that awful. Johnson returned, but he wasn't the same having to worry about keeping an injured shoulder healthy. Darrell Mack took over the rushing duties and became a star, and the receiving corps was fine. This year, all the pieces are in place to explode. There's an exciting option in Corbin Louks if Johnson gets hurt again, Asiata is back to work with Mack in the backfield, Casteel returns as the team's most dangerous target, and even with all of that, the line might be the team's strength with three possible first-team All-Mountain West stars in tackle Zane Beadles and guards Caleb Schlauderaff and Robert Conley.
Defense: The defense became a killer as last year went on, and if the linebackers can come through, this could be the Mountain West's best D. The secondary that led the nation in pass efficiency defense welcomes back four starters in a five-spot rotation (Utah often goes with five DBs) led by the all-star corner Brice McCain. FS Robert Johnson appears ready to be the next great Utah defensive back as he fills the leadership role left by Steve Tate. The pass rush has the potential to be dominant with the expected emergence of end Paul Kruger into a special player, while Koa Misi moved from tackle to his more natural end spot. The tackles might not be superior, but they're big. It'll all come down to the linebacking corps. Stevenson Sylvester will be an all-star at the Rover linebacker, but the other two spots will have to get by with serviceable talents.

4. New Mexico
Predicted record: 8-4  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
RB Rodney Ferguson, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
CB DeAndre Wright, Sr.
Offense: The offense might not have put up huge yards, and it struggled to get points on the board, but it was effective enough to do what was needed to win nine games and has just enough pieces in place to be a lot better. It starts in the backfield with QB Donovan Porterie ready to have a huge season now that he has two years of experience and with the same offense in place. RB Rodney Ferguson is a big, pounding runner who'll gain 1,000 yards for the third year in a row if he stays healthy. The offensive line loses four starters, but it should be fine if the JUCO transfers play as well as expected and if redshirt freshman Byron Bell is as good as advertised. The biggest issue is a receiving corps with no real returning production with Marcus Smith and Travis Brown gone.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Osia Lewis took off for UTEP with Troy Reffett taking over, but there won't be much of a change in styles. This is really still head coach Rocky Long's defense with the 3-3-5 system looking to attack and blitz and be disruptive. The corner tandem of DeAndre Wright and Glover Quin is the team's biggest strength, while the safeties aren't far behind. The problem is in the front six where there's no pass rush to count on and absolutely no depth, especially at linebacker. The system and the defense will be better than the players, and there will be production as the season goes on, but it could be a long first month or so until everyone gets used to what they're doing.

T5. Air Force
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
TE Travis Dekker, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
NG Ben Garland, Jr.
Offense: The team's top six runners, top two pass catchers, and the four-year starting quarterback are all gone, so this is a total rebuilding year, right? Maybe not. The system under Troy Calhoun is sound enough to plug the pieces in to the right holes and get the same productions. At least that's the hope. As always, there are loads of small, quick backs to choose from, with Ty Paffett the likely heir apparent to Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, Chad Hall, but the big concern is at quarterback where several players will battle to take over for Shaun Carney with two likely to rotate. Eric Herbort will likely get the start with Shea Smith still battling for the job. The offensive line should be one of the team's early strengths with a good starting five to work around.
Defense: One of the most impressive changes in year one under Troy Calhoun was the transformation of the defense from abysmal to solid thanks to the switch to a 3-4 scheme. Everything worked because the linebacking corps was excellent and there was experience in the secondary; luxuries the team won't have this year. Six starters need to be replaced in the back eight, and there's no developed depth whatsoever, so it might take a few games before this group starts to produce at least year's level. That means the veteran front three, led by end Ryan Kemp and nose guard Ben Garland, have to be even better. Generating pressure from the front seven is a must to save the secondary, while someone has to become a pickoff artist with the returning players generating just one of last year's 15 interceptions.

T5. Colorado State
Predicted record: 5-7  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Kyle Bell & Gartrell Johnson, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Jeff Horinek, Sr.

Offense: The offense was a disappointment yet again, but at least this year it knows what it's going to be. Forget about anything cute; with a big, beefy, veteran line, and the powerful 1-2 rushing punch of Gartrell Johnson and Kyle Bell, the Rams are going to try to flatten defenses. It has to with the passing game a potential mess. The line hasn't protected the passer in years, and it has to be better with a new quarterback to work with, likely career backup Billy Farris, and a dark green receiving corps to break in. Any consistency out of a passing game that was efficient last year will be a plus when the offense isn't pounding away.
Defense: The defense wasn't awful last season, but it was ranked among the worst in the Mountain West and needs to be better against the run and has to get in the backfield on a more consistent basis to improve. The linebacking corps is set with all three starters returning including all-star Jeff Horinek in the middle. After a variety of problems last season, safeties Klint Kubiak and Mike Pagnotta are back and healthy; they'll be a huge upgrade in the secondary. Tommie Hill is a great pass rusher, but the line isn't anything special and has to be far more physical. The biggest issue will be the corners with no experience whatsoever. They'll be good in time, but they'll have some rough spots unless the pass rush improves.

T5. Wyoming
Predicted record:
6-6  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Devin Moore, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DT John Fletcher, Jr.

Offense: For the second straight season, the offense struggled and went flat stagnant against the better defenses. Worst of all, it failed to improve as the season went on. There's hope for a turnaround with five starters returning up front to pave the way for solid backs Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon. The attack will use a fullback at times, as opposed to the usual one-back set, and it'll need to with the ground game sure to be the bread-and-butter. The quarterback situation is a mess with five player battling for the starting job, with Karsten Sween the odds-on favorite to get the nod. The Mountain West's most inefficient passing attack needs more production, which could be a problem with an almost brand new, but promising, receiving corps.
Defense: For the third straight year, the Cowboy defense started strong and died at the end, no thanks to the offense. There are excellent pieces to work with this season starting up front with a fantastic threesome for the 3-4. John Fletcher and Mitch Unrein are tackle-sized ends who should be among the most disruptive in the Mountain West, and each has next level potential. The secondary should be great with corner Marcell Gipson back after missing all of last year due to personal reasons. Big tackling Ward Dobbs leads a decent group of linebackers that'll make or break the defense.

T7. San Diego State
Predicted record: 4-8  Conf. record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: RB Brandon Sullivan, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Russell Allen, Sr.
Offense: The offense last year was Kevin O'Connell, Kevin O'Connell, and Kevin O'Connell. His departure leaves a gaping hole at quarterback where three untested prospects will battle it out for the job, with Ryan Lindley the most likely winner. Quarterback is the least of the problems. The running backs and receivers have little overall experience, but they're extremely promising and will be good if the other parts of the puzzle are fine. The big issue is a line that was awful last year and now will throw four new starters to the wolves with three of them redshirt freshmen. Basically, the offense has to find something it can do well without O'Connell.
Defense: The defense was supposed to be a problem last season, and it lived up, or down, to the expectations finishing 115th in the nation in yards allowed while giving up 34.42 points per game. The D dominated throughout spring ball, but was that because of an overall improvement or is the offense really that bad. (It's a little of both.) The potential is there for a bit of a turnaround under defensive coordinator Bob Elliott as nine starters return led by Russell Allen and a good linebacking corps. The key will be the pressure generated from a front four that did absolutely nothing last season. The secondary has decent veterans, but they never had a chance with opposing quarterbacks getting ten days to throw. The front four has to be stronger against the run to allow the linebackers to take more chances.

Predicted record: 3-9  Conf. record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: RB Frank Summers, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Starr Fuimaono, Jr.
Offense: It's all about the experience in the Rebel Shotgun Spread with nine starters returning, several backups with starting experience, and a whole bunch of hope that this is the year the attack finally produces on a consistent basis. The line is big and strong led by emerging star Matt Murphy at left tackle. The receiving corps boasts one of the Mountain West's best 1-2 punches in Ryan Wolfe and Casey Flair, while Frank "the Tank" Summers should be among the league's rushing leaders. It all comes down to the quarterbacks, and the issue might not be settled all season long. Four players will get an equal shot at the starting job, but it'll come down to Omar Clayton and Travis Dixon to see who can be the most consistent.
Defense: New defensive coordinator Dennis Therrell will try to get his defense to sell out against the run after yet another tough season against good ground games. He has the tackles in Malo Taumua and Jacob Hales to revolve around, but the smallish, yet potentially good linebacking corps should be quick enough to clean up plenty of messes. The big problem could be in the overall fit. There are plenty of good athletes, like UNLV always has, and there's more talented depth than usual, but there aren't a lot of stars and the size of the back seven could be a big problem. Getting into the backfield on a regular basis is a must after finishing 117th in the nation in tackles for loss, and JUCO transfer Heivaha Mafi could be just the tonic.