2009 Early Mountain West Lookaheads
BYU QB Max Hall
BYU QB Max Hall
Posted Feb 14, 2009

It was a breakthrough year for the Mountain West with several big wins. Can the league keep the momentum going? Will Max Hall and BYU get back on top after taking a step back? Here's an early look ahead at each Mountain West team with what needs working on and why to be excited and grouchy.

2009 Mountain West Lookaheads

2009 Pages
Air Force | BYU | Colorado State | New Mexico
San Diego State | TCU | UNLV | Utah | Wyoming

2008 Pages
Air Force | BYU | Colorado State | New Mexico
San Diego State | TCU | UNLV | Utah | Wyoming
- 2008 CFN All-M-West Team
| 2008 CFN Preseason All-M-West Team
- 2008 M-West Lookback/Recaps | 2008 M-West Lookaheads

 - 2008 Mountain West Lookbacks/Recaps

Air Force

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5   Final Record: 8-5

Why to get excited
: Air Force led the Mountain West in rushing last year, averaging 267 yards per game, and that was with two true freshmen leading the way. QB Tim Jefferson and RB Asher Clark are back after being thrown to the wolves, while Jared Tew is ready to step in for fullback Todd Newell. Helping the running game will be the return of three offensive linemen.

Why to be grouchy: Jake Paulsen is gone. It’s not often that Air Force has a truly dominant defensive lineman, and it had an All-Mountain West sackmaster in Paulson, who finished with nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. The Falcons finished second in the Mountain West in sacks and third in tackles for loss, and that’ll be tough to do again without Paulsen.

The number one thing to work on is: Getting even more out of the running game. Air Force is a running team. The passing game is efficient, but the Falcons are never going to be Texas Tech, and they’re not really going to have the balance everyone has hinted at for year. With good veterans returning in the backfield, the ground game has to be even more effective and even more consistent.

Biggest offensive loss
: C Andrew Pipes
Biggest defensive loss: DE Jake Paulson
Best returning offensive player: OG Nick Charles, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: SS Chris Thomas, Sr.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2   Final Record: 10-3

Why to get excited
: Just about everyone is back on a defense that wasn’t all that bad. Eight starters, including DE Jan Jorgensen, return, while QB Max Hall and TE Dennis Pitta lead an offense that should be among the best in the Mountain West again; BYU can reload quickly across the board. The two big Mountain West games, TCU and Utah, were on the road last year.

Why to be grouchy: Yeah, BYU is good at finding replacements, but it has to replace four starters on the offensive front and has to replace WR Austin Collie, who left a year early. Receivers Michael Reed and Reed White are also gone. The punting game led the Mountain West last season, and now C.J. Santiago is gone. The defense might get back most of the starters, but it’ll mss safety David Tafuna and LB Travis Bright.

The number one thing to work on is: A pass rush. There’s no excuse to not be better at getting into the backfield with a star end in Jorgensen to work around. He’s a tremendous pass rusher who only came up with five sacks last year because everyone sent two and three players to block him. No one else stepped up, and going into this year, the defensive front has to be better at making plays in the backfield and has to improve at hitting the quarterback.

Biggest offensive loss
: WR Austin Collie
Biggest defensive loss: LB David Nixon
Best returning offensive player: QB Max Hall, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Jan Jorgensen, Sr.

Colorado State

CFN Preseason Prediction: 5-7   Final Record: 7-6

Why to get excited
: The defensive back seven should be far better. After finishing last in the Mountain West against the pass last year (partly because of a woeful pass rush), the Rams should improve with a more experienced group returning. Five starters are back led by both corners, Nick Oppenneer and Gerard Thomas. The offense returns WR Rashaun Greer along with four starters on the line.

Why to be grouchy: New skill players need to step up. The offense relied on RB Gartrell Johnson down the stretch, and now he’s gone along with backup Kyle Bell. QB Billy Farris is also gone, meaning it’ll be a battle between Grant Stucker and Klay Kubiak for the job. For good and bad, three starters have to be replaced on the defensive line. Why is that good … ?

The number one thing to work on is: Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. The Rams had the nation’s worst pass rush with a mere nine on the season. That was a great game for TCU. They were second-to-last in the nation in tackles for loss. With three starters needing to be replaced up front, job one will be to find more quickness and athleticism to wreak a little bit of havoc in opposing backfields.

Biggest offensive loss
: RB Gartrell Johnson
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jeff Horinek
Best returning offensive player: OG Shelley Smith, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Ricky Brewer, Jr.

New Mexico

CFN Preseason Prediction: 8-4   Final Record: 4-8

Why to get excited
: New head man Mike Locksley has a good coaching staff in place. Former North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey is handling the offense, a no-huddle offense, while the rest of the coaches, led by former LSU co-defensive coordinator, Doug Mallory, are young and talented. The secondary gets back safety Clint McPeek, who should be in for a huge season, while the offense gets back all the receivers.

Why to be grouchy: The backfield needs work after losing backs Rodney Ferguson and Paul Baker, while the quarterback situation is up in the air. The defensive front has to replace all three starters, while linebackers Herbert Felder and Zach Arnett are gone. The biggest loss is Glover Quin, one of the Mountain West’s premier corners.

The number one thing to work on is: The quarterback. Donovan Porterie is still trying to bounce back from his horrible knee injury and might not be ready in time to get into the new offense. Brad Gruner, last year’s starter over the second half of the year, was mediocre, meaning Tate Smith and others will have a chance at the gig.

Biggest offensive loss
: RB Rodney Ferguson
Biggest defensive loss: CB Glover Quin
Best returning offensive player: QB Donovan Porterie, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: S Clint McPeek, Sr.

San Diego State
CFN Preseason Prediction: 4-8   Final Record: 2-10

Why to get excited
: If new head coach Brady Hoke can pull a few rabbits out of his hat, SDSU has the potential to make some noise early on. Five starters return to the defensive front seven, while nine starters, including QB Ryan Lindley, are back on offense. This was a relatively young team last year all the way around, and it still has room to mature.

Why to be grouchy: The secondary struggled throughout last year, and for good and bad, it has to replace three starters. The team’s best player, LB Russell Allen, will be next to impossible to replace. The offense might return a ton of experience, but there are miles to go before the attack is serviceable. Hoke and his staff has a ton of work to do.

The number one thing to work on is: Improving the lines. The Aztecs couldn’t run block and couldn’t get into the backfield. They also weren’t able to stop the run, getting shoved around by 248 yards per game while allowing 35 touchdowns. Nothing else will work until the players in the trenches start to play better.

Biggest offensive loss
: WR/TE Darren Mougey
Biggest defensive loss: LB Russell Allen
Best returning offensive player: QB Ryan Lindley, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: DE B.J. Williams, Jr.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 9-3   Final Record: 11-2

Why to get excited
: The offense that was so strong last year, but took a back seat in publicity to the great defense, is loaded. Leading rusher Aaron Brown is gone, but Ryan Christian, Joseph Turner, and QB Andy Dalton should be able to keep the ground game rolling behind a strong offensive line that starts with three starters. Jimmy Young is one of the Mountain West’s most dangerous receivers and should be a star from day one.

Why to be grouchy: The phenomenal defense should be able to reload with a little bit of time, but there are a lot of holes to fill. Jerry Hughes might be back on the defensive line, but three of the starters are gone. Linebackers Jason Phillips and Robert Henson were killers, and while the overall production will be there in time, these two will be missed.

The number one thing to work on is: Reloading on the defensive front. The Horned Frogs were able to do it last year, but it’s asking a lot to do it two years in a row. DT Cody Moore and DE Matt Panfil were all-stars who were all but unstoppable for stretches, and now it’ll be up to Kelly Griffin, Cory Grant, Wayne Daniels and Ryan Forrest to emerge as new stars for the front wall. Their development will likely be the key to the TCU season an the Mountain West race.

Biggest offensive loss
: C Blake Schlueter
Biggest defensive loss: LBs Jason Phillips & Robert Henson
Best returning offensive player: OT Marshall Newhouse, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Jerry Hughes, Sr.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 3-9   Final Record: 5-7

Why to get excited
: The offense was just starting to find something that worked throughout last season with an efficient passing game that led to a respectable 223 yards and 26 points per game, and now the key parts are back. The quarterback situation needs work (more on that in a moment), but receivers Ryan Wolfe, Rodelin Anthony, Jerriman Robinson and Phillip Payne should make the passing game go. The pass protection last year was excellent, and both starting tackles, Matt Murphy and Evan Marchal, return. Eight starters are back on defense.

Why to be grouchy: It’s not like the defensive line did much of anything, and now it has to replace tackle Jacob Hales and end Thor Pili. The offense might be a bit better, but it’s not necessarily going to be more explosive. It’ll need to be to make up for the issue on defense.

The number one thing to work on is: The quarterback situation. Omar Clayton has to come back healthy from a knee injury that knocked him out late in the season. He wasn’t always rock-solid, but he was emerging as the quarterback the program could rely on. Mike Clausen stepped in and was good, throwing for 767 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions, but the left-handed sophomore-to-be will have a fight to get the job.

Biggest offensive loss
: RB Frank Summers
Biggest defensive loss: DT Jacob Hales
Best returning offensive player: WR Ryan Wolfe, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DT Malo Taumua, Jr.

CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2   Final Record: 13-0

Why to get excited
: Eight starters return to the defense that finished second in the Mountain West in most categories (behind TCU), was 11th in the nation in total defense, and 12th in scoring D. It would’ve been nice if DE Paul Kruger and CB Sean Smith hadn’t left early for the NFL, but the defense should still be a killer with players like LB Stevenson Sylvester and DE Koa Misi returning. Almost all the key defensive backups are back. Three starters are back on the offensive line.

Why to be grouchy: QB Brian Johnson was the heart and soul of the offense. He was a steady, productive playmaker who made things go. RB Darrell Mack is gone, as are top receivers Bradon Godfrey. Brent Casteel, and Freddie Brown. There’s no replacing Louie Sakoda, the nation’s best all-around kicker.

The number one thing to work on is: The quarterback situation. The Utes need to find a new star to build around. Corbin Louks came to Utah as a top recruit and big upside, but can he pull out games and make key play after key play like Johnson could? If not, it’ll be up to JUCO transfer Terrance Cain or recruit Jordan Wynn to add more of a vertical threat to the passing game.

Biggest offensive loss
: QB Brian Johnson
Biggest defensive loss: DE Paul Kruger
Best returning offensive player: OT Zane Beadles, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Stevenson Sylvester, Sr.


CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6   Final Record: 4-8

Why to get excited
: Help is on the way. New head coach Dave Christensen made it his first priority to bring in more options at quarterback to go along with all the pieces currently in place. JUCO transfer Robert Benjamin was an excellent pick up this recruiting season, while Austyn Carta-Samuels is the type of spread quarterback who could end up starting right away. Karsten Sween is still in the mix, especially now that he’s able to run a more natural spread attack, and Chris Stutzriem and Dax Crum are veterans who have seen starting time and will push for the job.

Why to be grouchy: Some of the team’s best players are gone. The one thing that worked last year was the running game, and now it’ll be without Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon. Defensively, Ward Dobbs was a first-team All-Mountain West linebacker who’ll be missed. Guard Kyle Howard was the team’s best offensive lineman.

The number one thing to work on is: Finding a way to score. Just because Christensen and the new coaching staff are bringing in a new spread offense, that doesn’t automatically mean the points will start rolling in. This is an offense that couldn’t get points on the board, scoring more than 16 points just three times, and being held to seven points or fewer in five games. The passing game will have to be far more efficient and far more consistent.

Biggest offensive loss
: RB Devin Moore
Biggest defensive loss: LB Ward Dobbs
Best returning offensive player: OT Ryan Otterson, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DT John Fletcher, Sr.