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2010 M-West Preview - Team By Team Looks

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 11, 2010


Preview 2010 - CFN Mountain West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2010

M-West Team By Team


- Air Force Preview | BYU Preview | Colorado State Preview
- New Mexico Preview | San Diego State Preview | TCU Preview
- UNLV Preview | Utah Preview | Wyoming Preview

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

Predicted Champion: Utah

Mountain West Predicted Finish

T1. Utah
Predicted Overall Record: 10-2
Predicted Conference Record: 7-1

Offense: For all of the success and all the wins over the last few years, the offense hasn’t been consistent. There have been times when it was fantastic in the big games, and other times when it took too much effort to get the machine working. With eight returning starters including four up front, there should be more production. The backfield is loaded with three all-star caliber running backs in Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide, and Sausan Shakerin, and they should be good enough to combine for around 2,000 yards. Jordan Wynn is ready to be the starting quarterback for a full season after stepping in as a true freshman, but veteran Terrance Cain and Griff Robles are good enough to step up and push for time. The receiving corps will be the biggest question mark early on, but there are plenty of decent options to keep the passing game moving.
Defense: The Utah defense has grown into a perennial rock, but this season will test the coaching staff’s ability to get great production with a blank canvas to work with. The front four will be terrific with a little bit of time thanks to a great rotation and at least two good options for every spot. With a line full of quick tackles of different sizes, this will be an active, dangerous group that carries the D. The secondary has to make major changes around underappreciated corner Brandon Burton, but there’s speed to burn and the production will come with a little bit of time. And then there are the linebackers. The loss of Nai Fotu to a torn ACL crippled the position with a slew of misfits being thrown together with the hope for the tackles to follow. Walk-ons, players from other positions, and untested prospects will all have to come together to form a good linebacking corps. Overall the final numbers will be fine; there just aren’t that many deadly offenses on the schedule, but just when you think this D will be great, it’ll get its doors blown off.

T1. TCU
Predicted Overall Record: 11-1
Predicted Conference Record: 7-1

Offense: The TCU offense has been overshadowed by the defense over the last few years, but things started to change last season. Led by Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, QB Andy Dalton, the Horned Frogs finished seventh in the nation in total offense and fifth in scoring, and there’s no reason to not be more explosive this year. Four starters return on the line with one glaring hole at right tackle, but it should be a dominant group again. The receiving corps will be phenomenal, there are several talented running backs to form another great rotation, and Dalton should be Dalton again.
Defense: There are some big, giant losses, like DE Jerry Hughes and LB Daryl Washington, but all will be fine as long as the talented prospects on the end can step up and produce and if the linebackers are healthy. The secondary in the 4-2-5 alignment will be more than fine even after losing First Team All-Mountain West performers Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest; Greg McCoy, Jason Teague and Malcolm Williams are terrific corner prospects. The safeties will be tremendous, the tackles, Kelly Griffin and Cory Grant will be all-stars, and the linebackers … that’s the potential problem. Tank Carder, the team’s best defensive player has to get past a shoulder injury, as does key backup Kris Gardner. For all the talent, there needs to be a bit more of a pass rush than last year (and without Hughes), while a few more interceptions would be nice. That’s nitpicking, though, for a defense that will be among the best in the nation again.

3. BYU
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Yeah, there are lots of big holes to fill and yeah, there will be an adjustment period, but it’s BYU; the offense will be fine. This won’t be the nation’s 21st ranked offense again, but it’ll be good. The line that was way too mediocre last year has the potential to be phenomenal with four starters returning led by All-America candidate Matt Reynolds at left tackle. The wide receivers are experienced and good, and there’s speed in the backfield that should be able to crank out yards and chunks if the line plays a bit better. With star running back Harvey Unga off the team for a violation of school code, it’ll be up to a regular rotation to try to pick up the slack. Losing tight ends Dennis Pitta and Andrew George is tough, and it’ll be up to three freshmen to try to take over. But the big question mark is at quarterback with four players in the hunt to replace Max Hall. Riley Nelson was the top backup last year, but he’s just a stopgap (if he’s the starter) before Jake Heaps, arguably the nation’s top quarterback recruit, is ready.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Jamie Hill somewhat quietly put together a great season. While there were high profile meltdowns against TCU and Florida State, to go along with the shockingly good performance against Oklahoma (especially after knocking out Sam Bradford), the defense ended up allowing just 329 yards and 21.5 points per game. This year, the secondary should be among the best in the Mountain West with three great starters returning, and the linebackers in the 3-4 alignment are athletic and promising. The key to the D will be a front three that loses Jan Jorgensen and didn’t generate much pressure from the other two spots. Romney Fuga is a terrific nose tackle and the gaps on the outside will be quickly filled; there won’t likely be much of a drop-off, if any.

4. Air Force
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: The offense didn’t quite blow up like it was supposed to considering all the talented veteran on last year’s attack, but it was plenty good finishing third in the nation in rushing and averaging just under 30 points per game. This year, the ground game has veterans with the top 13 rushers from last year returning, including quarterbacks Tim Jefferson and Connor Dietz and the running back tandem of Jared Tew and Asher Clark. The receiving corps has talent, too, with Kevin Fogler, Jonathan Warzeka, and Kyle Halderman giving the offense some real, live weapons to work with. And then there’s the line. The talent might be there, but all five starters have to be replaced and there’s little or no experience, or size, to count on.
Defense: The defense shouldn’t work, but it does. There’s no size, no pass rush, and little talent compared to the Utahs and the TCUs of the Mountain West, but Air Force finished 11th in the nation in total D and tenth in scoring defense. The secondary will be the strength again with three top starters back after allowing just 154 yards per game and ten touchdowns (with five coming in the loss to BYU). The linebacking corps in the 3-4 will be active and solid thanks to a good rotation, but only one starter, Andre Morris, is back. The issue will be a line that has always been small, but this year’s it’s really, really light with only one projected player on the two-deep bigger than 240 pounds. Air Force always gets by with aggressiveness and toughness, and now it’s going to have to prove it can produce without defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who’s leaving for Texas A&M. The pressure will be on Matt Wallerstedt, the linebacker coach, to step up and keep the production going.

5. UNLV
Predicted Overall Record: 5-8
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The spread isn’t dead and gone, the new coaching staff has to use it a little bit with the personnel returning, but offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie will incorporate a pro-style attack with more of an emphasis on the power running game while trying to keep the productivity of the passing attack. A more efficient passing game is a must, and the receivers are in place to be sharper. The veteran quarterbacks, Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen, know what they’re doing, but they’re going to have to get used to operating in a new style and being more traditional. Throw in a good, deep group of backs working behind a veteran line that returns four starters, and the offense that was so mediocre last year should be far more consistent.
Defense: The Rebel defense gave up 40 points or more ten times over the last two seasons and struggled against anyone with a decent offense. The new coaching staff is preaching the idea of being more physical and far tougher at all spots, but first the front seven has to do far more at getting into the backfield. After finishing 115th in the nation in sacks in 2008, the Rebels improved … they were 106th. With no pressure on the quarterback and little production against the run, the secondary was way too taxed. Defensive coordinator Kraig Paulson has a ton of veterans to work with and plenty of athletes and options to play around with the combinations, but the defense needs playmakers to emerge.

T6. Colorado State
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: New offensive coordinator Pat Meyer has a strange mix of talents and pieces to put together. The running game has some excellent speedsters and talents with John Mosure, Leonard Mason, and Raymond Carter leading the way, but the line has to replace several key starters from a group that got stronger as 2009 went on. The underwhelming passing attack loses almost all the key players including starting quarterback Grant Eastman, and while Jon Stucker took over the job late, he’s not expected to be a big part of the mix unless freshman Pete Thomas falls flat on his face. The offense needs to be more consistent and it needs an identity. While the hope will be to pound away with the running game and to be more physical, the team isn’t good enough to not have an efficient passing attack to rely on.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr needs to get more out of a defense that returns nine starters. The defense made some big improvements after a disastrous 2008, but it has to be far more consistent. The linebacking corps has the potential to be fantastic with the return of Ricky Brewer from a year-long suspension to go along with top tackler and tremendous playmaker, Mychal Sisson. The secondary gets all the key parts back, but it has to be far, far better after getting ripped apart by anyone who could throw a forward pass. There should be a good rotation up front, especially on the ends, and there’s plenty of reason to get fired up about a pass rush that turned out to be good at getting to the quarterback, but didn’t do enough to make plays behind the line.

T6. New Mexico
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: The backfield is loaded with quick, talented running backs, the receiving corps is fast and potentially dangerous, and there are five quarterback options to choose from. None of it matters if the line isn’t better. The no-huddle spread attack sputtered and coughed all of last year averaging a pitiful 16.3 points per game and 315 yards per outing. The passing attack was among the least efficient in America and the running game went nowhere, and now the hope has to be for more from the line to change all of that. Tackle Byron Bell leads a big group that got the quarterbacks beaten up, but if the front five can do one thing well, the offense might start to work. Offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey, the former North Texas head man, knows how to get a running game going, and if he can help the offense keep the mistakes to a minimum and can keep the chains moving, the chance will be there for a huge improvement.
Defense: Second year defensive coordinator Doug Mallory has some nice pieces to work with and a few certain all-stars, but he needs to find some semblance of consistency. The Lobos struggled from start to finish getting nothing from the secondary and not enough physical play from the defensive front seven. LB Carmen Messina was the nation’s leading tackler and ends Johnathan Rainey and Jaymar Latchison might form the best pair in the Mountain West, but there are question marks at safety, mediocrity at corner, and no size at linebacker. However, the pass rush should be active, getting into the backfield shouldn’t be a problem, and help is on the way with some great new faces like tackles Ugo Uzodinma and Reggie Ellis, who bolted from Illinois to solidify the inside.

T8. San Diego State
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: The Al Borges offense should be really, really interesting. The passing game might be the best in the Mountain West with rising star Ryan Lindley at quarterback throwing to the tremendous receiving duo of Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. The line gets almost everyone back, and while it was great last year in pass protection, it did nothing for the ground game. The backfield is full of quick veterans, but the rushing production has been non-existent over the last few years and isn’t going to blow up with the passing game carrying the load. The offense wasn’t consistent and didn’t do nearly enough against the defenses with a pulse, but now there’s no reason to only average 342 yards and 23 points per game again.
Defense: Former New Mexico head coach Rocky Long was known for putting together tough, aggressive defenses, and now he has the experience to work with to make the 3-3-5 alignment shine. The front three is big and has to be more consistent against the run after being gouged way too easily. The linebacking corps has the potential to be strong with Miles Burris and Marcus Yarbrough expected to combine for close to 150 stops, but the playmakers on the defense have to be in the secondary. The corners are suspect, but they’re experienced, but the three safeties can move. Everyone has to be more disruptive.

T8. Wyoming
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: The offense is big on potential and has to do more to be consistent. QB Austyn Carta-Samuels is the spunky heart-and-soul quarterback who needs to shine in his true sophomore year with more of the playbook being thrown his way and with more responsibility. Step one will be to get more out of a downfield passing game that was among the most inefficient in America, and it’ll take a bigger season from 2009 breakout star David Leonard to do that. Alvester Alexander leads a quick group of running backs that should be fine if the line that struggled throughout last year improves. Three starters return up front, but the talent level is relatively mediocre and the pass protection could be an issue.
Defense: The defense isn’t ultra-aggressive and it doesn’t take a whole bunch of chances, but it’ll have to with a mish-mosh of players working around the defensive front seven. With star linemen John Fletcher and Mitch Unrein gone, the Cowboys are scrambling to come up with a front four for the 4-3, and unlike last year, there won’t be a lot of 3-4 used. Several linebackers will move to the front meaning a few untested prospects will have to shine around star Brian Hendricks in the middle. The strength of the defense, and the team, should be the secondary that welcomes back all four starters including tackling machine Chris Prosinski at safety and the Gipson brother, Marcell and Tashaun, at the corners.

- Air Force Preview | BYU Preview | Colorado State Preview
- New Mexico Preview | San Diego State Preview | TCU Preview
- UNLV Preview | Utah Preview | Wyoming Preview

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