So many changes await the Mountain West’s 14th season that UNLV’s third-year coach Bobby Hauck only half-joked about qualifying as the dean of the league’s coaches.
Four new head coaches joined the league. Newcomers Hawaii, Fresno State and Nevada reunite with their historical WAC brethren. TCU is gone. Cornerstones BYU and Utah are long gone.
Even the name changed. “Conference” was dropped from the Mountain West in a logo rebranding last year.
The coach with the longest actual tenure at his current school — that would be Air Force’s sixth-year man Troy Calhoun — said, “Any time you’re involved with new teams you find out they are pretty intriguing. … It keeps you extremely alert.”
Everybody is on alert about Boise State, the favorite to take the hardware on the way out the door, even while reloading.
“I think there’s a lot of assuming going on because of all the things we’ve earned in the past, but so many of those guys aren’t here anymore,” Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. “We’ve never got caught up in outside expectations, good or bad.”
Boise State produced a school-record five NFL draft picks, including two first-round selections.
No matter. The Broncos are still favored. Behind them, the field appears to be wide open, with plenty of teams capable of rising up for a challenge into that No. 2 spot.
“This is the most competitive throughout the schedule as it has been,” Hauck said.
Part of the mystery going into this fall is a rebuilding year in terms of individual stars.
Besides graduation and the departure of TCU, San Diego State’s 1,710-yard rusher Ronnie Hillman left school early and will be taking handoffs from Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos. New schemes by new coaches sent top receivers packing at New Mexico and Fresno State. Colorado State lost the Mountain West sack leader and another player to disorderly conduct charges.
In place of the league’s former stars, young talent at quarterback — junior Derek Carr (Fresno State) and dual-threat sophomores Brett Smith (Wyoming) and Cody Fajardo (Nevada) give those teams a slight edge.
If nothing else, the start of fall drills will return the focus to the field, instead of the latest speculation of future conference membership.
“I only worry about the things I have control over,” said Wyoming’s Dave Christensen. “Whoever is in the league, we’ll show up and play them.”
— Natalie Meisler
OFFENSE – FIRST TEAM
|QB||Derek Carr||Jr.||Fresno State|
|RB||Robbie Rouse||Sr.||Fresno State|
|RB||Chris Nwoke||Jr.||Colorado State|
|WR||Billy Ray Stutzmann||Jr.||Hawaii|
|WR||Matt Miller||So.||Boise State|
|TE||Gavin Escobar||Jr.||San Diego State|
|C||Weston Richburg||Jr.||Colorado State|
|OL||Nik Embernate||Sr.||San Diego State|
|AP||Colin Lockett||Jr.||San Diego State|
|PK||Parker Herrington||Sr.||Air Force|
DEFENSE – FIRST TEAM
|DL||Joseph Harris||Sr.||New Mexico|
|LB||Alex Means||Sr.||Air Force|
|LB||Travis Brown||Sr.||Fresno State|
|DB||Leon McFadden||Sr.||San Diego State|
|P||Pete Kontodiakos||Sr.||Colorado State|
OFFENSE – SECOND TEAM
|RB||D.J. Harper||Sr.||Boise State|
|TE||Crockett Gillmore||Jr.||Colorado State|
|C||Alec Johnson||Sr.||San Diego State|
|OL||Jason Kons||Sr.||Air Force|
|OL||Joe Kellogg||Sr.||Boise State|
DEFENSE – SECOND TEAM
|LB||Shaquil Barrett||Jr.||Colorado State|
|LB||J.C. Percy||Sr.||Boise State|
|DB||Nat Berhe||Jr.||San Diego State|