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Mountain West Conference Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the Mountain West Conference and then be sure to take a look at our 2010 NCAA football preview. See something you like or dislike in the Mountain West Conference spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great Mountain West Conference forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Air Force

  • Quarterback Tim Jefferson ran into injury issues throughout the spring and didn’t really get a chance to show his wares. While he was named the starter, there is little question that he will have to beat out Connor Dietz in the fall to earn the nod under center for the Falcons.

  • One big concern to watch in fall camp is the continuing battle to start on the O-Line, where all five starters graduated from last year. Expect Head Coach Troy Calhoun to continue mixing and matching players until he finds a solid lineup.

BYU

  • All eyes are on the quarterback position at BYU, where early enrollee Jake Heaps battled with junior Riley Nelson throughout the spring for the right to succeed Max Hall. Heaps, widely considered the #1 prep quarterback in the country last year, might be the fan favorite but Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall isn’t going to make a decision under center until late in fall camp. It’s that close between the two.

  • More proof BYU is a very different place than most college football schools: Starting tailback Harvey Unga voluntarily withdrew from school for violating the Mormon Honor Code and his fate lies in the hands of the BYU Honor Code Office. Where else does a star football player willingly withdraw from school due to a rumored moral transgression? Either way, the football aspect of this situation is that BYU needs their bruising tailback in the lineup this fall if they want to compete for the Mountain West crown.

  • One major position of concern is at linebacker, where the Cougars have to replace all three starters from 2009. While JUCO transfer Aveni Leung-Wai appears to have an inside track on one of the spots, there are a lot of unknowns here. Sophomore Brandon Ogletree played well in camp despite missing a lot of time early due to injury and true freshman Zac Stout and Collin Keoshian are also expected to compete for playing time in fall camp. This is definitely a position to watch in August.

Colorado State

  • The Rams had a vigorous quarterback battle throughout camp and by the end of practice, the depth chart had been turned on its head. Freshmen Pete Thomas and Nico Ranieri have positioned themselves as options 1 and 1a, causing senior Jon Eastman to transfer out to find more playing time. Expect the battle between the youngsters to carry into fall camp.

  • Junior linebacker Ricky Brewer will be a player to keep an eye on for the Rams. After missing 2009 due to suspension, Brewer was everywhere all spring and was especially noticeable making plays in the Spring Game. He should give the defense a big boost this fall.

  • CSU has great running back depth, led by projected starter Chris Nwoke. However, there are four solid options BEHIND him, including Leo Mason, Lou Greenwood and John Mosure, all of whom looked good in the Spring Game. Expect the new Ram QB to have some help from the running game this fall.

 

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New Mexico

  • Ohio State transfer Lamar Thomas looked great all spring, showing the athleticism that once earned him a scholarship to one of the titans of college football. Unfortunately, he’s not eligible to play until the fall of 2011 since he just transferred in and it looks like leading rusher Demond Dennis is going to have to be a one man show again for the Lobos to hope to score any points this season.

  • One reason for the lack of optimism is the quarterback position, where sophomore B.R. Holbrook is currently #1 on the depth chart after the knee injury suffered by Brad Gruner put him out of action. Don’t expect a starter to be named until the first week of the season as two touted freshman QBs are part of the new recruiting class but Holbrook did show some command of the offense in camp.

  • Thomas was one of two four star recruits that are joining the team this season, the first time in school history that has happened. Defensive tackle Calvin Smith from Florida was the other and he will be on the field this fall as Head Coach Mike Locksley tries to shore up his porous defense.

San Diego State

  • Despite the gorgeous sun-drenched setting, there might not have been an uglier Spring Game in the country than the one that took place on SDSU’s campus in late March. The offense gained EIGHT yards on FOURTY SIX carries! While the passing game was a little better, the Aztecs had trouble moving the ball with any consistency and Head Coach Brady Hoke had to be frustrated that his offenses didn’t exhibit more progress.

  • Former linebacker Andrew Preston will now line up at the ‘Aztec’ position, a combination DB/LB rover spot that will allow him greater freedom to move around the defense. His versatility was on full display in the Spring Game as he recorded a pick, a sack and two tackles for loss.

  • Preston’s stat line was fairly indicative of the solid progress that SDSU made defensively in the spring. A focus on the secondary in improving their coverage skills has paid off and the new defensive philosophy this fall should feature a lot of pressure from the front seven. Whether this will improve the Aztec defense remains to be seen but it is certainly a philosophical shift.




TCU

  • With 16 returning starters, there weren’t a ton of holes to fill for the Horned Frogs. One of those concerns was at left tackle, where former RT Marcus Cannon switched sides with ease to protect QB Andy Dalton’s blindside. However, his vacated spot on the right side is still a major question mark that needs answered in fall camp.

  • Ross Forest was the story of camp as TCU looked for find someone to replace superstar DE Jerry Hughes. Forest moved all the way up from outside the Two Deep to enter fall camp atop depth chart.

  • Cornerbacks Greg McCoy and Jason Teague will face heavy scrutiny this fall as they both replace four year starters. However, Head Coach Gary Patterson was openly pleased with their performances and with both starting safeties back it isn’t unreasonable to expect another strong secondary for the Horned Frogs.

UNLV

  • No one stood out in the first quarterback battle of the Bobby Hauck era, which was really no surprise considering that the Rebels are in the middle of transitioning from the spread to a power attack. Senior Omar Clayton might be the most athletic but his passing needs some work considering he went 2 for 10 in the Spring Game. Junior Mike Clausen missed the game due to injury and frosh Caleb Herring showed some serious raw talent while moving the offense effectively. Expect them to battle deep into fall camp before a starter is named.

  • However, Hauck was pleased with the stable of tailbacks that he inherited, led by senior Channing Trotter. Along with junior C.J. Cox and freshman Brad Randle, the Rebs are looking like their tailbacks will be more than capable of carrying the offensive load in 2010.

  • Freshman Willie Tupou emerged as a force on the D-Line this spring and was the focus of a lot of double-team blocks in the Spring Game. If he can translate that into production this fall, UNLV might have a surprisingly strong D-Line.


 

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Utah

  • Much like their rivals in Provo, Utah had to replace their entire starting linebacking group. This job got even more difficult when projected starter Nai Fotu injured his knee, ending his 2010 season before it began. Expect the Utes to audition a lot of players in fall camp.

  • The secondary is a mixed bag for the Utes as they appear strong at cornerback, returning two of their top three from 2009 and finding good depth. However, the safety position is a concern as senior Justin Taplin-Ross only has limited experience and projected starter Chris Washington spent most of camp sidelined due to injury. Expect safety to be another position that has a lot of experimentation with personnel in the fall.

  • In a positive note, walk-on receiver Griffin McNabb had a huge spring, capped off by a 100 yard performance in the Spring Game that was highlighted by a 60+ yard touchdown reception. McNabb should be in line for a lot of playing time this fall next to ex-quarterback DeVonte Christopher, who also played well.

Wyoming

  • After the first bowl season in a decade last fall, Head Coach Dave Christensen isn’t resting on his laurels. The Cowboys made the switch to a 4-3 defense to better take advantage of his personnel and it appeared to have paid off as the defense dominated the Spring Game.

  • Redshirt freshman DT Patrick Mertens was one of the major beneficiaries from the switch and he showed up as a player in the Spring Game, recording 8 tackles and two sacks. He’s a candidate for a breakout season this fall.

  • Newcomers Mazi Ogbonna and DeJay Lester, who transferred together from Snow JC, both emerged as playmakers for the Cowboys. Both players showed strong burst and quick feet in the Spring Game and accounted for most of the big plays. Ogbonna also scored the game’s only touchdown. Expect both to quickly make an impact both catching and running the ball this year at the wide receiver position.

 

 

 

By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 


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