1. Boise State has opted to proceed with football despite forecasts of impending doom. The Broncos lost a combined 15 players on offense and defense, but still have more depth and experience than any team in the league. Outscoring opponents by an average of 25.5 points per game --- as Boise State did in 2011 --- affords one the option of emptying the bench with a fair degree of regularity. Many Bronco reserves have played in more games than other MW teams' starters.
2. Contrary to popular opinion, the name of the MW Preseason Offensive Player of the Year is Derek Carr. His brother, David, also played quarterback at Fresno State and was a No. 1 draft pick of the Houston Texans --- 10 years ago. Derek lists David as his favorite athlete, but would likely prefer his brother alter his name to Otis.
3. The next time New Mexico coach Bob Davie sugar-coats anything will be the same time Nick Saban admits he suffers from emotional insecurity. Unlike a majority of his brethren, who paint in pastels to mask a program's shortcomings, Davie doesn't dabble in deception. He acknowledges the problems at hand, lays them open for all to see and refuses to recant remarks that some might perceive as an affront to the program. Honesty will get you everywhere.
4. The Mountain West and Conference USA discussed an alliance, as did the Big Ten and Pac-12. As of July 25, both are off the table.
5. I now know why Colorado State's Chris Nwoke rushed for 1,130 yards despite starting just five games last season. Having seen him up close, you would have a better chance of getting your arms around an upright freezer.
6. San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden may have been named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, but his coach, Rocky Long, wasted little time putting things into perspective: "Leon is a good player, but he's not as good as he can be. The better he gets the more money he'll make."
7. The same people who concluded that the addition of Fresno State, Hawai‘i and Nevada would reduce the Mountain West were the same people who voted the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the preseason media poll.
8. I've never met Nevada tight end Zach Sudfeld, but he's already the Comeback Player of the Year. Sudfeld, who has been besieged by injuries throughout his career, was granted a sixth year of eligibility after breaking his leg in last year's season opener at Oregon. Despite being told by coach Chris Ault that he had nothing to prove by returning this season, the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Sudfeld merely redoubled his resolve and had an outstanding spring. He has two career catches for 11 yards. "He will be a force in our offense," Ault said. "Fans of this program and fans throughout the community are really pulling for Zach Sudfeld."
9. Air Force senior Parker Herrington, a preseason all-conference pick, became just the second kicker to ever represent a Mountain West institution at media days. Said Falcons coach Troy Calhoun: "When I told him he was coming along, he said, 'Are you sure you want to send a kicker out there?' "
10. The talk is over, the cameras are packed and 2012 MW Football Media Day is done. Pass the pigskin. ASAP.
The "watch" lists are out, the preseason hype is upon us and preparations for a run at the MW title will soon begin in earnest, with fall camps opening the first week of August. In the interim, here's my take on the 2012 Preseason All-MW team, as well as a predicted order of finish among the league's 10 teams. Beg to differ? You can also leave a comment on my blog, email me at Mick@TheMWC.com, or send me a message on Twitter @MWCMick.
Quarterback: Derek Carr, Jr., Fresno State
Carr, named to the 2012 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award Watch List, ranked 15th in the nation in passing yards (3,544) last season, the most ever by a Fresno State sophomore.
Running back: Robbie Rouse, Sr., Fresno State; D.J. Harper, Sr., Boise State
Rouse, a Maxwell Award candidate, ranked seventh in the nation in rushing yards (1,549) last season, while Harper, who will be operating behind the best offensive line in the league, averaged nearly five yards per carry.
Wide receiver: Matt Miller, So., Boise State; Colin Lockett, Jr., San Diego State
As a freshman last season, Miller, a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, averaged 4.77 receptions per game, the second-highest total in the league. Lockett, a former cornerback who was pressed into action on offense last season due to a rash of injuries at wide receiver, led the Aztecs in receptions (58), receiving yards (970) and touchdown catches (eight).
Tight end: Gavin Escobar, Jr., San Diego State
There are some quality tight ends in the MW, but Escobar gets the nod. A first-team All-MW selection as a sophomore, he had 51 catches for 781 yards and seven TDs in 2011.
Offensive line: Joe Kellogg, Sr., Boise State; Nick Carlson, Sr., Wyoming; Alec Johnson, Sr., San Diego State; Chris Barker, Sr., Nevada; Weston Richburg, Jr., Colorado State
Kellogg is a three-year starter on an offense that has ranked in the top five nationally in scoring each of the last three seasons. Carlson, Johnson and Richburg have all been named to the 2012 Rimington Trophy Watch List, while Barker is an Outland Trophy candidate.
Defensive line: Mike Atkinson, Sr., Boise State; Paipai Falemalu, Sr., Hawai‘i; Reggie Ellis, Sr., New Mexico; Mike Purcell, Sr., Wyoming
Atkinson was a major contributor to a Bronco defense that ranked 12th-nationally in scoring defense (18.69) last season, while Falemalu (50 tackles) tied for second on the team with 4.5 sacks. Twenty-five percent of Ellis' total tackles in 2011 were made in the backfield. Purcell is coming off a junior season in which he finished with 48 tackles, two sacks, two blocked kicks and a safety.
Linebacker: Shaquil Barrett, Jr., Colorado State; Jake Fely, So., San Diego State; Travis Brown, Sr., Fresno State
Barrett could be positioned for MW Defensive Player of the Year honors following a sophomore season in which he led the Rams with 99 tackles and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns. Fely forced a team-high three fumbles in starting all 13 games at middle linebacker last season as a redshirt freshman, while Brown enters his senior season as a Butkus Award candidate and two-time All-WAC selection.
Defensive back: Leon McFadden, Sr., San Diego State; Luke Ruff, Sr., Wyoming; Duke Williams, Sr., Nevada; Jamar Taylor, Sr., Boise State
A two-time All-MW selection named to the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, McFadden led the league and ranked 12th nationally last season with 17 passes defended. Named to the 2012 Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List, Ruff ranked sixth in the MW in tackles last season. Williams, a second-team All-WAC selection in 2011, ranked third on the team with 83 tackles. Taylor's six pass break-ups last season tied for the team high.
Placekicker: Parker Herrington, Jr., Air Force
Ranked first in the MW last season in field-goal percentage (83.3. percent, 15-of-18) and finished second among kickers with 90 points.
Punter: Pete Kontodiakos, Sr., Colorado State
A candidate for the 2012 Ray Guy Award, Kontodiakos ranked second in the MW and 20th nationally in 2011 with an average of 43.6 yards. He had 20 punts of at least 50 yards.
Return specialist: Mitch Burroughs, Sr., Boise State
Ranked eighth nationally and first in the MW as a junior with a punt return average of 13.3 yards.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Leon McFadden, San Diego State
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Mitch Burroughs, Boise State
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Boise State
3. San Diego State
4. Fresno State
6. Air Force
7. Colorado State
10. New Mexico
Mountain West swimmers concluded competition at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., on Sunday, with four student-athletes taking part in the women's 50-meter freestyle.
Stephanie North, a 2012 Boise State graduate, posted the Broncos' best finish of the meet by winning her heat and placing 29th in a time of 25.82.
North, who earlier placed 32nd in the 100-meter freestyle, was joined in the event by former BSU teammate Amber Boucher, UNLV junior Rachel Dixon and 2012 Wyoming graduate Kelsey Conci.
Dixon finished 60th (26.21), while Conci placed 86th in a time of 26.43. Conci was the lone MW competitor at the meet to qualify for a semifinal event when she finished 11th in the 100-meter backstroke last Tuesday, becoming first Wyoming swimmer to move past the prelims since Scott Usher earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2004.
Boucher, the MW Swimmer of the Year, finished 126th in the event a time of 26.73.
Air Force volunteer coach Jenny Simpson qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games on Sunday after finishing third in the women's 1,500-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.
Simpson, the reigning world champion in the event and a 2008 Olympian in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase, posted a time of 4:05.17. A mere 0.18 seconds separated Simpson and the top two finishers, as Morgan Uceny (adidas) turned in a time of 4:04.59 to edge Nike's Shannon Rowberry (4:05.11) for the top spot in the race.
Meanwhile, 2006 Air Force graduate and two-time NCAA champion Dana Pounds-Lyon concluded competition with a sixth-place finish in the finals of the women's javelin. Pounds-Lyon's effort of 180'11" was nearly 11 feet farther than her mark in Friday's qualifying round. Brittany Borman (Nike) won the event with a mark of 201'-9."
As with Pounds-Lyon, former UNLV student-athlete Christine Spence also saw her Olympic bid fall short when she placed seventh in the women's 400-meter hurdles, posting a time of 55.72. Lashinda Demus (Nike) finished first in the event with a time of 53.98.
UNLV 2012 grad Amanda Bingson and Rebels assistant coach Khadevis Robinson previously qualified in the women's hammer throw and men's 800 meters, respectively. The Olympic Games open in London on Friday, July 27.
UNLV senior swimmer Cody Roberts posted the second-best finish of the week by a Mountain West student-athlete on Saturday during Day 6 of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb.
Roberts, the MW record holder in the men's 100-meter butterfly, placed 21st among 122 swimmers in the prelims of the event with a time of 54:01.
Roberts' teammate, senior David Seiler, was close behind, posting a time of 54.33 to finish 35th.
Meanwhile, UNLV senior Dannica Brennan placed 102nd in the prelims of the women's 200-meter backstroke, finishing in 2:18.52.
The swimmers with the top 16 times in the preliminary heats advance to the semifinals. From there, the top eight finishers in the semis move on to the finals, with the first- and second-place finishers qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London (July 22-August 12).
Boise State's Amber Boucher and Stephanie North will be joined in the prelims of the women's 50-meter freestyle today by UNLV junior Rachel Dixon and former Wyoming standout Kelsey Conci. The trials conclude on Monday with finals in the women's 50-meter freestyle and men's 1500-meter freestyle.
San Diego State sophomore Allison Reaser concluded competition at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday, finishing 15th in the heptathlon.
Reaser, who totaled a first-day personal-best 3,437 points after four events on Friday, wrapped up the two-day event with 5,612 points. Hyleas Fountain (Nike) posted the top score in the event with 6,419 points to advance to the London Olympics. Sharon Day (Asics) and Chantae McMillan (unattached) will join Fountain in London after finishing second and third, respectively.
Sitting in 12th place following the opening day of competition, Reaser, who finished sixth in the NCAA Championships in June, placed 18th in the long jump (18'-0.25") on Saturday before finishing 11th in the javelin (120'-10.00") and 11th in the 800 meters, where she established a personal best with a time of 2:16.54.
"Overall, she did a praiseworthy job of representing SDSU athletics," said head coach Sheila Burrell. "The future is bright."
The Olympic Trials conclude today, with two-time NCAA champion and former Air Force student-athlete Dana Pounds-Lyon competing in the finals of the women's javelin and Falcons volunteer coach Jenny Simpson taking part in the finals of the women's 1,500-meter run.
Also vying for a spot in London is former UNLV student-athlete Christine Spence, who will compete in the finals of the women's 400-meter hurdles. Should Spence finish among the top three today, she would to join 2012 UNLV grad Amanda Bingson and Rebels assistant coach Khadevis Robinson, who qualified earlier in the women's hammer throw and men's 800 meters, respectively.
They are newcomers in name only, their transition marked more by their pre-existing knowledge of the neighborhood than an altering of address.
Hawai'i, Fresno State and Nevada officially become the newest members of the Mountain West on Sunday, but introductions are largely inessential. The Warriors (football only), Bulldogs and Wolf Pack are not only familiar with the MW landscape, they are, in many instances, tethered by well-rooted rivalries and long-standing coaching connections.
First-year Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter, an Air Force graduate, not only played for the Falcons but spent a total of seven years at the Academy during two separate stints as a position coach and defensive coordinator.
New Hawai'i football coach Norm Chow spent 27 seasons as an assistant at BYU before the former MW member opted to join the independent ranks last season.
Nevada's Chris Ault, the only active FBS coach in the College Football Hall of Fame, has faced every team represented in the 2011-12 configuration of the MW at least three times since joining the Wolf Pack staff in 1976.
"Today we officially welcome Fresno State, Hawai'i and Nevada as members, ushering in a new era for the Mountain West," said Commissioner Craig Thompson. "The addition of these fine institutions helps position the Conference for a bright future, and we look forward to the contributions that Bulldog, Warrior and Wolf Pack student-athletes, coaches, fans and administrators will make to the success of the Mountain West."
Here's a look at each of the three institutions and a sampling of their athletic successes:
Football: The Bulldogs have failed to garner a bowl bid only twice since 2000. Fresno State went to four straight bowl games from 2007-10, with two of the contests coming against MW members Colorado State and Wyoming. Prior to DeRuyter's hire, the Bulldogs' two previous coaches --- Jim Sweeney and Pat Hill --- posted a combined winning percentage of .607 and won three conference titles.
"We're really excited about our first year in the Mountain West," said DeRuyter, a linebacker at Air Force from 1982-84. "Having some personal history in this conference, I know about the excellent programs and the excellent coaches in this league. We know this is going to be a tremendous challenge, but we're excited about it and we're looking forward to it."
Men's Basketball: The Bulldogs have won two conference titles, participated in one NCAA Tournament and two National Invitational Tournaments since 2000. Many believe second-year coach Rodney Terry has put together one of the program's top recruiting classes in years, a group led by 7-foot, 265-pound incoming freshman center Robert Upshaw, ranked No. 55 nationally in the 2012 ESPNU Top 100.
Women's Basketball: Fresno State is coming off a 2011-12 season in which it won a conference title, earned its fifth straight NCAA Tournament bid and won 28 games for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs started four underclassmen last season, including guard Ki-Ki Moore, the WAC Player of the Year.
Baseball: Fresno State, the 2008 national champion, won its seventh straight WAC title this past year while qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
Softball: The Bulldogs have participated in 30 of the last 31 NCAA Tournaments and won the 1998 national title. The Bulldogs have played in more NCAA Championships than any other Division I program and rank third all-time in tournament victories with 89.
Men's Tennis: The Bulldogs enter the Mountain West having won two consecutive league titles while earning three straight NCAA Tournament bids.
Football: Hawai'i became just the third non-automatic-qualifying conference team to play in a BCS bowl in 2008 when it faced Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Warriors were the only FBS team in the nation that year to finish the regular season undefeated. Hawai'i has appeared in a bowl game seven times since 2002, posting six winning seasons and four campaigns with double-digit victories.
"I think (the transition to the MW) is going to be extremely tough and that is what I am trying to impress upon our players, that this is a step up," Chow told the Maui News. "The schedule is extremely challenging, the non-conference games are as tough as the conference games, but if you are in this profession, you get in this profession, you enjoy challenges, and you enjoy the week-by-week work that goes with those challenges, so we are all very excited about it."
Football: The Wolf Pack, who finished the 2010 season ranked No. 11 in the nation, have appeared in seven consecutive bowl games. The program's history includes 14 conference titles and since 2005, Nevada has had one losing season and six campaigns of seven or more wins.
"We're excited to be jumping into the Mountain West and to be part of such an elite group," said football head coach Chris Ault. Ault enters his 28th season with a win percentage of 68.5 percent (226-103-1).
Men's Basketball: The Wolf Pack won the WAC regular-season championship with a mark of 13-1 last season en route to making their fifth appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. Nevada has posted eight 20-win seasons since 2003-04, while earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament four times.
Women's Basketball: Nevada has won at least 17 games five of the last seven seasons, twice advancing to the National Invitation Tournament.
Baseball: The Wolf Pack, who won a share of the regular-season conference title in 2012, have won 30 or more games six times since 2000, while winning two league titles and making two NCAA postseason appearances.
Mick McGrane has covered the Mountain West since the league's inception in 1999. He spent 12 years at the San Diego Union-Tribune, where he served as the beat writer for San Diego State football and men's basketball. He currently represents the MW as a member of the Football Writers Association of America All-America Committee and is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. McGrane serves as senior writer to the Mountain West, providing readers with exclusive, in-depth information about the Conference by highlighting its 10 member institutions and contributing feature stories on student-athletes that participate in the league's 18 sponsored sports.
Mark Knudson is a Colorado State journalism school graduate and a 12-year veteran of professional baseball. During his playing career, Mark pitched for three major league teams, including the Colorado Rockies, where he was the first Colorado native to play for the hometown team. He recorded wins over three of the four legendary pitchers who make up the 4,000 strikeout club: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. His win over Ryan came for the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day in 1991.
Since his retirement, Mark has been a feature writer and columnist for Mile High Sports, a radio talk show host and TV analyst for numerous sports media outlets. For the past six years, he was a columnist and baseball analyst for The Mtn., along with being one of Colorado's six Heisman Trophy voters.