I’ve got only a couple more weeks left on the Air Force beat (more on that in a later post), but I plan to sprint hard toward the finish line.
So I’ll be with Frank in Vegas next week to play blackja – I mean, provide you with all the information that comes out of the Mountain West Conference media days.
Along with the commissioner’s State of the Conference address, one of the most anticipated aspects of the media days is the release of the preseason MWC poll and preseason All-MWC squad.
I submitted my ballots today, which you can find below. As I’ve said in the past, preseason squads are kinda tricky. They’re part reward for past performance and part anticipation of future performance. Some value one more than the other. I try to go 50-50.
Anyhow, without further ado, here’s what I submitted:
Preseason MWC Poll
3. Air Force
6. San Diego State
7. Colorado State
9. New Mexico
WR – Vincent Brown (San Diego State, Sr.)
WR – Phillip Payne (UNLV, Jr.)
OL – Matt Reynolds (BYU, Jr.)
OL – Marcus Cannon (TCU, Sr.)
OL – Jake Kirkpatrick (TCU, Sr.)
OL – Caleb Schlauderaff (Utah, Sr.)
OL – Zane Taylor (Utah, Sr.)
TE – Alston Umuolo (San Diego State, Sr.)
QB – Andy Dalton (TCU, Sr.)
RB – Eddie Wide (Utah, Sr.)
RB – Jared Tew (Air Force, Sr.)
DL – Wayne Daniels (TCU, Sr.)
DL – Dave Kruger (Utah, So.)
DL – Johnathan Rainey (New Mexico, Jr.)
LB – Tank Carder (TCU, Jr.)
LB – Mychal Sisson (Colorado State, Jr.)
LB – Carmen Messina (New Mexico, Jr.)
LB – Brian Hendricks (Wyoming, Jr.)
DB – Anthony Wright Jr. (Air Force, Jr.)
DB – Reggie Rembert (Air Force, Sr.)
DB – Tejay Johnson (TCU, Sr.)
DB – Andrew Rich (BYU, Sr.)
P – Brian Stahovich (San Diego State, Jr.)
K – Ross Evans (TCU, Jr.)
KR – Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Sr.)
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andy Dalton (TCU, Sr.)
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Tank Carder (TCU, Jr.)
Special Teams Player of the Year: KR Jeremy Kerley (TCU, Sr.)
As you can see, I went with three Air Force players on the first team.
Rembert was a first-team all-conference selection last season, but it could be argued that Wright – who led the Falcons with seven picks – had the better season. I went with both of them, which might be a stretch, but it’s hard to pick one over the other. And I think they’ll form the MWC’s best corner tandem.
I went with Tew because of how he ended the 2009 season, his potential (I think he can be both a workhorse and a big-play threat) and the fact there aren’t so many obvious standout tailbacks in the league that I thought I needed to select two of them.
Here are some other Air Force players who could make a push for all-conference honors by the end of the season.
-FS Jon Davis. Coaches have always raved about Davis’ potential, and he started to show what he could do last year. Look no further than his ridiculous pick-six against New Mexico (where he weaved through Lobos, absorbed a huge hit at the goal line and still managed to get into the end zone). He might be the best athlete on the team (he played a few basketball games for the prep school a few years ago), he has great instincts and he loves to hit. I predict a breakout year for him in 2010.
-TB Asher Clark. After struggling in the middle of last season (he gained just 142 yards on 46 carries – 3.1 yards per carry – in games four through eightt), he finished strong (he had 481 on 67 carries – 7.2 yards per carry – and all seven of his touchdowns in the final five games of the campaign. With a healthy knee and the fact he’s not starting the year with thoughts of playing quarterback, he should get off to a better start in 2010.
K Erik Soderberg. In 2009, his first year as a starter, Soderberg made 38-of-40 extra points and 22-of-30 field goals, including a long of 50 yards, en route to second-team all-league honors. He should be even better this season.
-G A.J. Wallerstein. If the Falcons’ brand new offensive line comes together and Air Force’s ground game continues to be strong, it likely will have a lot to do with Wallerstein. He got his feet wet in 2008 and last season played considerable snaps as part of a rotation at guard. Big, athletic and very, very smart, he could be a good one for the Falcons.
-DE Rick Ricketts. He’ll be the leader up front as the Falcons’ lone returning starter on the defensive line. He’s undersized, but he plays with a relentless intensity and has a bit of crazy in him on the field (in a good way). He also always seems to be around the ball and has shown an ability to make plays. Working against him – there are a bunch of quality defensive linemen in the league and Ricketts isn’t a big name in the league heading into the season.
-OLB Andre Morris Jr. Morris has talent, size and experience. This could be the year he puts it all together and goes from good to great.
Keep an Eye on:
-TE Chaz Demerath. Made just five catches for 25 yards last season, and Air Force tight ends had just 11 catches total. But I feel like the tight end will become a bigger part of the offense. It has to, right? And having a more experienced quarterback delivering the ball should help. Demerath’s an athletic kid and there aren’t a whole lot of touted tight ends in the MWC.
-WR-Z/Ret Jonathan Warzeka. Showed his ability as a returner with the kickoff return for a touchdown in the Armed Forces Bowl. Always has had potential. Now that he’s a junior, he should make a substantial leap.
-WR-Z Kyle Halderman. Missed more than half of last season with a broken collarbone. But he showed big-play potential as a sophomore.
-All the LBs coming off injury. Among them are senior inside linebacker Ken Lamendola, senior outside linebacker Pat Hennessey and sophomore outside linebacker Alex Means. All could have big seasons … if they’re healthy.
-WR-X Kevin Fogler. A long shot because Fogler won’t get the opportunity to catch nearly as many passes as the talented receivers at San Diego State, BYU and UNLV. But he’s become a bona fide big-play receiver. Last season he grabbed 25 passes for 567 yards and five touchdowns.
-QB Tim Jefferson. So many good QBs in the league this year. And Jefferson probably won’t have the stats. But if he runs like he did as a freshman and passes like he did in the Armed Forces Bowl, he could force his way into contention.
-NG Ryan Gardner. Coaches gave him high marks for his work during spring practices attempting to fill the shoes of Ben Garland.
With that, I want to hear what readers think. Who should have been on the first team that I left off my ballot? Which Air Force players do you think will make their way onto all-conference? What do you think of the preseason poll? Is Air Force too high, too low or just about right?