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Making the Rounds: Week One of Camp

Graham Watson, ESPN has been running a short state of the conference and the league is off to a very good start with three teams in the Coaches Poll. That is as many as the Big 10 and the Big East has zero. The MWC is now in a great position to either join the BCS or take over the Big East's BCS bid.  The blog entry has one line that seems to be off when considering the Mountain West wants to be in the BCS:

So while the nation is keeping a keen eye on the Mountain West Conference, the conference needs to show it's not a three-hit wonder.

Somewhat true when you look at the bottom of the league, because San Diego State and Wyoming were terrible last year. If for some reason Air Force or UNLV come out of no where and win the league this next year and all of the nay-sayers would start shouting and saying how good is the league if this team last year who had a losing record won the league.

 What is best for the league is the top three --BYU, TCU, and Utah-- to keep winning conference titles and contending for the BCS, with the rest of the league winning their out of conference games and getting six teams bowl eligible. 

 Now for Air Force or an other team to win the league is every know and then is great, but the top three need to be the schools who win the league during the current evaluation cycle; that would provide the Mountain West to have the best shot at becoming an automatic qualifying league for the BCS.

 Mark Anderson, Las Vegas Review Journal: Defense has been a huge problem for the Rebels in recent years, more specifically last years meltdown against San Diego State that left the Rebels one win short of mediocrity -- or a bowl berth if one prefers to be positive.

 Yesterdays first full padded practice left the defense looking very, very good: 

The defense outplayed the offense in two full-team drills, especially the first one with players such as sophomore cornerback Will Chandler making an interception, senior linebacker Jason Beauchamp batting down a pass and senior nickel back Terrance Lee making a sack.

Not a surprise since defenses typically outplay the offense early in camp, but any confidence the UNLV defense can gain is gold.  Especially since the spread attack the Rebels run is going to be one of the better offenses in the MWC.

 Jay Drew, Salt Lake Tribune:  BYU tight end Denis Pitta is now the go-to guy on the offense, even though he was behind former Coug wide out Austin Collie, Pitta put up huge numbers and is one of the best tight ends in the country.  This year he will

"If I am playing my best football, and we are doing well, the numbers will come," he said. "The position I have in our offense, I will be able to get a lot of balls, and be the focal point of that. That's my job -- to get open and catch a lot of footballs."

Pitta will have help with receiver McKay Jacobson coming back from a two year mission, but Pitta has the most sure hands on the team. Also, look for Pitta to be on the short list of the All-American lists once the season is over.

Lya Wodraska, Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah is looking to revert back to the true spread with new offensive coordinator Dave Schramm and to increase the play count to 80 per game.  Here is what Schramm said on the change for 2009:

Some of the changes the Utes are making to their offense under new coordinator Dave Schramm is going back to more of a true spread offense than the Utes used recently.

That loud cheering is the collective Utah fan base.  Besides the Sugar Bowl last year Utah has rarely used the spread attack that made them famous in 2003 and 2004 season under Urban Meyer, Mike Sanford, and Dan Mullens.

This means more quarterback read option, shovel passes, and receivers running the ball in end around plays.  This could benefit Corbin Louks because he is the speediest of the quarterbacks, but the fan base on the hill should be excited.

Dirk Facer, Deseret News:  Utah running back Matt Asiata is finally the man for the Utes after splitting time last year with Darrell Mack.  Even in sharing time Asiata gained over 700 yards and had 12 scores. Asita was looking to add more speed to his game and shredded off a few lbs:

Running back Matt Asiata took it upon himself, though, to make a good thing even better. The senior wanted to make the most of his final college season by improving his speed. In order to do so, he decided to shed some weight — dropping 10 to 12 pounds through summer conditioning and work with the team's strength and conditioning coaches.

This could be huge for Utah because Asiata should get a large increase in touches; last year Asiata had 146 carries which was just over 11 per game.  Look for that number to easily be fifteen plus carries per game.

Jeff Call, Deseret News:  The early take on stud wide receiver McKay Jacobson is that he looks to be back in great shape after being gone the past two seasons while on a church mission.  In the spring Jacobson practiced sparingly because of a pulled hamstring, but Jacobson looks to be back after the annual pre camp race up the mountain:

He [Jacobson] and his teammates awoke in the early morning hours and started their annual race up to the "Y" on the mountain that serves as the campus backdrop. Jacobson, who returned from a mission last winter, arrived first.

This could be great news for BYU fans since it even took the best receiver in school history Austin Collie a full year to get back to his level.  Take this news by being cautiously optimistic toward McKay Jacobson’s upcoming season.

Kelly Lylell, The Coloradoan:  The Rams are in search of anyone to be able to play running back with the loss of Kyle Bell and Gatrell Johnson.  One of the replacements could be an over looked  Ram who has had success on special teams:

Johnny Square, has been used primarily on punt and kickoff returns the past three seasons. But this year, he's getting a serious look at running back, the position he starred at in high school, running for 1,684 yards and scoring a school-record 29 touchdowns to earn all-state honors his senior year.

The running back position is so wide open for the Rams it seems that Square has a shot for some playing time.

Gil Lebreton Fort Worth Star Telegram:  The Horned Frogs have their highest ranking in school history, and the difference this year is that the coaching staff is embracing the ranking.  In years past the team would downplay their ranking or feel they do not deserve it, but coach Gary Patterson is trying a new approach this year:

"We have the highest preseason ranking at TCU [17th in the coaches’ poll] since 1960," Patterson pointed out. "If we’re smart, we’ll just keep things in perspective."

While TCU is in a great position for a potential BCS bid they do need to be reminded that in the history of the MWC only two teams have won the league who were preseason favorites.

 Eric Schmoldt, Casper Star Tribune: Under the previous regime with Joe Glenn the Cowboys practices were run like a show for the fans and alumni with Cowboy Joe playing master of ceremonies.  This new coaching staff which features former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen as the head coach is getting in the much needed conditioning that the Cowboys have lacked in the past:

 "For the first time I can honestly say since I've been here, we looked like a football team and we practiced like a football team," Christensen said at UW's fall sports media day. "[Friday], we finished with conditioning ... and the guys struggled immensely getting around the field. It was an embarrassment from my standpoint.

"Today we practiced for two and a half hours, extremely fast [and] upbeat. That's the way it's supposed to look in Division I football."

With this type of coaching and work ethic the Pokes should be able to outlast more opponents late in the games.  This conditioning could make the all ready good Cowboy defense even better then Wyoming could surprise a few teams this year.

 Quick Hits: Colorado State has a wide open quarterback battle with four vying for the position.  BYU signs best offensive lineman in Arizona for 22nd commit, but loses one who leaves team.  The Utes receiving corp looks good... new OC wants fans to criticize.  SDSU has at least one loaded position while seniority means nothing, and the offense must find a balance.  At TCU corners could lead to team success in 2009.