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2021 Mountain West Media Days Recap: Day One

All of today’s highlights in one place.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The first step of football season is upon us. Conference media days are here.

The opening day of the Mountain West Media Days began back in Las Vegas with the release of the predicted order of finish being released.

There were two noticeable differences: 1) Releasing the predicted order of finish and all-conference teams on different days. 2) Splitting the two days of interviews by coaches and players rather than divisions.

Predicted order of finish:

The two division winners are not a surprise. Boise State is pretty much always the favorite in the Mountain, and it was expected to have Nevada and San Jose State split the votes in the West, although the Wolf Pack got the lion’s share over the defending champs. What is somewhat surprising are the other two teams who received first-place votes. Wyoming had two people vote for them, and Fresno State also got a vote. Either of these teams winning their respective division would be quite the surprise, although not totally unreasonable. Then again, Hawaii got a lone vote in 2019 and that worked out pretty well for the Rainbow Warriors.

Coaching Interviews

Here are the ones I could find. If you have others, please post.

Boise State

  • QB battle still going on. Expects to know within the first 10 days of fall camp. He spoke on the reality of covid policies and vaccinations. Building dependable depth on both sides of the line. Creating situations of adversity during camp to see how players respond. Discussed the need for multiple running backs to produce in order to be successful. It’s also “relaxation week” coming up for the staff before fall camp starts.

Hawaii

  • Enjoys talking about the players and is proud to lead them. He isn’t focused on the preseason projections of finishing fourth in the division, the goal is to win a championship. They had a mostly full off-season program (with some pauses). No superstars but lots of talent on the team. Thinks Calvin Turner is the most diverse and explosive player in the league. Feels partnership with Addidas aligns with their vision and goals as a program.

Utah State

  • Focus is trying to build the team and trying to focus on developing the players. He doesn’t want to repeat his experience last year with his team as far as losing players to covid. He doesn’t know how competitive they are on the field yet, but is excited and ready to be in the mix on a weekly basis, but cautious because he doesn’t know what people will look like on the field yet. Likes having four returning starters on the OL, experience at QB, and his weapons at wide receivers. Was looking for transfers that had multiple years of eligibility left. Loves the playoff expansion.

Wyoming

Link

  • Calls this year’s team the deepest he has had in all of his years as a head coach. He likes the weapons he has. He really likes the experience on the offensive line.

Craig Thompson Annual State of the Conference

This is often where the big talking points stem from. Here is what the talking points are this year:

Covid guidelines:

  • Vaccinated: Play on
  • Unvaccinated: Will have to undergo weekly testing and contact tracing. Schools will have to pay for tests this year.
  • Roughly 7 of 12 teams have at least 80% of players vaccinated with at least one dose. According to coaches, UNLV and Wyoming are over that threshold. Utah State is close and expects to be over that threshold by the start of the season. Boise State “has a lot of room to grow in that area.”
  • The plan is to not cancel or reschedule games. If a team can’t play, it will be a forfeit

Playoff Expansion:

  • Like the proposal, helps the MWC conference. They can play for a national championship. Prioritizes the conference championships.
  • Some concerns about the amount of games being played in playoff expansion.
  • If it’s approved in September, guessing new format will take place in four years at the end of the current cycle. Could be done before that but lots of factors with current playoff contract.
  • Sees a possibility for two “Group of 5” teams to get into the 12-team playoff, cites 2020 season as an example of that.
  • American vs Mountain West: MWC has a deeper paradoy. Nice to have surprise teams but hard without the nationally relevant team.
  • Relationship with Boise State: Direct conversations with President Tromp. No issue (at least publicly) with each school trying to put themselves in the best position to succeed. Have been on zoom calls with new AD but have yet to meet face to face. Has heard similar things from him and imagines the case is the same for the other 11 teams.
  • Conference expansion: Lack of options out west. Has not been a priority or focus the past few years.

NLI:

  • Referred to student-athletes as performers.
  • Hid behind the cloak of amateurism. They deserve to be compensated for their efforts.
  • Not there yet, need a uniform policy, not differences from state to state.

Future Agenda:

  • Guard against complacency.
  • Have a season where athletes are comfortable and safe playing in games.
  • Play all the games safely.