Continuing with the theme of the week, the Peak Perspective Column will detail which teams have the best position units in the Mountain West. Voted on by our team, the results can be seen below.
The Bulldogs sit atop this position mainly due to star quarterback Jake Haener. However, back-up Logan Fife looked pretty good when he was thrust into action halfway through the season. But it was Haener who was undoubtedly the best quarterback in the conference during the 2022 season. He put together a remarkable season that was only slowed down by injuries. While a new team may lead this position next year, it unquestionably belong to Fresno Stat this year.
The Falcons led the conference and nation in rushing last season and did so again this season. Primary ball-carrier Brad Roberts had another monster season, breaking the team's single-season rushing record in the process. Of course an academy team is going to run the ball a lot. However, Air Force is doing it effectively and better than anyone else in the country. Although this was a bit of a close race, AFA deserved this spot.
The Bulldogs were the preseason favorite at this spot and backed it up by having a strong season at the receiver position. Jalen Cropper was as expected, which is to say extremely good and he led the group with a strong senior campaign. Nikko Remigio was great as well and the two of them formed a dangerous duo that opposing defenses weren’t able to contain more often that not. It makes sense that the top wide receivers in the conference were aided by the top quarterback and vis versa.
This was by far the toughest position group to vote on, as the Mountain West overall had a down year at tight end. Given the talent they lost at the position from the 2021 season, it made sense there would be a big dropoff. Thus, Caleb Phillips and Hawaii emerged as the team that utilized tight ends the most in the passing game and were the most effective team to do so. While that isn’t saying much, they still did more than other teams, so they take this position. Hopefully it is a tighter battle next year.
Three or four teams are typically able to produce formidable offensive line units year and year out. One of those teams is the Falcons and they ended the year with the top o-line in the conference once again. There were multiple players along the unit who were worthy enough to be in consideration as all-conference performers, which speaks to be their talent but also the program’s ability to develop players year after year. It was a senior-led group, but don’t be surprised if they reload again next season.
San Diego State
The Aztecs emerged from the season with the strongest defensive line. The interior of their defense was stout, shutting down the run as well as getting to the quarterback. Leading the way was Jonah Tavai, who was a candidate for the Mountain West defensive player of the year (although he didn’t win). It was a deep position for San Diego State, and an effective one as well. Now it will be interesting to see if they can reload after losing some talent there to close the season.
San Jose State
No team in the Mountain West was better as rushing the passer than the Spartans this past season. The combination of Viliami Fehoko (the Mountain West player of the year) and Cade Hall (who won the award in 2020), proved to be too much for opposing offenses to handle. San Jose State’s defense was built on their formidable edge play and it helped them to put together a bowl season in 2022.
After being the weakest unit on their defense in 2021, the linebacker corp became the strength of the Bronco defense in 2022. Strong seasons from Ezekiel Noa and DJ Schramm was a big reason why the team was so skilled at stopping the run as well as the pass. Also, the emergence of Andrew Simpson was helped this year and an encouraging development for the future. Boise State’s present at linebacker was excellent and their is potential for that to continue into their future as well.
The Broncos won out at this position after a standout season from their defensive backs. At one point in the season, they were leading the nation in the fewest passing yards allowed. While they weren’t able to keep that pace up, they were still very good in the secondary. Led by NFL-bound JL Skinner and equally talented Ty Jones, teams were met were hard hitters who tackled well in space. They were flanked by other talented players, including Rodney Robinson and Seyi Olidipo, both of who had a knack for coming up with big plays when needed.
San Diego State
A few teams in the conference should have strong special teams units, but San Diego State won out in this category with little competition. They had the best punter (who also doubled as a kicker) to go along with one of the most consistent and dynamic returners in the Mountain West. That one-two punch was more than enough to rise above the rest of the teams in the conference.
- Air Force: 2
- Boise State: 2
- Fresno State: 2
- San Diego State: 2
- Hawaii: 1
- San Jose State: 1
- The unanimous position votes were offensive line, pass rush, linebacker and special teams.
- Running back, defensive line, and defensive back were the positions with the closest races
- Tight end and defensive back were the only positions where there were more than two different teams receiving votes.
- Five teams held their ground from the postseason voting at the end of last year (QB, RB, WR, OL, DB).
- Looking at the team totals, it was pretty even. Six different teams are featured here and no team had more than two positions. The top four teams were the ones that had two positions.
There it is. So let’s hear it. Who did we snub? Who did we put on here that shouldn’t be? Let’s hear your feedback in the comments section.
Coming tomorrow: The 2022 All-Coach Team.