Athlon Sports brought out their Pre-Season All-MWC Team on Thursday, and Fresno State got 10 players on the list to match their 10 wins last year. They got 4 players on the First Team, including at all 3 skill positions. They continued on with 2 more on the Second, Third, and Fourth Teams. Boise State led the way with 15 selections, followed by SDSU (13), USU (12), and Air Force at 11.
The First Team offense is led by senior QB Jake Haener, fresh off Fresno’s first 4,000yd season since Derek Carr was throwing to Davante Adams. The gunslinger has been named to numerous award watchlists so far, and should be a strong contender for Conference Player of the Year. He is backed up by 1st Team Running Back Jordan Mims, who is poised for a breakout season now that Ronnie Rivers has departed for the NFL. The senior RB shined in place of Rivers last season, and his mix of speed and strength makes him a dynamic weapon in the backfield. Jalen Cropper joins them on the First Team offense as the junior looks to build an NFL resume. He suffered from turnover issues in the 2021 season, but is a multi-faceted player looking to be the next true star Fresno State receiver.
Finishing up the First Team for the Bulldogs is DB Evan Williams. The third year captain of the defense led the team in both tackles and interceptions last season. With DaRon Bland being drafted by the Cowboys in the 5th round of the NFL Draft, all eyes will be all Williams to be the next DB drafted out of Fresno State.
The Second Team was represented by WR Josh Kelly and DE David Perales. While Kelly is not the multi-dimensional player like Jalen Cropper, he may be the more skilled receiver, and had numerous highlight reel catches last season including multiple game-saving catches against UCLA in the last minute win last year. David Perales did not quite have the same incredible season in 2021 that he had in 2020, but he also did a great job of creating openings for Aaron Mosby on the other end of the line. Look for him to create more havoc in 2022 alongside Isaiah Johnson.
The Athlon Third Team had OL Dontae Bull and LB Levelle Bailey. Bailey quickly became a leader of the defense last season, and the return to a 4-3 base defense should allow for more growth and dynamic play for the Sacramento product. Bull has been a slightly inconsistent member of the OL due to both injuries and penalties, but he does have a high level of potential in his final season and another shuffled O-Line order under new coach Saga Tuitele.
The Fourth Team unit has OL Bula Schmidt and P Carson King to round out the selections. They have Schmidt listed as a C, but it does remain to be seen what position he will play under Tuitele’s new OL. Carson King came on strong in 2021 although he was overshadowed by the otherworldly skills of Matt Araiza and Ryan Stonehouse. Look for more improvement for King as SPT leader John Baxter makes his triumphant return to Fresno.
That’s a quick rundown of the Athlon Sports Pre-Season team. As other lists become available, watch this space for breakdowns on them. Keep it glued here to MWConnection for all of your Mountain West news.