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Peak Perspective: Top 2023 Mountain West Freshmen

Which freshman impressed the most?

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Every Year, we get a brand-new look at the bright, young talent the Mountain West has to offer.

This year was no different.

Here are 10 freshmen we were fortunate enough to be introduced to this season in the Mountain West.

1. Jayden Maiava - QB, UNLV

Maiava’s stardom came to light after the untimely injury to then UNLV starting QB Doug Brumfield vs. Vanderbilt. From Week 3 on, Maiava took the reins and didn’t look back. The local kid led his Rebels to a 9-4 record, the school’s best since joining the Mountain West, and a bid to the Mountain West Championship Game. His 64.1% completion percentage, 2,626 passing yards, and 14/6 TD/INT ratio helped earn him second-team all-conference, as well. Talk about a good backup plan…

2. Kage Casey - OT, Boise State

Joining Maiava as second-team all-conference was this 6’5” 308 lb. Freshman out of Happy Valley, Oregon. A force to be reckoned with in the Mountain West this year, Kage Casey allowed only one sack over his 755 snaps played in 2023, while grading out at 100% efficiency in three separate games vs, North Dakota, Wyoming, and AIr Force. He finished the season with a 96.5% efficiency rating.

3. Pofele Ashlock - WR, Hawai’i

Pofele Ashlock was a massive reason the Rainbow Warriors were able to put up such big stats through the air in 2023, and it started early on. In the young receiver’s first two career games, he caught for over 200 yards, earning Freshman of the Week twice over that period. And he didn’t slow down. Ashlock led all FBS Freshman in receptions and receiving yards this year (83 catches for 832 total yards), and was second in TD receptions & receiving yards per game.

4. Nuer Gatkuoth - DL, Colorado State

One of the most impactful Freshman on the defensive side of the ball this year was none other than CSU’s Nuer Gatkuoth. Gatkuoth started 10 total games at DE this year for the Rams, being credited with 53 tackles (6.5 for loss), 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups. According to Pro Football Focus, Gatkuoth racked up 29 QB pressures as well, making his presence felt in the opposing team’s backfield quite regularly. It seems he’ll be a force for years to come.

5. Jalen Moss - WR, Fresno State

As one of the top Mountain West recruits this season, out of Menlo-Atherton, CA, Jalen Moss did not disappoint for Fresno State. Making an immediate impact for the Bulldogs, Moss totaled 706 yards receiving on 55 catches to go along with 6 TDs. His biggest game of the year came on October 7th, when the young wideout racked up 9 catches for 115 yards and 1 TD against a formidable Wyoming defense.

6. Devon Dampier - QB, New Mexico

As previously mentioned in the case of UNLV and Jayden Maiava, it always helps when your team has a solid backup option at QB. For the New Mexico Lobos, when starter Dylan Hopkins wasn’t on the field, Freshman QB Devon Dampier was an exceptional offensive option. Effective in the air and on the ground, Dampier demonstrated poise and efficiency, totaling 853 yards (525 passing, 328 rushing) with 6 TDs and 0 INTs on the year.

7. Paul Fitzgerald - DE, Utah State

Another one of the biggest defensive assets in the Mountain West was Paul Fitzgerald of Utah State. The Defensive End found himself in opposing backfields often, making his presence heavily felt in both the pass and the run. The freshman totaled 46 tackles (23 solo) on the year, including 8 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 2023.

8. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi - QB, Colorado State

No, he isn’t a true freshman by any means, but a freshman worth mentioning nonetheless. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi capitalized on his experience from one year ago as a redshirt freshman QB, turning his experience into confidence for CSU. The Rams’ QB threw for 3,460 yards in 2023 (good for 2nd most in the conference) and 22 TDs, cementing himself as a high-impact player in the Mountain West.

9. Dereck Moore - S, New Mexico

Putting the “strong” in strong safety, Dereck Moore was as impactful a defensive back as any in the conference this season. The Freshman Safety out of Irvine, CA totaled 49 tackles, 3rd most on his team, including 25 solo. His biggest impact came in the Lobos’ final game against Utah State, where the Safety racked up 12 of his 49 total tackles on the season.

10. Jai’Den Thomas - RB, UNLV

Thomas and Vincent Davis Jr. were workhorse backs for UNLV this season, but Thomas’s knack for finding the endzone allowed him to double the touchdown total of his counterpart Davis. Thomas rushed 108 times in 2023, racking up over 500 yards and 12 TDs, including a record-breaking performance on September 23rd where he finished his day with 100 yards rushing and 4 TDs against UTEP.