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 Rebels had a good thing going with Doug Brumfield, but then he got hurt, and they didn’t miss a beat with Jayden Maiava stepping in. The two ended up totaling over 3000 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, plus just under 300 rushing yards and 4 more rushing TDs. The latter ended up being named Mountain West Freshman of the Year and the strong quarterback play carried UNLV to the championship game.
The Broncos had a very strong offense this season, thanks in large part to their stable of running backs. They featured the Offensive Player of the Year in Ashton Jeanty as well as the conference’s returning leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in George Holani. That’s not even counting true freshman Breezy Dubar, who showed flashes as well. Jeanty and Holani were rarely healthy at the same time, but both were capable of taking over a game. No matter who was out there, opposing teams had to focus a lot of attention on stopping the run.
Quite a few teams in the conference had strong wide receiver play in 2023, but the Aggies found a way to top the rest of the competition. That happens when the top trio of WRs all collected over 600 yards receiving and over 6 TDs. Jalen Royals led the way with over 1000 receivers yards and 14 TDs, but Terrell Vaughn was almost just as good. All of them were deep threats, but Micah Davis was perhaps the biggest, averaging 17,4 yards per catch. Utah State’s receivers put up big numbers this season.
The Mountain West was short on tight-end production last season and it was hard to project any returning players to have a breakout season. But the Rams restocked their position with different transfers and recruits and Dallin Holker emerged as the starter and burst on the scene in 2023. He put together a terrific season, catching six touchdowns and accumulating 767 yards in the air. Not only was it easily the best season for a TE in the MW Conference, but he is a finalist for the Mackey Award.
The Falcons have had a stranglehold on this position for quite a while now, and this year was no different. A veteran group paved the way for a new batch of rushers in the triple-option attack. They lost their starting left tackle late in the offseason and didn’t miss a beat, starting five seniors, with four of them serving as some of the best linemen in the conference. Air Force is able to reload at OL better than any other Mountain West team.
The Cowboy’s front four was set to be exceptional this season. While they didn’t reach that lofty expectation, they were still very good. Jordan Bertagnole and Cole Godbout did their jobs up the middle, stuffing the run and getting into the backfield. The quartet of defensive ends, notably Sabastian Harsh and Devonne Harris, were steady and reliable. Wyoming’s D-line was full of players who did their jobs consistently.
The Broncos got off to a slow start generating a pass rush, but by the end of the year, they led the Mountain West in sacks. The pass rush was led by two breakout players, Ahmed Hassanein and Andrew Simpson. The duo combined for 19 sacks by themselves, and they placed second and fifth in the conference, respectively. Nine other players notched at least one sack, making this a team effort in addition to an individual one.
The Cowboys are especially skilled at developing NFL-quality linebackers. Each year, those positions prove to be the most consistent strength of their defenses. For 2023, star Easton Gibbs teamed with Shae Suiaunoa to combine for 194 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, and 4.5 of those were sacks. While other schools boasted strong linebacker play, Wyoming was a tier above this season.
The Rams had a stout secondary with quite a few playmakers. The unit was led by safety Jack Howell, who racked up 114 tackles over the course of the season. He was flanked by Henry Blackburn and Chigozie Anusiem. There were other playmakers, of course, but this trio made life hard for opposing offenses and made Colorado State’s unit the top in the Mountain West this season.
When Barry Odom hired James Shibest as his special teams coach, many people knew the special teams would be in good hands, as Shibest was widely regarded as one of the best ST coaches in all of college football. 2023 couldn’t have gone any better, as the Rebels produced the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year in kicker Jose Pizano and also boasted the conference’s top kick and punt returner in speedy Jacob De Jesus. That combo helped them solidify their place as the top special teams unit.
- Boise State: 2
- Colorado State: 2
- UNLV: 2
- Wyoming: 2
- Air Force: 1
- Utah State: 1
- The unanimous position votes were quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and linebacker.
- The only race that was truly close was defensive back, where the position came down to a single vote.
- It was also the only position where there were more than two different teams receiving votes.
- Five teams held their ground from the preseason list in the summer (running back, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, and defensive back).
- Looking at the team totals, it was pretty even. Six different teams are featured here and no team had more than two positions. The four teams that did have multiple positions have been featured a lot on our lists so far.
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 2023 All-Coach Team.