The Mountain West held its annual media day Tuesday and Wednesday in Las Vegas. With only a month separating us the from kickoff of the 2012 season it is hard to hide the excitement. Each program is sitting at an equal 0-0 so there is optimism all around. Let us look beyond the cliches’. Here are some quick observations and highlights of each team that took to the podium. Be prepared for some off-the-wall discussion.
Participants: head coach Dave Christensen, center Nick Carlson, safety Luke Ruff.
Leave it to media day to bring out the non-football related material. Ruff a senior strong safety might win an award for the unlikeliest summer activity. Most players spend the off-season at home with friends enjoying the break. Luke spent the summer learning to clean frac water. On the football related discussion, Ruff praised the new defense being installed by coordinator Chris Tomey who takes over a unit ranked 98th in the country in 2011.
Participants: head coach Bobby Hauck, linebacker John Lotulelei, offensive lineman Doug Zismann
Coach Hauck believes the team is growing up. Hauck mentioned the Rebels had three starting freshman on the offensive line last year which was a minus, but this year the unit has that much more experience. Rebuilding is a far cry from what Hauck is used to coaching Montana where there was always plenty of talent ready to fill in for departed players. Only three winning seasons in the last 28 is a stat that Hauck willfully disclosed after naming his goal for 2012; a bowl appearance. The mission for the Rebels is a lofty one for sure considering they will be an underdog just about every week.
San Diego State
Participants: head coach Rocky Long, tight end Gavin Escobar Jr., defensive back Leon McFadden
San Diego State, like Boise State, is headed to the Big East in 2013. It was actually difficult to remember that it was the Aztecs on the podium because much of the conversation revolved around the Broncos. Coach Long admitted that he thought Boise was the best team in the conference even with several losses to graduation and the NFL. Escobar mentioned his excitement to receive passes from Oregon State transfer quarterback Ryan Katz. Both Long and Escobar credited Long for bringing a toughness and work ethic to team practices.
Participants: head coach Bob Davie, linebacker Joseph Harris, quarterback B.R. Holbrook
You can tell Davie had a decade of experience in broadcasting by his opening statement. Davie was cool calm and collected behind the mic. As to why the former Notre Dame head coach decided to take on one of the worst programs in the country, he answered the question with the statement “the past doesn’t have to dictate the future.” TCU, Wisconson, and Kansas State were examples given by Davie of programs that rose from a punch line to the one doing the punching. Perhaps the most candid moment of the day was Davie expressing that he did not like the team when he first saw them. The last three coaches produced three total wins in Albuquerque. Holbrook said it was his job to buy into the coach no matter who it is.
Participants: head coach Chris Ault, offensive lineman Jeff Nady, defensive back Khalid Wooten
If there was anything coach Ault wanted to express, it was his excitement to be a part of the Mountain West. Nevada makes the move from the WAC along with Fresno State and Hawaii. Coach Ault’s pistol attack isn’t going anywhere as he made that clear. When asked if the Mountain West was a step up in competition both Nady and Ault gave the traditional “we prepare the same no matter who is next” answer. Other than that, Ault continued to praise the new conference in terms of overall quality.
Participants: head coach Norm Chow, cornerback Mike Edwards, defensive lineman Paipai Falemalu
Discipline has been an issue for the Warriors and something Chow has had to address already in his first year as head coach. Edwards and Falemalu joked about the retribution some players have faced for being late to class or breaking other team rules. Falemalu had a light moment when he said that being late to class wasn’t a problem for him because he was always punctual. Chow is going to make the change to a pro style offense with a bigger emphasis on running the ball. The goal is get better on not just offense, but defense as well. Chow believes a unit that practices against the run will be better prepared during games. Edwards is from Cleveland and he apparently doesn’t miss much from his hometown now that he lives in Hawaii. As a former Hawaii resident, I can understand the sentiment.
Participants: head coach Tim DeRuyter, quarterback Derek Carr, defensive back Phillip Thomas
The Bulldogs have a new conference and head coach this year. After 14 years under Pat Hill‘s guidance Fresno State makes the change to DeRuyter who was the defensive coordinator at Texas A & M. Carr called Hill a father figure but didn’t let that stop him from buying into the new coach. Hill coached Derek’s older brother David who helped put Fresno State on the map. When asked who the better passer was, the younger Hill answered with the politically correct middle brother, Darrin, who oddly is a former defensive end.
Participants: head coach Jim McElwain, running back Chris Nwoke, linebacker Shaq Barrett
Everyone will represent the company. Each player is the CEO of the program; that is the theme that coach McElwain is attempting to advance. After guiding Alabama to two national championships as the offensive coordinator why did McElwain choose to coach CSU? McElwain answered the question with a question saying, “why not?” The new head coach is from Montana and enjoys what the West has to offer especially the Ft. Collins community. That community could use some good news after a three win season.
Participants: head coach Chris Petersen, offensive guard Joe Kellogg, cornerback Jamar Taylor
Enter the class of the conference. The Broncos are in their final year as members of the Mountain West but have made an impact during their short stay. Petersen was his usual humble self giving credit to other programs within the league as being equally capable of competing for a championship. Kellogg made a solid point in response to the plethora of new starters, saying the Broncos have 22 seniors returning with decent playing time. Expectations are high again. The Broncos are picked to finish first within the conference. Petersen always tries to temper preseason admiration with the one game at a time response. For those who don’t know, Petersen has a blue and orange samurai sword, for whatever that is worth.
Participants: head coach Troy Calhoun, offensive lineman Jordan Eason, kicker Parker Harrington
Air Force is a different cat. The freshman are currently in basic training and the sophomores just completed survival training. There is no doubt that the mission in Colorado Springs is much bigger than winning games on Saturday. Wins will be hard to come by with only five to six returning starters. When and will the Air Force unveil their alternate uniforms? Both Eason and Harrington could neither confirm nor deny.