This past week Phil Steele released his Mountain West pre-season picks and it immediately ignited a controversy amongst the fanbases of who has the best quarterback in the Mountain West. Steele’s picks for QBs were as follows:
1st Team: Derek Carr, Fresno State
2nd Team: David Fales, San Jose State
3rd Team: Cody Fajardo, Nevada
4th Team: Chuckie Keeton, Utah State / Brett Smith, Wyoming
This is a list of 5 VERY legitimate quarterbacks in the Mountain West. Many people thought that it was a disservice to Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick to not be included on this list. That’s a fair argument, but going by stats alone he doesn’t belong on this particular list. Carr and Fales will be seniors this year and will be considered two of the elite QBs in the 2014 class of quarterbacks. Carr has a quarterback pedigree, his brother David was selected with the 1st pick of the NFL draft in 2002 by the Houston Texans. David Fales came onto the scene in 2012 with a terrific junior year for the Spartans. He threw for over 4000 yards with 33 touchdowns while leading the Spartans to their best record since 1940, an 11-2 mark and a win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl.
As for the others on the list you have three quarterbacks who are well suited for the zone read offenses, whereas Carr and Fales are your traditional pocket passers, which makes them very attractive to NFL teams. Fajardo piled up a massive amount of yards for the Wolfpack throwing for 2700+ yards and rushed for 1100+ yards while accounting for 32 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. That’s an impressive numbers, but still doesn’t match the amount of yards racked up by Carr or Fales. Keeton and Smith had very similar football seasons, even though their respective teams had very different years. Smith tossed for 2800+ yards and rushed for 500 yards while accounting for 33 touchdowns. Keeton threw for 3300+ yards and 600+ yards on the ground while accounting for 35 touchdowns. The Aggies went onto the Idaho Potato Bowl and crushed a very good Toledo team, while Smith’s Cowboys limped to a 4-8 record.
Looking ahead to this season the Mountain West may be sporting the best group of quarterbacks of any conference in the country. You have a group of six quarterbacks who (barring any kind of injury) will be at the top of the conference. Those being Carr, Fales, Fajardo, Keeton, Smith, and Southwick. What we don’t know is what kind of year to expect out of sophomore quarterback Nick Sherry from UNLV whose coaching staff could be in their last season if the Rebels can’t turn around the wins and losses. Sherry had a good freshman campaign as he threw for 2500+ yards and 16 touchdowns, but also threw 17 interceptions. Can we expect that Sherry will improve or will the Rebels continue to struggle? It’s really hard to say what to expect from the Rebels. Bobby Hauck enlisted the services of his brother to coach the defense, but will that be enough to keep the Rebels competitive? Another newcomer, Adam Dingwell at San Diego State got limited snaps last year throwing alongside of Ryan Katz. Dingwell threw for just under 1000 yards and eight touchdowns. San Diego State has had a good run of QBs lately will the trend continue with Dingwell? New Mexico will be looking to a new QB this year with the graduation of BR Holbrook. Cole Gautsche is expected to direct the Lobos ground game. Last year Gautsche threw for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but had 760 yards on the ground and 7 touchdowns. I would expect both of those numbers to go up significantly, but can the Lobos turn in a good season? Last year the Lobos finished with a 4-9 record, while only winning one conference game.
Two QBs who we know not nearly enough about is Kale Pearson at Air Force and Connor Smith at Colorado State. Pearson will presumably be taking over for the graduating Connor Dietz, who had a nice career with the Falcons. Pearson saw limited action last year throwing for 128 yards and no touchdowns and rushing for 80 more yards. The Falcons ground based attack will be on display this year with a new QB, luckily they start the season with FCS opponent Colgate to work out a few of the bugs before they face off with Utah State. The only QB controversy that I can see right now is at Colorado State where Connor Smith and Garrett Grayson will battle it out for starting quarterback. Grayson was the opening day starter last year but as Grayson was injured he was replaced with quarterback Connor Smith who finished out the year. Smith threw for 1022 yards and 6 TDs, but the Rams really struggled last year under first year coach Jim McElwain. Lastly is Hawaii QB Sean Schroeder. The Warrior (now Rainbow Warrior) offense struggled most of last season in their inaugural season the Mountain West where Schroeder threw for 1878 yards and 11 touchdowns but also turned it over 12 times.
What do I expect from the coming season? Well, I can’t say that I disagree with Phil Steele a whole lot. I think Derek Carr will be the king of Mountain West QBs this coming season, but after that it’s up for grabs. David Fales is the next most reasonable pick, however, he’s going to be learning under a new coach Ron Caragher who comes to the Spartans from the University of San Diego. The last coach who moved up from USD now coaches the San Francisco 49ers. Can Caragher bring the same success with him to FBS football? Cody Fajardo, Brett Smith, and Chuckie Keeton will battle it out for supremacy of the best rushing QBs in the conference and it’s really hard to say what any of these teams will do. Nevada will be under a new coaching staff this year after the inventor of the pistol, Chris Ault, retired. Brett Smith is looking for a rebound with the Cowboys who seem to be successful in odd-numbered years, and Chuckie Keeton will be moving to a new conference with a lot of new faces and defenses, as well as a new coaching staff after the departure of Gary Anderson to Wisconsin. The best part of these three QBs is that they’re all juniors this year.. this will make for a VERY thrilling 2014 season when all are at the height of their college careers. The wildcard? Joe Southwick in Boise. Everyone knows the Broncos are gonna be the Broncos, but will Southwick be the next QB in the line of successful Boise QBs such as Dinwiddie, Zabransky, and Moore? Will he win a fall camp battle against highly touted QB Nick Patti? I would think Southwick has a huge upperhand but if Southwick struggles (like he did in the early part of last season) you can bet some Boise faithful will call for a change.
Here’s how I see the Mountain West QB race taking shape, I’ll rank all of the QBs. Tell me what you think, but this might be the best group of QBs in the history of the Mountain West, and I’m looking forward to following this as it progresses.
1st Team: Derek Carr, Fresno State
2nd Team: David Fales, San Jose State
3rd Team: Brett Smith, Wyoming
4th Team: Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Everyone else: Joe Southwick, Cody Fajardo, Adam Dingwell, Nick Sherry, Kale Pearson, Connor Smith, Cole Gautsche, Sean Schroeder.
Thoughts? Post ’em here.