2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #27, UNLV CB Nohl Williams

The young Rebels cornerback is the top-ranked UNLV athlete on this year’s preseason countdown of the Mountain West’s best.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #27, UNLV CB Nohl Williams


The young Rebels cornerback is the top-ranked UNLV athlete on this year’s preseason countdown of the Mountain West’s best.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

An overlooked star.

Sometimes, it isn’t easy being a cornerback in the Mountain West, but the next player on our annual list of the conference’s best has more than held his own in a key role over the last two seasons.

UNLV’s Nohl Williams earned this spot as our top-ranked corner after cracking the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2020. He started five of the Rebels’ six games that year and then started eight more in ten total games in 2021, making 33 tackles to go along with four passes defended and an interception for a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 78.7. That was fourth among all Mountain West cornerbacks last year and first among those back for 2022.

In short, Williams has been a key part of turning the Rebels’ potential into production in the first two years of the Marcus Arroyo era and should continue to be for a defense that will probably need more from him than ever as they look to make a leap forward this fall.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #29, New Mexico S Jerrick Reed II

The Lobos safety is the top-ranked New Mexico player on this year’s countdown of the Mountain West’s best football athletes.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #29, New Mexico S Jerrick Reed II


The Lobos safety is the top-ranked New Mexico player on this year’s countdown of the Mountain West’s best football athletes.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

A very reliable veteran leader.

Despite a good amount of overall struggles in 2021, the New Mexico Lobos defense improved in a number of ways despite grappling with tough situations week after week. Perhaps no one can take more credit for that than safety Jerrick Reed II, the next entrant on our preseason list of the Mountain West’s top performers.

After starring at Northwest Mississippi Community College, Reed II stepped into the starting lineup right away in the 2019 season and picked up 51 total tackles, three tackles for loss, and a pick-six. 2020 would be even better, as he earned a spot on the postseason first-team all-Mountain West defense after making 33 total tackles and nabbing a conference-high four interceptions.

Being so opportunistic isn’t always easy, though, but despite grabbing just one interception in 2021, it was probably Reed II’s best overall campaign, anyway. He led New Mexico with 89 total tackles and six passes defended. Now a super senior, 2022 could be a big year for both him and the Lobos as they look to surprise.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #30, UNLV LB Brennon Scott

The Rebels’ rising defensive star lands on our annual countdown of the Mountain West’s top performers for the first time.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #30, UNLV LB Brennon Scott


The Rebels’ rising defensive star lands on our annual countdown of the Mountain West’s top performers for the first time.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

One of Vegas’s newest attractions.

Coming into the college football ranks with a great deal of hype and following through on that hype are two situations that don’t always overlap. In the case of UNLV’s Brennon Scott, however, the early returns on his fanfare have been great indeed.

Scott committed to UNLV over a wealth of Power 5 scholarship offers as part of Marcus Arroyo’s 2020 recruiting class, the program’s highest-rated recruit since 2006 according to 247Sports. After redshirting the 2020 season, he took on a much larger role across 11 games, including eight starts, and became the only freshman in the conference to collect at least ten tackles for loss, the first to do it since Nevada’s Dom Peterson in 2018. He also had 35 total tackles and four sacks.

While his status for 2022 is still up in the air following a spring injury, his eventual return will give a team on the rise a much-needed defensive playmaker.

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Air Force Football: 2022 Favorites?

Air Force Football: 2022 Favorites? Can the Falcons really run the table this season? Contact/Follow @PSeanU1 & @MWCwire Kickoff to the 2022 College Football season continues to appear less and less distant in the horizon. For the Air Force Falcons, …

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Air Force Football: 2022 Favorites?


Can the Falcons really run the table this season?


Contact/Follow @PSeanU1 & @MWCwire

Kickoff to the 2022 College Football season continues to appear less and less distant in the horizon. For the Air Force Falcons, there has been quite a bit activity after a lull in the action following spring camp, which concluded nearly five months ago.

If you haven’t been following, a number of Falcons have been named to various prestigious pre-season awards and All-Conference nominee watch lists. This coincided nicely with the recent completion of the Mountain West’s Media Days. Prior to either of those announcements was the release of the Air Force football schedule for the 2022 season.

Pulse check time. We are getting close to football season. If you are a fan of the United States Air Force Academy, those ‘BpM’ should officially be elevated, because this could be a special season in Colorado Springs.

Don’t believe me? What about a credible college football insider like Brett McMurphy with Action Network HQ? The Falcons look so poised to dominate, McMurphy guarantees that Air Force will win every game on the schedule.

Ok, enough with the hyperbole, maybe there was no promise of an undefeated season decreed, but the Falcons were in some pretty good company for an interesting take. In the coming season, Air Force will be one of six teams to be favored in every game this year. Even for the USAFA optimist, this a pretty lofty task, running the table on the given schedule.

I would submit to you, there is not a game on the schedule the Falcon’s could not win (See the Utah State Aggies matchup vs. Alabama), but that doesn’t indicate they should. The college football season is a grind for every team, but that is especially true for the Military Academies who have a lot more to deal with than the rest of the college landscape. If your not familiar with some of the limitations that only Cadets face, well beyond the obvious of combat training, do yourself a favor and explore the topic. It’s as interesting as it is humbling. Or humbling at least to give this lowly Penn State alumnus a healthy appreciation.

What Stands Out?

There are definitely more formidable matchups on this years schedule, than games of lesser resistance. While being favored against teams like Boise State, Colorado (Boulder) and Utah State may all seem a little surprising; The Falcons have had some level of success recently against them. With a very experienced team, coming off of a double digit win campaign, it’s not irrational to compel Air Force as favored.

There are a few games that seem a bit more of a stretch to favor the Falcons if you really dig into the details. There is no team with a bigger gripe for being an underdog on this schedule than San Diego State. The Aztecs are currently riding a nine game win streak against against Air Force, dating back to 2010, with their most recent victory coming last year.

 

To put their recent dominance into context; Prior to this recent win streak spanning a decade, San Diego State had won just nine of their first 28 against the Falcons. This has been a true turning of the page in this Conference matchup. If the Falcons want to put an end to this losing streak, they are going have to do so under trying circumstances. They will face the Aztecs in their final regular season game of the year.

Air Force regularly is digging deep into their depth chart by seasons end. The grueling season has mercy on no-one, but that is especially true for the undersized, over exerted and absent rested Military Academy Teams.

Speaking of Military Teams, let’s talk about Army. Specifically, why being favored over West Point’s Football team is questionable. In 2022, like most years, Air Force will have a roster appearing more experienced, talented and deeper than Jeff Monken’s crew from New York. Somehow, that formula hasn’t yielded wins four of the last five seasons.

So while it’s not surprising that Air Force is favored in a neutral site game against Army, based on their respective 2022 team’s heading into the season. Having a more talented and complete roster, top to bottom (which Air Force currently has) does not secure anything against their bitter rivals.

Conclusion

The whole notion that Air Force is favored in most games, much less the entirety of their schedule is quite a dichotomy. The Falcons won’t play a team which by present day recruiting metrics, they are “better” than. Even so, to be favored in some games may still be reasonable. But for the entirety of a schedule, one with as many talented opponents as 2022 fashions? That is a testament to what Troy Calhoun, his staff and players have been able to accomplish.

Air Force may not go undefeated this year. But there isn’t a team on their schedule that the Falcons aren’t capable of hanging an L on. And I promise you, not one of those teams will be looking past the Falcons either.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #31, San Diego State WR Jesse Matthews

San Diego State’s top pass catcher is the next Aztec on our preseason countdown of Mountain West football’s best players.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #31, San Diego State WR Jesse Matthews


San Diego State’s top pass catcher is the next Aztec on our preseason countdown of Mountain West football’s best players.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

The one-man highlight reel gets his due.

Sometimes, it can take a little while for talent to get deserved recognition and that is definitely the case for Jesse Matthews, the San Diego State wide receiver who is the next athlete on our preseason countdown of the Mountain West’s top football performers.

If you’re an Aztec fan, though, you definitely knew how good he could be despite playing within an offense that didn’t allow for too many pass-catching opportunities. The San Diego native walked on with his hometown team and redshirted in 2018 before his first full season of action in 2019 enabled him to be named as a Burlsworth Trophy candidate for the first time, a season in which he caught 48 passes for 633 yards and two touchdowns and began earning a reputation as someone who could make the difficult catch easily.

In 2020, he would lead the Aztecs in receptions and receiving yards, though that would be a warm up to one of the best overall seasons by a San Diego State pass catcher in recent memory. Last year, he again led the team with 57 catches for 642 yards and nine touchdowns, spurred by a monster four-game stretch to close the season in which Matthews averaged nine catches and 116 receiving yards with at least one score per game.

While it remains to be seen whether the Aztecs will be as reliant on their passing game as they grew in the second half of 2021, you can almost set your watch to the fact that Matthews will find a way to make a crucial catch or three at some point.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #32, San Diego State C Alama Uluave

San Diego State’s star center is the lone player at the position to crack this year’s countdown of the Mountain West’s best.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #32, San Diego State C Alama Uluave


San Diego State’s star center is the lone player at the position to crack this year’s countdown of the Mountain West’s best.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

A good center can be hard to find.

By this point, every knowledgeable college football fan knows that a quality center can go a long way towards helping an offense perform at its peak, which makes San Diego State’s Alama Uluave a unique standout among his peers headed into the 2022 season.

The only center to land on this year’s preseason countdown, Uluave first played his way onto the field as a special teams contributor before being elevated to the starting lineup on offense in 2020, starting all eight games for the Aztecs in the abbreviated COVID season. That would prove to be a prelude for what was ultimately one of the more successful individual seasons anyone had in 2021 without much notice: According to Pro Football Focus, he played 953 snaps altogether, the most of any Mountain West center, and posted a 73.4 overall grade that ranked fourth among his conference peers. Within that workload, he also allowed just six pressures (and only two sacks) in over 400 dropbacks.

The Aztecs enter this year having to replace two offensive linemen who left for the NFL ranks and Uluave will be counted on to hold the line at the point of attack. With the kind of growth he had from his first year as a starter to his second, however, he could be the kind of athlete in line for an even bigger season in his last year of eligibility.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #33, Nevada RB Toa Taua

The Wolf Pack’s veteran running back reaches rarified air by landing on our annual list of the Mountain West’s best for the fourth time.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #33, Nevada RB Toa Taua


The Wolf Pack’s veteran running back reaches rarified air by landing on our annual list of the Mountain West’s best for the fourth time.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

A minor bit of history in the making.

Typically, our annual preseason countdown of Mountain West football’s best athletes doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for breaking new ground as stars rise to the top and often makes repeat appearances. Some of the very best appear three times, but Nevada Wolf Pack running back Toa Taua is likely the first player ever to make the preseason top 50 four times.

After being named as the conference’s freshman of the year back in 2018, Taua remained remarkably consistent as a key cog in the Wolf Pack’s burgeoning Air Raid offense under Jay Norvell. He ran for 872 yards and six touchdowns that first year while also catching 22 passes for 202 yards and a score, then contributed 1,102 all-purpose yards and six more touchdowns the following year. In 2020, he added 952 more and then jumped back above 1,000 for the third time last season, with 732 rushing yards and 296 receiving yards on a career-best 39 receptions.

2022 marks his final year of eligibility and there’s a decent chance that, with a wealth of last year’s offensive stars having moved on in one way or another, he comes out with his best campaign yet under new head coach Ken Wilson. He could also finish his Wolf Pack career in the top five by career all-purpose yards, cementing himself alongside program greats like his brother Vai Taua and Trevor Insley, and make defenses miserable one last time along the way.

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UNLV Breakout Player: Brennon Scott

Brennon Scott will be an impact player for UNLV.

UNLV Breakout Player: Brennon Scott


Brennon Scott Will Have a Breakout Season for UNLV


Contact/Follow @michaelbraydaly & @MWCwire

Pay attention to Scott this season

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UNLV outside linebacker Brennon Scott will be one of the best defensive players in the Mountain West in 2022. His presence will be needed for UNLV to have a comeback season.

Every season, the Mountain West has at least one linebacker who stands out and becomes an NFL prospect. In 2022, Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma was a prospect who made waves in the process. Scott, a redshirt sophomore, could remain at UNLV for several more years before he pursues a professional career in football.

Scott has the potential to be a desirable linebacker for an NFL team like Muma was in this year’s draft. As a freshman in 2020, Scott played in one game against Wyoming before he redshirted for the remainder of the season.

As a redshirt freshman in 2021, Scott started eight games and recorded a total of 35 tackles on the season. He was second on the team in sacks with four sacks. In his first full season, Scott took charge and became a defensive force for the Rebels in 2021.

In a tough season for the team, Scott showed that there was a light at the end of the tunnel for the program. He quickly became a defensive leader and will continue to be looked at as one of the team’s leaders.

2022 will be Scott’s breakout season at UNLV. By the end of the season, Scott’s name will appear on draft boards before he makes a decision on his future in 2023.

2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #34, Utah State OT Alfred Edwards III

Utah State’s veteran offensive tackle cracks our preseason list of Mountain West football’s best players.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #34, Utah State OT Alfred Edwards III


Utah State’s veteran offensive tackle cracks our preseason list of Mountain West football’s best players.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

A stout protector.

Utah State football has had its share of ups and downs over the past several years, but few Aggies have been along for the entire rode, let alone thrived, like the next player on our countdown of the Mountain West’s top performers.

Offensive tackle Alfred Edwards III first cracked the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2018, contributing 11 starts in all to a unit that would allow a sack rate of just 2%, the third-best figure in the country. His workload would only increase from there, starting 12 games in 2019 and six more in 2020, but it wasn’t until last season that the Redlands, California native would earn his first all-conference honorable mention, after posting a 74.7 pass-blocking grade, according to Pro Football Focus, while allowing just two sacks and playing 1,034 total snaps, the most in the Mountain West.

With 42 starts under his belt at this point, Edwards is one of the most experienced athletes anywhere in the conference. He was a big reason why the Aggies offense was able to operate as it did last season and will be relies upon for more of the same as the team prepares for its first true outright title defense since 1980.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #35, San Diego State S CJ Baskerville

The up-and-coming Aztecs safety lands on our preseason list of Mountain West football’s best performers for the first time.

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2022 Mountain West Football Top 50: #35, San Diego State S CJ Baskerville


The up-and-coming Aztecs safety lands on our preseason list of Mountain West football’s best performers for the first time.


Contact/Follow @MattK_FS and @MWCwire

Another talent in a long line.

One of the best things about college football is taking notice of young athletes who crush the first opportunity they’re given to make an impact and, among the 50 players on this year’s list of Mountain West football’s best, few did more in such a situation last year than our next pick.

San Diego State safety CJ Baskerville arrived on the Mesa from Richland, Texas after starring on both sides of the ball in high school and contributed to the Aztecs secondary right away as an early season depth piece. He appeared in all 14 games but got his chance to shine when elevated to a starting role for the last four games and didn’t waste it, posting 29 total tackles, two passes defended, and an interception, the last of which was a big reason why he earned defensive MVP honors in SDSU’s Frisco Bowl victory over UTSA.

That level of performance down the stretch also enabled Baskerville to finish with the highest overall PFF of any Mountain West safety. That’s right, better than JL Skinner, Evan Williams, and Patrick McMorris. It also makes him a very exciting up-and-comer about whom the San Diego State faithful should be excited, so it will be fun to see what Baskerville’s “super sophomore” campaign might look like.

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