Players to watch in the Mountain West Conference for 2015

It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time to pull up our seats to the roundtable and talk some college football. Today we start our conversation on the Mountain West Conference. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtables discussing all things college football.

Previously, we’ve discussed the Sun Belt ConferenceConference USA and the MAC. Today we head out west to talk about the Mountain West Conference. Joining us on today’s roundtable are Jeremy Mauss of Mountain West Connection and David Frerker of San Diego Sports Domination.

Question: Who are the players to watch this year in the Mountain West?

Jeremy Mauss:

On Twitter @JeremyMauss

Hawaii starting quarterback Max Wittek is probably the most interesting player to keep an eye on. He came in from USC and just recently was named the starter for Hawaii, and head coach Norm Chow is telling anyone who will listen that Wittek is the real deal. He is a one-and-done player so this is it for Wittek, and maybe even Chow if this doesn’t work out. The Warriors really need this to play out in their favor as they have had issues at quarterback ever since Chow took over, and that is ironic when looking back at the signal callers Chow has tutored over his coaching career. The oddsmakers like Hawaii tow in six games — a bit high in my opinion — and they did have five games where they lost by 10 points or less.The other is to watch as much as San Diego State running back Donnell Pumphrey as possible, because he will be the overwhelming favorite to be the player of the year. He out performed Boise State’s Jay Ajayi in total yards, yards per game and yards per rush. He was top five nationally with 1,843 yards and 144 yards per game, plus he had 20 touchdowns. He very well could challenge Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott as the nation’s top rusher. Those in the central and eastern time zones should carve out some time to watch San Diego State play this year, because a lot of their games kick late at 10:30 p.m. ET.

David Frerker:

On Twitter: @DavidFrerker

The player to watch in the Mountain West will be San Diego State running back Donnell Pumphrey. He ran for over 1800 yards last season which led the Mountain West. Donnell returns this season with a monster offensive line. Many sports writers have Pumphrey listed on their non-power conference Heisman lists.

Bart Doan:

On Twitter @TheCoachBart

With all due respect to whatever the legendary people writing this with me say, the answer has to be quarterback Ryan Finley of  Boise State. The Broncos have a legit shot to do those Boise State things and win all of or nearly all of their games and make people at the top squirm in their seats at the thought of “oh no, what happens if we let them in and they keep winning and stuff?” It’s a throwback to the days when Darius Rucker was still Hootie and this was Boise’s schtick on an annual basis.

Finley is sort of a default answer when the correct answer is “the guy who starts at quarterback for Boise State.” Why? Because of the aforementioned (don’t rule Utah State out in said role either if Chuckie Keeton stays upright and 98 degrees), as well as because the Broncos return their entire starting offensive line and top three pass catchers. Quarterback might be the most important position in football, but no man is an island. Finley wasn’t great in spot duty, and Grant Hedrick (whom he replaces) was a mixed bag of Starburst in the dark where sometimes you pull out the better tasting pink or red ones and other times get jammed with a handful of orange or yellow. If Finley can make that leap Hedrick never really did, look out for Boise. Again. Now, if we can only get Hootie to snare up the Blowfish and get back on tour …

Kevin Causey:

On Twitter @CFBZ

One guy I’m looking forward to watching someone that everybody should be cheering for, Chuckie Keeton. Keeton has had both of his last two seasons cut short by a knee injury. When he’s healthy, though, he’s been one of the funnest QBs to watch in the nation. As a soph, he completed 67% of his passes with 27 TD against 9 INT and also ran for 619 yards and 9 TD. Keeton will be one of the most interesting stories in college football this year and I’m hoping to see him at full health for the entire season.

Rarely do we highlight a defensive player in these roundtables but the second player I’m really intrigued by is Boise State’s Kamalei Correa. I’m certain of two things. I can’t pronounce his name and there is no way I could protect my quarterback from him. Last year, as a sophomore, Correa had some holes in his game but he still produced amazing numbers. With one more year of experience, how good will he be? That’s what I will be watching to find out.

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter @SectionTPJ

The player to keep an eye on in the Mountain West Conference is Colorado State WR Rashard Higgins.

Make no mistake about it: Higgins was the most explosive wide receiver in the country last year. He ranked first nationally in receiving yards (1,750) and touchdown catches (17). He also averaged considerably more yards per catch (18.23) than fellow Biletnikoff Award finalists Amari Cooper (13.93) and Kevin White (13.28).

While these numbers are impressive, what stands out the most about Higgins’ 2014 campaign is how much he improved over the course of the year. Over the Rams’ final eight regular games, he was virtually unstoppable, averaging 176.57 yards per game and an amazing 20.26 yards per catch.

It’s tough to argue with those results.