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MWC Gems: Best Players in 2013

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Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images
Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

The Mountain West Conference may not get the notoriety of the big-name conferences, but it has had its share of outstanding players. In this past NFL season 24 former MWC players were on the rosters of playoff teams. The most visible of these was former University of Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to a berth in the Super Bowl.

Here is a look at the MWC’s best players at each position for the upcoming season.

Quarterback

Fresno State’s Derek Carr was the MWC’s offensive player of the year for 2012. Carr passed for a career-high and MWC-record 4,104 yards with 37 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His touchdown total is second in the MWC record books to Boise State’s Kellen Moore, who threw for 43 touchdown passes in 2011. Carr threw for 17 touchdowns in the final five games of the regular season.

Carr also set the MWC single-game record for completions (42) and total offense (570 yards) in the Bulldogs' 52-40 victory over San Diego State. In that game he tied the school record with 536 passing yards.

Carr would appear to be a runaway favorite to repeat as MWC offensive player of the year had the conference not added two new teams for the 2013 season. San Jose State’s David Fales passed for 4,193 yards and 33 touchdowns with nine interceptions in 2,012.

Another quarterback to watch is Nevada’s Cody Fajardo, who passed for 2,786 yards with 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,270 yards with 12 touchdowns.

Running back

Quite a few teams in the MWC lost their leading rushers either to graduation or for a shot at the NFL draft. Of the players returning for the 2013 season, the best running back is probably San Diego State’s Adam Muema, who rushed for 1,502 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 147 yards and a touchdown and earned all-MWC second-team honors.

Another running back to watch is the aptly-named Kasey Carrier from New Mexico. Carrier rushed for 1,469 yards last season with 15 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 75 yards and also earned all-MWC second-team honors. His 338 yards rushing against Air Force was the MWC’s best single-game performance in 2012.

Wide receiver

Fresno State’s Davante Adams was the MWC’s freshman of the year in 2012 after catching 102 passes for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns, all of which led the MWC. He caught a touchdown pass in each of the Bulldogs’ last seven games in the regular season to set a conference record.

Boise State’s Matt Miller caught 66 passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns and was an all-MWC second-team selection for 2012.

Wyoming’s Robert Herron caught 31 passes for 657 yards and eight touchdowns and was an all-MWC honorable mention last season.

Tight end

Tight end is another position that was heavily populated by seniors in the MWC last season. Marcel Jensen from Fresno State is the most notable of the conference’s returning tight ends. Jensen caught 30 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.

Offensive line

For the purposes of this article, offensive lines are being judged as a unit rather than by individual players. Boise State has two linemen who were all-MWC selections in 2012. Matt Paradis was a first-team selection and Charles Leno was a second-team selection.

Fresno State also has a returning all-MWC first-teamer in Austin Wentworth.

Place kicker

Nevada’s Nolan Kohorst made 12 of 14 field goal attempts and 32 of 33 extra-point attempts to earn All-MWC first-team honors.

Kick/punt returner

Hawaii’s Mike Edwards was the MWC’s returner of the year last season, but he left school early for a shot at the NFL. Teammate Scott Harding was second in the MWC last season in punt returns with an average of 12.8 yards per return. He returned 23 punts for 295 yards and a touchdown.

New Mexico’s Chase Clayton returned 20 kickoffs for 608 yards and two touchdowns. His 30.4 yards per returned tied him with Edwards for the conference lead.

Defensive lineman

Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence was the MWC leader in sacks (13.5), forces fumbles (4) and tackles for loss 13.5. Overall he had 48 tackles and also recovered two fumbles. He was an all-MWC first-team selection.

Fresno State’s Tyeler Davidson was also an all-MWC first-team selection. He recorded 43 tackles, three sacks and three fumble recoveries.

Linebacker

San Diego State’s Jake Fely had 90 tackles (68 solo) last season and was among the MWC’s leaders with seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. He was an All-MWC second-team selection in 2012. Teammate Derek Largent had 6.5 sacks and was an All-MWC honorable mention last season.

New Mexico’s Dallas Bollema had 89 tackles (57 solo) and a sack.

Defensive back

Fresno State’s Derron Smith has six interceptions in 2012 for 127 yards and a touchdown. He also had 79 tackles (61 solo) and was a first-team All-MWC selection. Teammate Sean Alston picked off five passes in 2012.

Colorado State’s Trent Matthews ranked fourth in the MWC for defensive backs last season with 71 tackles.