Nov. 29, 2016
BOISE, Idaho -- Boise State had 15 members of its football team earn All-Mountain West honors Tuesday, with six (quarterback Brett Rypien, wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, offensive linemen Travis Averill and Mario Yakoo, nose tackle David Moa and defensive end Sam McCaskill) landing on the conference's first team.
Running back Jeremy McNichols, linebacker Ben Weaver, cornerback Jonathan Moxey, safety Chanceller James and punter Sean Wale were all named to the second team, while wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, center Mason Hampton, guard Steven Baggett and linebacker Tanner Vallejo received honorable mention.
For Vallejo, who had his season cut short due to injury following the Nov. 12 game at Hawai'i, it is his third-career All-Mountain West honor, having been named honorable mention twice (2015-16) and to the second team in 2014. Rypien and Sperbeck each earn their second-straight first-team nods, McNichols is named to the second team for the second year in a row, and Yakoo's first-team selection follows his honorable mention from a season ago.
McNichols, a Doak Walker Award semifinalist and four-time Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week in 2016, was voted to the second team after a regular season in which he leads the country in touchdowns (27), is second in rushing touchdowns (23), leads the Mountain West in all-purpose yardage (2,185), leads all Mountain West backs in receptions and receiving yards (32, 450) and ranks third in the conference with 1,663 rushing yards, including three 200-yard performances and sharing the conference lead with nine 100-yard games.
The Bronco junior posted his first 200-yard game of the season at Oregon State (Sept. 24), rushing for 208 yards and three touchdowns while also catching another score. It was one of his two four-touchdown games in 2016, as the second came Nov. 18 against UNLV in which he rushed for 206 yards and four scores. His third 200-yard game was a 217-yard effort with two touchdowns in Oct. 15's victory over Colorado State.
McNichols' total of 1,663 rushing yards this year is the third-highest in Boise State single-season history, with his 27 total touchdowns third (five behind co-record holders Jay Ajayi and Brock Forsey) and his 23 rushing touchdowns fourth. Heading into Boise State's still to-be-determined bowl matchup in December, McNichols needs just 174 all-purpose yards to eclipse Ajayi's single-season mark of 2,358 all-purpose yards set in 2014.
Rypien leads or shares the lead in the Mountain West in passing yards (3,341), passing yards per game (278.4), passing touchdowns (23) and completions (212) while ranking second in passing efficiency (163.3) and attempts (317), and third in completion percentage (61.8). He also paces the conference in total offense (3,325 yards) and total yardage per game (277.1).
The sophomore signal-caller helms a passing attack that leads the Mountain West and ranks 16th in the country with 297.8 yards per game, as well as the Mountain West's top offense at 479.8 yards per game, a figure that ranks 22nd nationally.
Rypien's total of five 300-yard passing performances this season tops all Mountain West quarterbacks, and he produced the only 400-yard passing game this season when he threw for 442 yards against BYU on Oct. 20.
Sperbeck leads all Mountain West receivers with seven 100-yard games this season, in addition to leading the conference in receptions (72) and receiving yards (1,193) and ranking fourth with nine touchdown catches. This season, he became Boise State's all-time leader in receiving yards, passing Titus Young's (2007-10) mark of 3,063 yards, and passed Ryan Ikebe's (1993-96) mark of 13-career 100-yard receiving games.
He has also made an impact as a rusher and passer for Boise State, going 3-for-3 passing for 92 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 43 yards in 2016.
Averill and Yakoo earned their first-team spots, Baggett his spot on the second team and Hampton honorable mention as part of a Bronco offensive line that ranks 21st in the country allowing just 15 sacks this season. They help provide protection for Rypien in a passing offense that ranks 16th in the country with 297.8 passing yards per game, and produced McNichols' second-straight 1,000-yard season, as McNichols ranks third in the conference in rushing yards and leads the country with 27 touchdowns and is second with 23 rushing touchdowns. Together, the quartet is part of an offensive line that paved the way for the Mountain West's top offense at 479.8 yards per game.
Averill, at guard, graded out as Boise State's highest-rated or co-highest rated offensive lineman in six games in 2016, leading all Boise State offensive linemen. Baggett, who started games at both guard and center this season, was next with five games as the highest-graded Bronco lineman, while center Hampton and Yakoo, at tackle, were highest-graded in one game apiece.
Wilson, in his first season at Boise State, made a dangerous passing attack even more so as he has posted 1,041 receiving yards on 50 receptions, leading the Mountain West and ranking eighth in the country with 20.8 yards per catch. The junior also ranks second in the Mountain West with nine touchdown grabs, and posted five 100-yard games this season, tied for third among all conference receivers.
On the defensive side of the line, McCaskill and Moa were each named to the first team thanks to their tireless play up front. McCaskill, a senior defensive end, ranks fourth in the Mountain West with 13.0 tackles-for-loss, with those TFLs going for 54 yards lost, and tied for eighth with 5.5 sacks. Overall he leads the Bronco front four with 48 tackles (28 solo) this year. He has also broken up a team-high five passes at the line of scrimmage and blocked a field goal against Washington State (Sept. 10), a game in which the Broncos ended up on the winning end by three points (31-28).
Moa, meanwhile, ranks second in the Mountain West with 7.5 sacks this season to go with his 8.5 tackles-for-loss among 27 total tackles. In addition to knocking down four passes at the line of scrimmage, he also provided a clutch special-teams play for the Broncos this year, blocking BYU's attempted game-winning field goal with just 11 seconds left on Oct. 20, preserving Boise State's 28-27 win. For his efforts that game, Moa was named Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week (Oct. 24).
Together, McCaskill and Moa were the front line for a defense that ranks tied for second in the Mountain West with 27 sacks and fourth in the Mountain West in rushing defense.
Weaver, a senior and team captain, and Vallejo, despite playing in just eight games during this injury-shortened senior season, were big sparks to the Bronco linebacker corps. Weaver leads the Bronco defense with 99 tackles (52 solo), ranking tied for ninth in the Mountain West with 8.2 per game, including 2.0 tackles-for-loss, while Vallejo is third on the team with 69 tackles (39 solo), 17th in the conference at 7.7 per game.
In the secondary, Moxey earned his first All-Mountain West nod by leading the Broncos and ranking fourth in the Mountain West in passes defended with 13. He also led all Bronco cornerbacks with 49 tackles (42 solo) in 2016. James, who also was selected to an all-conference team for the first time in his career, ranks 22nd in the conference with 6.6 tackles per game and second on the team with 73 (43 solo). James also leads the Bronco defense with two interceptions this season despite missing the season opener at Louisiana (Sept. 3).
Together, these defenders helped the Broncos rank second in the Mountain West and 45th in the country in opponents' third-down conversion rate (37.8 percent).
Representing the Bronco specialists, Wale, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist and William V. Campbell Trophy semifinalist in 2016, has enjoyed a career year and was rewarded with his first All-Mountain West nod. Wale leads the Mountain West and ranks seventh in the country with a 45.2-yard punting average, with a long of 68. He has dropped 18 of his punts inside opponents' 20-yard lines, had 23 fair-caught and only had three of his 47 punts go for touchbacks. His punting has also disrupted opponents' return games, as Bronco opponents average just 8.9 yards over 15 returns, with his net punting average of 40.2 yards ranking 18th in the country. Wale was named Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week back on Sept. 26 after his performance at Oregon State (Sept. 24).