LAS VEGAS -
Senior quarterback Brett Rypien
(Offensive Player of the Year) and redshirt sophomore CB/KR/PR Avery Williams
(Special Teams Player of the Year) were announced as two of the three Mountain West preseason award recipients Tuesday morning, highlighting a total of eight Broncos named to the 2018 Preseason All-Mountain West Team. Additionally, the Mountain West released its predicted order of finish, as voted on by media members which cover the conference, and, once again, Boise State was voted to capture the Mountain Division.
The Broncos received all 22 first-place votes, topping the Mountain Division with 132 points. They were followed, in order, by Wyoming (92 points), Colorado State (82), Utah State (78), Air Force (52), and New Mexico (23). On the other side of the conference, Fresno State topped the West Division poll, receiving 16 first-place votes for 126 points, followed by San Diego State with six first-place votes and 116 points. UNLV (78 points), Nevada (72), Hawai'i (45), and San Jose State (25) rounded out the poll.
Rypien, running back Alexander Mattison
, and offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland
and John Molchon
represented the Boise State offense on the preseason all-conference team, while the trio of cornerback Tyler Horton
, defensive tackle David Moa
, and STUD Curtis Weaver
were voted to the defensive team. Williams was voted the team's return specialist. The eight Broncos on the full team marks the program's highest total since joining the Mountain West, with the previous best of seven being accomplished ahead of that 2011 campaign.
Rypien is the second Boise State player to ever be named the Mountain West's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year (Kellen Moore, 2011), while Williams is also the second to be named the conference's Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year (Mitch Burroughs, 2012). Together, they are the first Broncos to earn a preseason Mountain West individual honor since Burroughs' recognition.
Rypien enters the 2018 campaign as the FBS active career leader in passing yardage at 9,876, and is just 2,815 yards shy of becoming the Mountain West's all-time leader (San Diego State's Ryan Lindley is the all-time leader at 12,690). The Spokane, Wash., native is coming off of a 2017 season in which he earned his third-straight All-MW nod, being named to the Second Team.
After a slow start to the campaign, which included an injury that knocked him out of Sept. 9's game at Washington State and forced him to miss the Sept. 14 game against New Mexico, Rypien has found his groove during Boise State's final seven games. Over that stretch, Rypien completed 162-of-256 passes (63.3 percent) for 2,231 yards and 15 touchdowns, bringing his final 2017 totals to 2,877 passing yards and 16 touchdowns along with a 62.6 completion percentage.
Williams, named to the All-Mountain West Second Team, and Boise State's first returner honored by the conference since Shane Williams-Rhodes earned honorable mention in 2013, electrified Bronco special teams in 2017. The redshirt freshman, who also doubles as a cornerback on defense, made a splashy debut Sept. 2 against Troy, returning a punt 81 yards for the game-opening touchdown on the first touch of his career, and finished the game with 124 yards over five returns.
Williams led the Mountain West an ranked 13th in the country with 11.2 yards per punt return, and his two punt-return touchdowns (the second came Oct. 14 at San Diego State) ranked second in the nation. He also averaged 24.7 yards over 15 kickoff returns.
On defense, Williams started 10 games at cornerback, intercepting two passes, breaking up eight, and making 45 tackles.
Mattison confidently picked up the mantle of Boise State's No. 1 back in 2017, rushing for 1,086 yards to mark the ninth-straight campaign in which a Bronco hit the 1,000-yard milestone. The San Bernardino, Calif., native ran for 12 touchdowns and produced four 100-yard games, including a career day of 242 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and a Boise State single-game record of 286 yards from scrimmage (242 rushing, 44 receiving), in Nov. 11's 59-52 overtime win at Colorado State.
He also made an impact in the receiving game, making 28 catches for 284 yards and a score as he was named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention.
Cleveland, who started all 14 games in 2017, and Molchon, who made 13 starts while appearing in all 14 games, were key in Boise State's line protecting the Mountain West's No. 2 scoring offense (32.5 ppg), along with opening holes for Mattison, who posted the ninth-straight 1,000-yard season by a Bronco back. Both Bronco offensive linemen were named All-Mountain West Honorable Mention for their efforts.
Horton, Boise State's top coverage man, has already been named a preseason candidate for the Bednarik Award and Jim Thorpe Award in 2018. Consistently drawing the assignment of covering the opposition's top receiver, Horton stepped up to the challenge in 2017, being named to the All-Mountain West First Team as he picked off two passes and led the Broncos with 11 pass-breakups. He also proved his value as a tackler, ranking fifth on the team with 44 tackles (26 solo), including 3.0 tackles-for-loss.
Horton also showed a nose for the football, as in addition to his two interceptions, he recovered two fumbles, with one clinching Boise State's 59-52 overtime win at Colorado State on Nov. 11, and the second being returned 21 yards for a touchdown Nov. 18 against Air Force.
Moa, named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy an Outland Trophy Preseason Watch Lists Tuesday morning, was a force in the Bronco run defense last season despite commanding double-teams from numerous opponents. While his presence helped open up rush opportunities Bronco All-Mountain West selections Weaver, Jabril Frazier
and Durrant Miles
, Moa managed to get his, as well, recording 2.0 sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss among his 21 tackles. He was named to the All-Mountain West Second Team for his efforts.
Weaver made his case as one of Boise State's breakout stars of 2017, constantly harassing opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines. The redshirt freshman, named to a pair of Freshman All-America Teams (FWAA, USA TODAY), a fourth-team All-American by Phil Steele and honorable mention by SB Nation, as well as to the All-Mountain West First Team, led the Mountain West lead with 11.0 sacks and led the Broncos with 13.0 tackles-for-loss.
Along with being a key part of Boise State's defense, Weaver made his impact in the turnover game, picking off a pass against Nevada (Nov. 4), and being named a Piesman Trophy finalist for his 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown at Washington State (Sept. 9).
Boise State, the defending Mountain West champion, opens its 2018 campaign Saturday, Sept. 1 at Troy. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. MT and will be televised on ESPNews.
2018 Preseason All-Mountain West Team
QB - Brett Rypien (Boise State)
RB - Alexander Mattison (Boise State)
RB - Lexington Thomas (UNLV)
WR - Keesean Johnson (Fresno State)
WR - McLane Mannix (Nevada)
TE - Dax Raymond (Utah State)
OL - Ezra Cleveland (Boise State)
OL - John Molchon (Boise State)
OL - Aaron Jenkins (Utah State )
OL - Keith Ismael (San Diego State)
OL - Tyler Roemer (San Diego State)
DL - David Moa (Boise State)
DL - Curtis Weaver (Boise State)
DL - Youhanna Ghaifan (Wyoming)
DL - Carl Granderson (Wyoming)
LB - Jeffrey Allison (Fresno State)
LB - Jahlani Tavai (Hawai'i)
LB - Malik Reed (Nevada)
DB - Tyler Horton (Boise State)
DB - Dameon Baber (Nevada)
DB - Tariq Thompson (San Diego State)
DB - Andrew Wingard (Wyoming)
P - Ryan Stonehouse (Colorado State)
PK - Dominik Eberle (Utah State)
KR/PR - Avery Williams (Boise State)
Offensive Player of the Year - Brett Rypien (QB, Boise State)
Defensive Player of the Year - Andrew Wingard (DB, Wyoming)
Special Teams Player of the Year - Avery Williams (KR/PR, Boise State)
2018 Mountain West Predicted Order of Finish
Mountain Division (first-place votes in parentheses)
Boise State (22) - 132
Wyoming - 92
Colorado State - 82
Utah State - 78
Air Force - 52
New Mexico - 23
Fresno State (16) - 126
San Diego State (6) - 116
UNLV - 78
Nevada - 72
Hawai'i - 45
San Jose State - 25