MWC notebook: Quarterbacks in crosshairs across Mountain West
PROVO — As the Mountain West Conference opens the 2010 season this week, there are some intriguing quarterback situations around the league after fall camps that featured intriguing QB battles.
At BYU, coach Bronco Mendenhall has decided to go with a two-quarterback system with junior Riley Nelson and true freshman Jake Heaps. Nelson is set to make the start for the Cougars, but Heaps will also play.
At Colorado State, true freshman Pete Thomas, 18, has earned the starting job for the season-opener Saturday against arch-rival Colorado. Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 218-pounder, won the competition over redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri. He becomes the first true freshman to start at QB for the Rams since Caleb Hanie in 2004.
Asked about the risks inherent with starting a true freshman, coach Steve Fairchild sounded unfazed. "With any new quarterback, you have concerns," he said.
Meanwhile, first-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck selected junior Mike Clausen as the starter over senior Omar Clayton, who started for the Rebels in 2009. Clausen started only one game last season, against Nevada, and completed 26 of 30 passes for 276 yards and an interception in a 63-28 setback.
At Wyoming, reigning MWC freshman of the year Austyn Carter-Samuels retained his starting job despite a strong performance in fall camp by senior Dax Crum. Crum should give the Cowboys a solid backup.
"He's a much better quarterback right now than he was last year," said coach Dave Christensen, "and we feel very confident and comfortable with him as our backup."
NATIONAL STAGE: The MWC will have plenty of opportunities to make a national splash against ranked opponents this week.
The MWC's two ranked teams will take on ranked foes as No. 24 Utah hosts No. 15 Pittsburgh tonight and No. 7 TCU meets No. 24 Oregon State at Cowboys Stadium Saturday in Arlington, Texas, in a contest that will be televised on ESPN.
Also, UNLV hosts No. 12 Wisconsin and New Mexico travels to No. 11 Oregon.
HOTLY CONTESTED: During a stretch of fall camp, TCU practiced in blistering hot conditions in Fort Worth. The temperature on the field reached as high as 113 degrees.
"We use the Texas heat to our advantage, to get ourselves in shape," said coach Gary Patterson. "The kids fought through it."
MOVIN' ON UP: Since taking over the Air Force program in 2007, coach Troy Calhoun has been helped the Falcons steadily improve.
Air Force, which was picked to finish fourth this season, is looking to break into the top three of the league.
"I think we've broken through in many ways the past three years," Calhoun said. "For us, you know it's a process. You have to put elements into place with depth and development. I've been very encouraged by what we've done so far this fall."
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