BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER: BYU QB Max Hall. Hall, who began his career at Arizona State, threw for 3,848 yards last season, the most by a sophomore quarterback in Mountain West Conference history. He also threw a league-high 26 touchdown passes. In addition, Hall proved he can deliver in the clutch by leading BYU on a dramatic game-winning touchdown drive in a 17-10 victory over Utah.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: BYU DE Jan Jorgensen. Indiana's Greg Middleton and USF's George Selvie are the only active players who averaged more sacks per game than Jorgensen last season. Jorgensen set an MWC single-season record with 14 sacks and recorded at least one sack in each of his final seven games.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Utah QB Brian Johnson. Nobody questions what this guy can do. The only concern is how long he can stay on the field. Johnson missed the 2006 season with a knee injury and sat out two games last season after hurting his shoulder in the opener. The Utes enter the season with high hopes, but they can't win the MWC title unless Johnson stays healthy.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER ON THE SPOT: TCU DT James Vess. After compiling four sacks in the final seven games of 2006, Vess sat out the 2007 season for violating a team policy. Now that Vess is back, the Horned Frogs are counting on him to deliver big things. TCU needs Vess' strength on the inside to compensate for the loss of firepower on the edges now that star DEs Chase Ortiz and Tommy Blake have completed their college careers.
PLAYERS WITH BIGGEST SHOES TO FILL: Air Force QB Eric Herbort and RB Kyle Lumpkin. Herbort and Lumpkin have no varsity experience, but the Falcons are counting on them to help fill the void created by the departures of QB Shaun Carney and Rivals.com third-team All-America all-purpose player Chad Hall. Lumpkin exited spring practice as the Falcons' starting quarterback. Lumpkin ended spring as the No. 1 tailback after playing defensive back on the junior-varsity team last season.
BREAKOUT OFFENSIVE STAR: Utah WR Brent Casteel. After leading the Utes in all-purpose yardage two years ago, Casteel, a senior, suffered a knee injury in the second game of the 2007 season and missed the rest of the year. Now that he has recovered from knee surgery, he could emerge as one of the conference's top receivers.
BREAKOUT DEFENSIVE STAR: Utah DE Paul Kruger. Kruger capped a solid redshirt freshman season last year by collecting 10 tackles and a sack in a Poinsettia Bowl victory over Navy. The Utes would love to see him pick up where he left off last season.
BEST OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER: San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley. Lindley, a redshirt freshman, ended spring practice as the Aztecs' likely starter. Lindley threw for 3,521 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior year at El Capitan (Calif.) High. If Lindley doesn't win the job, it likely will go to fellow newcomer Drew Westling, who transferred from Southwestern College after beginning his college career at Tulsa.
BEST DEFENSIVE NEWCOMER: TCU DE Braylon Broughton. The Horned Frogs must find a pass rusher to replace Blake and Ortiz. Broughton, a 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman with exceptional athleticism, just might fill the void. The MWC media made Broughton the preseason pick as the conference's freshman of the year. MWC fans also should look out for Wyoming LB Gabe Knapton, a redshirt freshman who performed well enough in spring practice to emerge as the Cowboys' starting middle linebacker. Knapton's uncle, Jeff Knapton, earned all-conference honors for the 1987 Wyoming team that won the WAC championship.