The Mountain West has a history of producing talented freshmen and this year is no different. Last year San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman was incredible and he is turning into one of the top backs in the nation. He certainly will be playing on Sunday when he decides he is ready for the next level. Two years ago a gutsy QB named Austyn Carta-Samuels led Wyoming to a 7-6 record and New Mexico Bowl victory after that team was projected to finish last in the Mountain West.
Once again Wyoming has a freshmen QB who is making a name for himself in the Mountain West and getting the Cowboys some wins. Brett Smith has the Pokes sitting at 4-2 midway through the season and the offense performing it's best since 2005. Quarterback was a big question mark for the Wyoming heading into the season but it is now a strength.
|2011 - Brett Smith||6||60.0||123||208||59.1||1324||220.7||6.4||9||5||52||232||38.67||4.1||4||-||-|
Smith is currently ranked second in he Mountain West in total offense (259.3 ypg) and only Heisman hopeful Kellen Moore (286.3 ypg) is higher. Prior to this week Smith was actually ranked ahead of Moore but a big win over UNLV meant Smith didn't need to throw the ball in second half. Smith is on pace to finish the year with 2500+ yards passing, 18 touchdowns and nearly 500 yards rushing. 3000 yards of total offense for a true freshmen would be an impressive feat. The second half of the season is tougher for the Pokes with Boise State and TCU on the schedule so it will be interesting to see where he ends up.
As impressive as Smith has been there is another serious contender for the Mountain West Freshmen Player of the Year award.
Despite New Mexico having an 0-6 record the play of freshmen WR/KR Deon Long has made the Lobos more competitive. Without his play the Lobos wouldn't have even been in some of their games. Currently Long leads the Mountain West in all-puprose yards with 168.5 per game. He is also tied for first in total receiving yards in the Mountain West with 580.
Deon Long - WR New Mexico
|Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
209 of his 580 yards came in a loss to FCS Sam Houston State which is also where he scored all three of his touchdowns. It will be tough for Long to keep up these numbers heading into the conference schedule but it will be iincredible if a freshmen can lead the conference in receiving or all-purpose yards. Breaking the 1000 yard mark would still be an impressive feat as well.
With six games left there is plenty of football to be played and no one has this award locked up. Right now I would give the edge to Smith at this point. He has certainly been the more consistent of the two players and has his team fighting for a bowl berth.
Reviewing the rest of the conference there were no other candidates that really stood out to me. Smith is the only freshmen QB in the Mountain West that is starting right now. Dionza Bradford from UNLV is the leading freshmen rusher but he is only 17 yards ahead of Smith at this point. WR Matt Miller of Boise State has 308 yards this year but is still over 270 yards behind Long at this point. San Diego State linebacker Jake Fely leads freshmen with 31 tackles which is solid but still only ranked 21st in the conference.
The second half will be exciting to watch and these are two players that will certainly want to keep your eye on.