The Mountain West football media days wrapped up Wednesday at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with the Mountain Division teams. Here is a recap of what the five coaches outside of Boise State had to say:
Matt Wells, Utah State coach
– Wells and the Aggies get back sixth-year senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton, no doubt a boost in a league that is bereft of big names at the position. "Next year you're going to ask me what it's like to graduate Chuckie Keeton, so let's enjoy it while we've got him," Wells said. "I think it calms the other 10 guys down is what it does. They look to Chuckie as a guy that's been there, done that. He's going to start five straight season openers. He's a tremendous leader."
– Speaking of Keeton's health, he said "no knee brace in the spring, and made a few cuts where you rewind and watch it again, you go like 'ooh, that's the old Chuckie.' I think he's strong as ever."
– On an offseason car accident that injured four of his players: “It makes you appreciate life a little bit better, makes you slow down just a little bit ... you love a little harder each and every day.”
Mike Bobo, Colorado State coach
– Bobo said he has spent 40 of his 41 years in the South, so Colorado State seemed to be a leap of faith, but the former Georgia player and coach saw a good fit. "Whether I moved three hours from Athens, it didn't really matter, it had to be a great place to raise a family, and second, there's a lot of success, a lot of positive momentum at Colorado State - two straight bowl games, building a new stadium - I feel the program is on the verge of doing something special, and I wanted to be a part of that," he said.
– At Colorado State, he will have one of the nation's top weapons in receiver Rashard Higgins, who hauled in 96 catches for 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. "A lot of guys can make plays down the field ... a lot of guys can take the short pass, the bubbles and turn them into explosive plays. Very few can do both. When I turned on tape of Rashard, you saw a guy doing both."
Craig Bohl, Wyoming coach
– On starting quarterback Cameron Coffman, who joins the team as a senior transfer from Indiana. Bohl said he still is hoping to find a long-term solution. "The guy we're really going to groom is probably not going to have enough ability, it's going to take him a year or two," Bohl said. "We're going to need a stopgap guy, and that's where Cam into play."
– On what Coffman, a former starter with the Hoosiers brings to the table: "I think he's got excellent pocket presence, he's got a really good release, he's a bright, analytical guy. ... that really sets us up well as far as developing a quarterback."
– On where the team struggled last season (it gave up 32.8 points per game, including 63 against Boise State): "We were woeful on defense."
– Bohl also said he had an interesting experience when Boise State played in Laramie last November. "I bumped into Bryan (Harsin) up at Starbucks the morning of that game ... what I saw with the football team that night, there was a look in the eye of that football team that they were on a mission and they were going to play great," Bohl said. "That culture, I don't know whether it's blue collar or whatever, really came through. We got took to the woodshed."
Who bought the coffee that day? "I did," Bohl said. "Isn't that bad? You pay for the coffee and get your butt whipped by (49) points. I tell you what, it was a good thing I was a seasoned veteran because it was a rough night. I was like 'I bought the guy a coffee!'"
Bob Davie, New Mexico coach
– On the quarterback competitions in the league, he reflected on Boise State's vacancy with Grant Hedrick graduated. "That kid last year was on fire," he said. "I don't know if there's a quarterback that improved more during the course of the season than Boise State's quarterback."
– The lack of proven passers could bode well for a team like New Mexico as it seeks bowl eligibility and returns an experienced quarterback in sophomore Lamar Jordan (612 rushing yards, 895 passing yards), who started four games last season, and led a pair of game-winning drives. The Lobos went 4-8 last season, losing six games by 11 points or fewer. "We've been trying to catch up, and maybe we're getting a little closer to catching up," Davie said. "At least there are some semi-unknowns ... I feel a little bit better about it, being honest."
– Davie is not a fan of the fifth-year transfers that have popped up around college football. "That's crazy," he said. "That rule, to me ... I can't say that I really like it. Maybe I'm an old fart, a traditionalist, but for guys to come in and play one season at a place when they played four years at another place, is that what we really want?"
Troy Calhoun, Air Force coach
– Calhoun said his team lost 28 seniors off a 10-win, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl champion team. "We are starting over, that's just the raw reality of it," he said.
– The Falcons do return some firepower, however, including junior running back Jacobi Owens (1,054 yards), junior receiver Jalen Robinette (806 receiving yards) and mighty junior safety Weston Steelhammer (61 tackles, six interceptions, two fumble recoveries). But Calhoun said he's eager to work in the new talent. "It's just something, the amount of newness involved," he said. "There's also I don't want to say exhilaration, but there's kind of the fun, the joy of being able to put new guys in play and seeing who can emerge."
A few notes on the Mountain West's top players:
– Hawaii senior quarterback Max Wittek transferred from USC last summer and earned the Warriors' starting job in June, getting the nod over returning starter Ikaika Woolsey. Wittek was named a captain despite not having played a game for Hawaii. He spoke about the experience of transferring, and becoming a recruit once again. "The first time you do it, you're so young, you don't know what to expect," Wittek said. "The second time around, I had a much better filter for what I was hearing. It kind of got overwhelming real quick. Coach (Norm) Chow tells me 'you'd just go dark on me, we wouldn't take for two weeks' but that's because it got to be too much. I took the mindset this time it would happen on my terms."
Wittek, whom Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman wrote about Wednesday, was recruited by Chow out of high school when Chow was at UCLA. Hawaii is 8-29 under Chow, with the quarterback guru not quite finding the right pilot of his offense. "We already had a relationship, he's recruited me twice, so he must like me," Wittek said. "We need each other equally as bad - he needs a quarterback like myself, that style, and I need a coach like him."
-Keeton spoke about new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, a Heisman winner at Oklahoma. “I’ve been around so long, I actually had to teach him the offense a little bit,” Keeton said with a laugh.
-Higgins said he got his nickname “Hollywood” in Pee Wee football. The team put out popcorn with his face on it. “Who would’ve ever thought that?” he said. “Hollywood puts on a show, so why not?”
-UNLV quarterback Blake Decker on receiver Kendal Keys, who signed with Boise State, but transferred to UNLV: “he plays with passion and aggression. He gives 110 percent. He makes the most ridiculous catches. Ones I thought were going out of bounds, he’ll make.”