Western Athletic Conference Preview
2001 record: 8-4
Coach: Dan Hawkins
Outlook: Another big offensive season can be expected from QB Ryan Dinwiddle, who looks to follow up one of the most productive seasons in school history. His 3,043 passing yards and 29 touchdowns brought the Broncos to within a last-second field goal of the conference title. Dinwiddle will have a pair of solid offensive weapons in RB Brock Forsey, who scored 16 touchdowns last season, and WR Jay Swillie, who has 86 career catches that have produced first downs or a touchdown. The heart of the defense is SS Quintin Mikell, who has recorded 24 tackles for losses and is among the favorites for WAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Noteworthy: Last season Boise State ended Fresno State's 17-game home winning streak and also upset Hawaii on the road. K Nick Calaycay was touted as a potential Lou Groza Award winner last season, but only made five of 10 field goals.
Schedule: The Broncos get another crack at Arkansas on Sept. 7 after nearly upsetting the Razorbacks two years ago. They also have home games against Hawaii, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech.
2001 Record: 11-3 (Lost to Michigan State in Silicon Valley Bowl)
Coach: Pat Hill
Outlook: With QB David Carr playing in the NFL, Fresno State is expected to use a more balanced attack. Helping matters will be one of the best offensive lines in the conference, which should provide plenty of room for RB Derrick Ward, who was ineligible last season. New QB Jeff Grady's most potent target is WR Bernard Berrian, who broke a WAC single-season record with 2,591 all-purpose yards. DE Nick Burley, who had eight sacks and 13 tackles for losses, is among the best in the conference.
Noteworthy: The Bulldogs are 19-2 in WAC home games. Playing before a crowd dubbed the "Red Wave," Fresno State set a school record by averaging 42,803 fans per home game last season.
Schedule: Hill again has a challenging slate with road games at Wisconsin, Oregon and Oregon State in the first four contests. The Bulldogs play four times on Friday, beginning with the opener against Wisconsin.
2001 record: 9-3
Coach: June Jones
Outlook: Few teams like to pass like the Warriors, who consistently line up four wideouts. However, the program suffered a huge loss when Ashley Lelie took his 84 receptions to the NFL. But Jones also has to worry about replacing Channon Harris and Craig Stutzman. Expected to step into the role of top wideout is Justin Colbert, who had 801 receiving yards last season. QB Timmy Chang, injured for most of last season, hopes to duplicate his freshman year when he threw for 3,041 yards in 2000. Two of the WAC's best linebackers, Chris Brown and Pisa Tinoisamoa, return to form an imposing duo. G Vince Manuwai is being touted as a possible NFL first-round draft pick.
Noteworth: Defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa is the only member of the coaching staff that has not been with Jones since he took over in 1999. The Warriors surrendered 26.5 points per game last season and had the best record among teams that did not qualify for a bowl.
Schedule: Brigham Young visits on Sept. 7 and Alabama travels to the islands on Thanksgiving weekend.
2001 record: 7-5 (Lost to Clemson in the Humanitarian Bowl)
Coach: Jack Bicknell
Outlook: QB Luke McCown leads one of the nation's most prolific passing attacks and is part of a Heisman Trophy campaign by the school. He set Division I-A freshman records with 2,544 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. He threw for 300 yards against Miami, Auburn, Fresno State and Clemson. D.J. Curry is the leading receiver from last season. He caught 55 passes for 76 yards despite missing the first two games. In the backfield is Joe Smith, who had four 100-yard games last year and was very effective down the stretch. Defensively, Curtis Randall leads a solid linebacking unit.
Noteworthy: The Bulldogs have a chance to appear in a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1977-1978. Bicknell, the WAC Coach of the Year, promoted Randy Bates to co-defensive coordinator after Tim Masella departed.
Schedule: It is not easy. After the season opener with Oklahoma State, there are road games at Clemson, Penn State and Texas A&M.
2001 record: 3-8
Coach: Chris Tormey
Outlook: Look for a lot of running plays, especially with the presence of RB Chance Kretschmer, who last season was the second freshman to lead the NCAA in rushing. He had an average of 157.5 yards per game and set an NCAA freshman record with 302 carries. When QB Zack Threadgill decides to throw, he has WR Nate Burlson as a target. Burlson paced the Wolfpack with 53 catches despite missing three games. With ever starter back, Nevada hopes to improve a defense that yielded 494.8 yards per game and rank 114th last season. Starting end Derek Kennard has moved to tackle and former LB Jorge Cordova has beeb shifted to an end.
Noteworthy: Despite eight losses, Nevada's offense ranked second in the WAC with 485.9 yards per game. The Wolfpack will unveil their fourth different helmet logo in as many years.
Schedule: The season begins with games against Washington State and BYU. The Wolfpack could be a spoiler in the conference race as they conclude the regular season against Fresno State and Boise State.
2001 record: 8-4
Coach: Ken Hatfield
Outlook: On offense, QB Kyle Herm, whose 1,121 passing yards were the most in Hatfield's eight seasons, has only one returning wideout in Gavin Boothe, who missed six games with injuries and finished with 348 yards. The Owls are most comfortable using the triple option as Herm rushed for 11 touchdowns and 897 yards. He has three new starters in the backfield, but FB Robbie Beck rushed for 634 yards and seven TDs as a backup. DE Brandon Green tied for the WAC lead in sacks and tackles for losses and is approaching a number of school records.
Noteworthy: Rice nearly won the WAC title last season, but had a 42-yard field goal blocked at the end of regulation and lost in overtime to Louisiana Tech.
Schedule: The main non-conference game is at Michigan State on Sept. 7. The Owls host Fresno State and Louisiana Tech in the first weeks of conference play and could play spoiler in the WAC race with games at Boise State (Nov. 9) and against Hawaii (Nov. 16).
SAN JOSE STATE
2001 record: 3-9
Coach: Fitz Hill
Outlook: Reducing turnovers is a priority for the Spartans. They threw 23 interceptions and lost 11 fumbles a year ago, derailing a unit that averaged 429 yards per game. QB Marcus Arroyo has started parts of three seasons but must beat out junior college transfer Scott Rislov. Arroyo was benched when San Jose State was 0-5 and wound up throwing 14 interceptions. The most likely candidate to replace record-setting RB Deonce Whitaker is junior RB Rayvon Johnson Jr. The defense returns only one starter from a unit that allowed 500.8 yards per game. The only returning starter is DT Mike Beams, who was benched for part of last season.
Noteworthy: The Spartans were last in Division I-A on defense last year, allowing 494.8 yards per game.
Schedule: Matching last season's win total won't be easy considering the Spartans face Washington, Stanford, Illinois and Ohio State.
2001 record: 4-7
Coach: Phil Bennett
Outlook: There will be a lot of handoffs to RB ShanDerrick Charles, who broke Craig James' school record for rushing by a freshman. Who will hand the ball to him remains a battle between incumbent Kelan Luker Jr. and freshman Tate Willis. Luker dropped below Willis when he suffered a strained neck in spring practice. Whoever gets the job will have talented targets in WR Chris Cunningham and TE John Hampton. On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs feature one of the best secondaries in the conference, led by CBs Jonas Rutledge and Kevin Garrett. MLB Vic Viloria is a tackling machine and one of the best in the league.
Noteworthy: Charles wound up breaking James' record despite having one carry through the first four games. The Mustangs have had only one winning season since having their program suspended by the NCAA in 1987.
Schedule: SMU has non-conference games against former Southwest Conference rivals Texas Tech and TCU.
2001 record: 2-9
Coach: Gary Nord
Outlook: The Miners dropped from eight wins to two in 2001 and ended the season with seven straight defeats, due in part to ineffective play by QB Wes Phillips. But he is gone and Nord hopes sophomore Jon Schaper, who has been shaky in limited action, will be an upgrade. RB Sherman Austin and Howard Jackson will be running behind a offensive line that returns four starters. The 4-2-5 defensive scheme that was so effective in 2000 returns after a one-year absence. The unit has a major talent in first-team freshman All-American LB Robert Rodriguez, who led the WAC with 137 tackles last season.
Noteworthy: The impetus behind the return of the 4-2-5 defense is Troy Reffert, who was promoted to coordinator after five seasons as secondary coach.
Schedule: The toughest non-conference game is Sept. 14 at Oklahoma. In the WAC, UTEP avoids Fresno State and concludes with Louisiana Tech on Nov. 23.
2002 record: 1-10
Coach: Keith Burns
Outlook: It's very simple to figure out why this team won one game. They scored 17.4 points per contest in one of the most prolific passing conferences in the country. A new offensive coordinator arrives in Dan Lounbsbury and he is expected to install a consistent diet of QB Tyler Gooch handing off to RB Eric Richardson. UTEP must replace replace WR Donald Shoals, who had 80 receptions with an average of 14.9 yards per catch. The next highest total was TE Jarrod Roach's 31 catches at 8.6 yards. The defense gave up 35 points per game last season. LB Michael Dulaney, a transfer from Oklahoma, was a first-team WAC player.
Noteworthy: The Golden Hurricane has just 14 wins over the last five seasons.
Schedule: Tulsa's non-conference schedule features three games against the Big 12: Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas.