Let MWC media days begin

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

LAS VEGAS -- Welcome the Independents and Others blog (otherwise known as the non-BCS blog). We're officially kicking off ESPN's Blog Network with in-depth coverage of media days. My goal is to take you both inside and outside of the media room and give you a feel for the event.

If you've been reading the non-BCS blog for the last couple weeks, thanks. However, that was just a sampling of what's to come this season. Now that the season has officially begun (at least from a media standpoint), there will be more posts with more information than ESPN.com has ever provided on the non-BCS teams before. Chances are every time you check back there's going to be a new posts, so check back often.

I will be learning about the 54 teams of the non-BCS while providing you comprehensive coverage of the schools you love. I welcome feedback -- I know there's already been quite a bit -- and I want to know what you want to know. All ideas are welcome in this forum just send them to my mailbag.

Over the next few days I'll be taking you through the magical world of media days. It's a dizzying time where coaches and players move from microphone to microphone during a two-day span voicing their hopes and concerns about the upcoming season.

First up is the Mountain West Conference from Las Vegas. I believe the MWC has some of the strongest non-BCS teams in the country, including BYU, which has a legitimate chance of making a BCS bowl this season.

"I think we have an excellent team returning and I think the program philosophy now has matured and is engrained in our team to the point where it more is replacing and reloading the faces that have left rather than identifying and trying to develop new names and faces," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

BYU starts this season with a 10-game winning streak from last year and has won 11 games in each of the past two years. It's those results that have BYU coaches, players and fans thinking the team is poised to return BYU football to its glory years of the '80s.

"The expectations have just increased around our program to the point where folks are now talking again about BYU like its glory years and as a national contender," Mendenhall said. "Our goal all along is to try and return the program to that place. When you consider having 10 of 11 players back offensively, and really, most of our losses being defensively, I think it allows a lot of excitement and scoring potential. I think that's why most folks have us maybe being predicted as an early season favorite in the league and maybe on the national level."

The official MWC media poll will be released today and I'll post it as soon as I see it. My guess is that BYU and Utah top the conference with TCU, Nevada and New Mexico rounding out the top five.

MWC media days will begin with television interviews as early as 8 a.m., but print folks, such as myself, won't begin until 9 a.m. I'll be loitering around the lobby to see if I can get some interesting tidbits before then. It is Vegas, after all.

In fact, I ran into both the BYU and Utah student-athlete representatives Sunday afternoon.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was being interviewed and teammate Louis Sakoda looked on. As luck would have it, Johnson finished right when a troop of Hawaiian Tropic models were walking through the hotel. He stopped them and he and Sakoda took photos with about seven young ladies.

I also ran into BYU quarterback Max Hall and he told me he had flown in from Arizona after attending the wedding of BYU tight end Dennis Pitta, who married the sister of Hall's wife, Mckinzi.

"I'm really close with him and all my receivers," Hall said. "To be honest I was really hoping she'd marry him. I was being a little selfish."

Hall and defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen have never been to a media day, and said they've been told that they'll answer the same questions many times over. As for down time, Hall said he spent his sleeping. Jorgensen isn't sure what the two will do.

"We don't drink, don't gamble, don't really do anything," he said. "We'll probably go to the pool, but we can't be hanging around the Hawaiian Tropic girls like the Utah guys."

Coaches and student-athletes will speak from a podium for 10 minutes then coaches will have individual interviews. The student-athletes will have their individual interviews with print media on Tuesday.

The print interview schedule is as follows (player representatives in parentheses):

Air Force (Travis Dekker, Ryan Kemp)
New Mexico (Zach Arnett, Donovan Porterie)
Wyoming (Ward Dobbs, Devin Moore)
Utah (Brian Johnson, Louis Sakoda)
Colorado State (Jeff Horinek, Kory Sperry)
TCU (Blake Schlueter, Jason Phillips)
BYU (Max Hall, Jan Jorgensen)
San Diego State (Russell Allen, Tyler Campbell)
UNLV (Casey Flair, Frank Summers)