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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Mountain West spring wrap-up: What we learned


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

1. Big 3 still supreme: After duking it out for the Mountain West title last year, Utah, BYU and TCU are once again going to be the favorites fighting for league supremacy. All three have big holes to fill in various positions, but depth and strong recruiting addressed a lot of these problems this spring, and these three teams should not only be the best in the conference, but also floating in and around the Top 25.

2. New coaches, new mindset: New Mexico, Wyoming and San Diego State all brought in big name coaches to revive their programs and all three spent the spring trying to install new offenses, new defenses and new attitudes. New Mexico coach Mike Locksley might have inherited the most talented group and will be able to win early, while Wyoming's Dave Christensen should be able to turn his program around in a couple years. San Diego State's Brady Hoke, on the other hand, faces the biggest battle in terms of recruiting, personnel and support.

3. Spreading it out: The spread is becoming the offense of choice in the Mountain West, especially with the addition of three coaches with heavy spread backgrounds. The neat thing is that several schools have different types of spread, so it's going to be tough for defenses to continually adjust. One week they might see a running quarterback, the next a pocket passer and then a guy who can do both.

4. Still the top non-AQ conference: All eyes will be on the Mountain West this fall after a spring full of BCS hoopla and congressional hearings. The conference now has a lot to live up to, but it doesn't necessarily have to have another undefeated season to make its point. It just needs to show well across the board. While Utah, BYU and TCU lead the conference, the other six teams need to show that they're worthy of a BCS bid as well.

5. Still the best defenses: The Mountain West is starting to earn a reputation for attracting high level defensive players and this year should be no different. TCU will be loaded again with defensive end Jerry Hughes returning and players such as linebacker Daryl Washington stepping into the spotlight. Utah also will have strong defensive ends with Koa Misi and Derrick Shelby. And Jan Jorgensen, one of the conference's most well-known players will be back for BYU. Not to mention tons of depth at Air Force and maybe some lesser-known talent emerging at the other schools.