It's the year of the quarterback in the Mountain West


Senior quarterback David Fales sat at a table wearing a San Jose State golf shirt, with the Spartans’ banner hanging behind him.

Under different circumstances, he would have donned a UNR shirt or sat in front of a Wyoming banner.

Fales had the opportunity to attend those schools, but instead found his way to San Jose State, which along with Utah State begins play in the Mountain West this season.

Utah State also brought its quarterback — as did UNR and Wyoming — to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for Mountain West media days. So did Boise State, Fresno State and Hawaii.

If ever there was a year to show off football’s premier position, it’s this one, the year of the quarterback in the Mountain West.

“I’m really excited there’s a lot of excitement about the quarterbacks in this conference,” Boise State senior Joe Southwick said Monday. “It’s only going to add to the whole experience this year. It’s going to bring out the best in all of us. I think it’s going to determine a lot of these football games.”

The quarterbacks spent time together during their trip to Las Vegas, and UNR junior Cody Fajardo said as much as he wanted to dislike his fellow signal callers, he just couldn’t.

“You get this image in your mind like, ‘Hey, they’re the enemy,’ ” Fajardo said. “And then you come here, and they’re actually great guys. I was like, ‘I wish he was more mean to me.’ ”

Fresno State senior Derek Carr heads the list. He was the conference Offensive Player of the Year last season, passing for 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns, and was chosen by the media to repeat that honor this fall.

It obviously will be a crowded competition.

■ Boise State’s Southwick completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

■ Hawaii junior Taylor Graham faces high expectations after transferring from Ohio State.

■ UNR’s Fajardo is a dual threat who passed for 2,786 yards and 20 TDs and ran for 1,121 yards and 12 TDs last season.

■ San Jose State’s Fales completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 4,193 yards and 33 TDs.

■ Utah State junior Chuckie Keeton passed for 3,373 yards and 27 TDs and rushed for 619 yards and eight TDs.

■ Wyoming junior Brett Smith completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,837 yards and 27 TDs.

“They’re all so talented,” Carr said. “They all bring something different. I wish them all the best, except that one time of year (against Fresno State).”

UNLV didn’t bring its sophomore quarterback, Nick Sherry, but he has shown the potential to join such a list. He appear headed toward smashing the Mountain West freshman passing yardage record last season before a back injury slowed his process. Sherry finished with 2,544 yards and 16 touchdowns.

If the situation had been different, Fajardo could have represented UNLV at media days. The Wednesday before he was to visit UNLV on a recruiting trip in 2010, he canceled to instead visit UNR.

Fajardo wanted to learn the Pistol offense under quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who last season ran it to near perfection in leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.

“It was exactly what I was looking for,” Fajardo said.

Fales knows the feeling.

He originally signed with UNR to play in what he hoped would be a more traditional offense, but plans changed when Kaepernick made the Pistol a sensation.

Fales transferred to Monterey (Calif.) Peninsula College, and after a year there tried out at Wyoming. But with Smith having already gone through spring practices and with a much better understanding of the system, Fales knew his chances of starting weren’t great.

A year later, he was at San Jose State, leading the Spartans an 11-2 record while tearing up the Western Athletic Conference.

But he remembers where he could’ve been, and now UNR and Wyoming are conference foes.

“This is the perfect schedule,” Fales said. “When I was at the JC, I was like, ‘Wherever I go, I want to play Nevada at Nevada.’ I wanted to play at Wyoming, but it’s fine that they come here. It definitely fuels the fire.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@review journal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

 

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