There’s no question the Aggies have some things they need to shore up heading into the 2020 college football season.
Nevertheless, Utah State does have several players who are proven commodities at the FBS level, and kickoff returner Savon Scarver is certainly at the top of that list. The senior was the only Aggie named to the Mountain West preseason all-conference team, which was selected by the media and released Wednesday by the league office.
Scarver garnered first-team all-Mountain West accolades as a sophomore and junior, and is one of the most decorated kickoff returners in the conference’s 20-year history. The Las Vegas ranks second in the Mountain West record books and tied for ninth in NCAA history with five career kickoff returns for touchdowns, which is also a USU record.
The former high school track & field star brought back his first collegiate kickoff to the house against New Mexico State in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl as a freshman, and accomplished that feat twice as a sophomore and junior. Scarver currently holds down the No. 3 spot in the USU record books with his career return average of 28.3 yards.
As a junior, No. 11 ranked first in the conference and 11th nationally with his 613 kickoff yards — on 22 kickoffs, for an average of 27.9 yards. Scarver was a consensus All-American in 2018, becoming just the third Aggie to merit that distinction.
Scarver was one of 13 athletes tabbed to the preseason all-Mountain West team who earned first-team all-league accolades last fall. He was joined by Colorado State wide receiver Warren Jackson, San Jose State wideout Tre Walker, UNLV running back Charles Williams, Wyoming RB Xazavian Valladay, Air Force offensive lineman Nolan Laufenberg, CSU tight end Trey McBride, Nevada defensive lineman Dom Peterson, San Diego State DL Cameron Thomas, Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice, Boise State safety Kekaula Kaniho, CSU punter Ryan Stonehouse, and BSU punt return Avery Williams. Williams was also named to the preseason all-MW team as a defensive back.
Rice, Jackson and Boise State linebacker Riley Whimpey were unanimous selections on the preseason squad. Whimpey, a sophomore, is the brother of former USU starting offensive linemen Kevin and Kyle Whimpey.
Boise State led the way with eight preseason all-MW honorees, followed by CSU and SDSU with four apiece. Last year, the Aggies matched the Broncos with a conference-high five preseason selections.
The preseason all-Mountain West squad was comprised of 13 seniors, 11 juniors and four sophomores. Of those 28 athletes, 20 secured some kind of all-conference recognition a year ago.
The Mountain West elected to postpone its Football Virtual Media Days, which was scheduled for next week (July 27-29), “until further notice. However, the conference has released or will release its typical preseason awards and predictions. The projected order of finish among programs in both divisions was announced Tuesday.
As expected, Boise State was picked to win the Mountain Division, and the Broncos racked up 20 of the 21 first-place votes. It’s the 13th consecutive season BSU has been favored to reign supreme in its division or conference.
Wyoming was the recipient of the other first-place vote and was projected to finish second in the Mountain Division. The Cowboys received 90 points and they were followed by Air Force (86), USU (60), CSU (59) and New Mexico (21).
SDSU, which tallied 19 first-place votes and 122 points, was tabbed to win the West Division. Nevada (100) received the other two first-place votes and was picked to finish second in its division. Rounding out the field was Hawaii (74), FSU (73), SJSU (43) and UNLV (29).
Hawaii and San Diego State shared the West Division title last year, but the Warriors advanced to the Mountain West championship game because they beat the Aztecs during the regular season. Both went 5-3 in conference play, followed by Nevada (4-4), FSU, UNLV and SJSU — all with 2-6 records.
Boise State went undefeated against league opponents in 2019 and captured its third consecutive divisional title. The Broncos were followed by AFA (7-1), USU (6-2), Wyoming (4-4), CSU (3-5) and New Mexico (0-8).
Over the last three years, the Broncos have won 22 of 24 games against Mountain West opposition, not including the conference championship game. The Aggies rank second among Mountain Division programs during that timespan with a record of 17-7.
In their seven seasons as a member of the Mountain West, the Aggies have gone 36-20 in conference play. That is the third-best record over that period, trailing only BSU (46-10) and SDSU (40-16).
CSU is fourth on that list with a 32-24 record, and the Rams are followed by AFA (30-26) and FSU (30-26), UNR (26-30), Wyoming (25-31), UNLV (19-37), SJSU (18-38) and Hawaii (18-38), and UNM (16-40).
The Mountain West will announce its preseason specialty award winners — Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year — Thursday.