Vander Esch's DPOY Among 19 All-MW Picks
Nov. 29, 2017
BOISE, Idaho - Redshirt junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Wednesday morning, highlighting 19 Broncos that earned all-conference honors.
Six Broncos were selected to the All-Mountain West First Team for the first times in their respective careers: redshirt senior center Mason Hampton, redshirt tight end Jake Roh, and senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson on offense, and Vander Esch, junior cornerback Tyler Horton, and redshirt freshman STUD Curtis Weaver on defense. Weaver's selection also marks the first time in Mountain West history that a freshman has earned first-team defense honors.
Earning second-team selection were another sextet of Broncos: redshirt senior offensive lineman Archie Lewis and junior quarterback Brett Rypien on offense, redshirt junior STUD Jabril Frazier, redshirt defensive lineman David Moa, and sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine on defense, and redshirt freshman PR/KR Avery Williams on special teams.
Seven Broncos were named honorable mention: redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland, redshirt junior kicker Haden Hoggarth, sophomore running back Alexander Mattison, sophomore linebacker Tyson Maeva, junior defensive lineman Durrant Miles, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman John Molchon, and sophomore safety DeAndre Pierce.
Vander Esch's selection marks the first time that a Bronco has taken home the Mountain West's top defensive award, and he becomes Boise State's first conference defensive player of the year since Korey Hall earned the WAC's top honor in 2006.
The Riggins, Idaho, native has put together one of the top all-around defensive campaigns in recent Bronco history in 2017. Heading into this Saturday's Mountain West Championship Game, Vander Esch leads the team in tackles (113), has intercepted two passes, forced three fumbles, recorded 3.0 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss. He leads a defense that ranks 25th in the country with 339.0 yards allowed per game, and 19th against the run, allowing just 124.9 rushing yards per game. Individually, Vander Esch ranks 24th in the FBS, and third in the Mountain West, with 9.4 tackles per game, as well as ninth in the country (and second in the conference) with 5.9 solo tackles per game.
Among the Bronco first-team selections, Vander Esch joins Horton and Weaver in earning a first-career postseason all-conference honor.
Roh earned his third All-Mountain West honor, and first selection to the first team, with a career year in 2017. The two-time John Mackey Award candidate shares the lead among all FBS tight ends with 11 touchdowns this season, and is tied for third with nine touchdown catches. Named All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2014 and to the second team in 2015, Roh has posted career highs this year not just in scoring, but also in receptions (39) and receiving yards (410). His nine touchdown catches rank second in the Mountain West, while his 11 touchdowns overall are tied for fifth.
Roh has also expanded his impact on the Bronco offense as a short-yardage ball carrier, rushing seven times for 28 yards and a pair of scores this season. Operating primarily out of the Wildcat, Roh scored one of his rushing touchdowns in a three-touchdown performance Sept. 14 against New Mexico.
Hampton earned his second all-conference honor Wednesday, after being named honorable mention in 2016. The Bronco center has appeared in 11 games this season, making 10 starts, anchoring an offensive line that broke in three new starters. By the end of the regular season, the Bronco offensive line had produced a 1,000-yard rusher in Alexander Mattison, marking the ninth-straight year in which a Bronco back had hit that milestone.
Hampton has also earned recognition for his work in the classroom. The Meridian, Idaho, native was named a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, given annually to the top scholar-athlete in college football, and to the 2017 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Class, for which he earned a $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. Hampton has also been voted to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 7 Football Team for the second-straight year, with a chance to become a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American when the teams are announced on Dec. 14.
Wilson, also an honorable mention selection in 2016, has exceeded his impressive 2016 production this year, leading all Bronco receivers with 65 catches and 1,142 yards while sitting second with six touchdown grabs. It marks Wilson's second-straight 1,000-yard season, a feat accomplished by only two other Bronco receivers (Titus Young, 2009-10; Thomas Sperbeck, 2015-16), while his running two-year total of 2,271 yards is the second-best two-year output by a Bronco, behind only Sperbeck's 2,684 yards from 2015-16.
Despite facing routine double coverage as the leader of the Bronco receiver corps, Wilson has still managed four 100-yard receiving games in 2017, tied for second-most in the Mountain West. This total includes his career-best 13-catch, 209-yard game against Virginia on Sept. 22, one of just five 200-yard games by a Mountain West receiver this season.
Also emerging as a leader in his position group this year is Horton, Boise State's top coverage man. Consistently drawing the assignment of covering the opposition's top receiver, Horton has stepped up to the challenge in 2017, picking off two passes and leading the Broncos with 11 pass-breakups. He has also proven his value as a tackler, ranking fifth on the team with 38 tackles (22 solo), including 3.0 tackles-for-loss.
Horton has also shown a nose for the football, as in addition to his two interceptions, he has recovered two fumbles this season, with one clinching Boise State's 59-52 overtime win at Colorado State on Nov. 11, and the second being returned 21 yards for a touchdown Nov. 18 against Air Force.
Weaver made his case as one of Boise State's breakout stars of 2017, constantly harassing opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines. The redshirt freshman, through 12 games, shares the Mountain West lead with 8.0 sacks (tied for 24th in the country) and leads the Broncos with 10.0 tackles-for-loss.
Along with being a key part of Boise State's 24th-ranked defense and 19th-ranked rush defense, Weaver has made his impact in the turnover game, picking off a pass against Nevada (Nov. 4), and being named a Piesman Trophy finalist for his 55-yard fumble return for a touchdown at Washington State (Sept. 9).
Contributing on the defensive line right alongside Weaver are all-conference second-team selections Frazier and Moa. Frazier, nicknamed as one of the Broncos' two "velociraptors" with Weaver by head coach Bryan Harsin, ranks second on the team in both sacks (6.0) and tackles-for-loss (6.5), while making 28 tackles (21 solo) on the year. He has also forced two fumbles on sacks, with each being returned for a touchdown (Weaver at Washington State, Horton against Air Force).
Moa, meanwhile, has been a force in the Bronco run defense despite commanding double-teams from numerous opponents. While his presence has helped open up rush opportunities for Weaver, Frazier and Miles, Moa has managed to get his, as well, recording 2.0 sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss among his 19 tackles.
The defense's third second-team selection, Nawahine, has built off of the promise of the strong finish to his freshman season in 2016. Nawahine, with 90 tackles (57 solo), could hit the century mark with two games remaining, and if so, would team with Vander Esch to become the first pair of Broncos to each hit the 100-tackle mark in a season since 2005. Nawahine, a Meridian native, has also been a force in the defense' ball-hawking ways this season, leading the Broncos with three interceptions while also picking up a fumble.
On offense, Rypien earned his third-straight All-MW nod with Wednesday's selection to the second team. After a slow start to the campaign, which included an injury that knocked him out of Sept. 9's game at Washington State and forced him to miss the Sept. 14 game against New Mexico, Rypien has found his groove during Boise State's final five games. Over that stretch, Rypien has completed 100-of 151 passes (66.2 percent) for 1,427 yards and 12 touchdowns, bringing his 2017 totals to 2,269 passing yards and 14 touchdowns along with a 64.6 completion percentage.
Lewis earned his first recognition from the Mountain West after starting the last 10 games of the season. Despite missing the first two games due to recovery from offseason surgery, Lewis, an Outland Trophy candidate in 2017, has been a stalwart on the Bronco line since his return, contributing to Mattison's 1,000-yard season, the ninth in a row by a Bronco back, and, along with Hampton, helping lead and break in three new starters.
Williams, Boise State's first returner honored by the Mountain West since Shane Williams-Rhodes earned honorable mention in 2013, has electrified Bronco special teams in 2017. The redshirt freshman, who also doubles as a cornerback on defense, made a splashy debut Sept. 2 against Troy, returning a punt 81 yards for the game-opening touchdown on the first touch of his career, and finished the game with 124 yards over five returns.
Williams ranks 15th in the country and leads the Mountain West with 11.2 yards per punt return, and his two punt-return touchdowns (the second came Oct. 14 at San Diego State) rank second in the nation. He has also averaged 24.9 yards over 14 kickoff returns.
All seven Broncos being named honorable mention earned the first all-conference recognition of their respective careers. On the offensive line, Cleveland is the only Bronco to start all 12 games this season, while Molchon has made 11 starts while appearing in all 12 games. The pair, first-time starters this season, has contributed to Mattison's 1,000-yard season, as well as to clearing the way for an offense that ranks second in the Mountain West with 33.3 points per game.
Mattison, meanwhile, has confidently picked up the mantle of Boise State's No. 1 back, standing at 1,024 rushing yards heading into Saturday's title game. The San Bernardino, Calif., native has run for 11 touchdowns this season and produced four 100-yard games, including a career day of 242 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and a Boise State single-game record of 286 yards from scrimmage (242 rushing, 44 receiving), in Nov. 11's 59-52 overtime win at Colorado State.
He has also made an impact in the receiving game, making 26 catches for 279 yards and a score this season.
On defense, Maeva, Miles and Pierce have all been significant contributors to Boise State's 24th-ranked defense, and the 19th-ranked run defense. Maeva, who like Nawahine finished his 2016 freshman campaign in the starting lineup, ranks fourth on the team with 71 tackles (36 solo), in addition to a sack, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, and three pass breakups.
Miles, on the front line with Weaver, Frazier, and Moa, leads the group with 33 tackles (14 solo), which includes 2.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles-for-loss, a figure that ranks third on the team. He has also been a factor in the takeaway game, making an interception this year in addition to forcing a pair of fumbles.
Pierce, another member of Boise State's fast, hard-hitting sophomore class, has teamed with Nawahine in the secondary to both stop the run and defend the pass. The Long Beach, Calif., native ranks third on the team with 77 tackles (48 solo), with 4.0 of those going for loss, and has picked off a pass in 2017. In addition to breaking up a pair of passes, Pierce has also established himself, and gained a following from Bronco fans, for his hard tackles both over the middle and in the offensive backfield.
Hoggarth, in his debut season at Boise State, becomes the third Bronco kicker, along with Tyler Rausa (first team, 2015) and Dan Goodale (honorable mention, 2013-14) to earn All-Mountain West recognition over the past five seasons. Joining the team in the spring, and earning the No. 1 kicker job in fall camp, Hoggarth has been a reliable part of the Bronco offense, hitting 16-of-19 field goals and a perfect 50-of-50 PAT attempts through 12 games.
The transfer from Bethune Cookman ranks 22nd in the country and second in the Mountain West with a 84.2 field-goal percentage, while his 98 points this season have him ranked second among Mountain West kickers and fourth overall in the conference.
Boise State (9-3, 7-1 MW) plays for its third Mountain West title this Saturday, hosting No. 25/- Fresno State (9-3, 7-1 MW) in the Mountain West Championship Game at Albertsons Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
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