LOGAN, Utah – Utah State football had 10 players named to Athlon Sports 2016 Preseason all-Mountain West teams it was announced Thursday. In all, five offensive players, four defensive players and one specialist were recognized for USU.
Boise State had the most preseason Mountain West selections with 15, while Nevada had 12, San Diego State and San Jose State both had 11 picks, and Utah State garnered 10. Wyoming had nine preseason selections, followed by Air Force (8), Hawai’i (8), UNLV (8), Colorado State (7), Fresno State (5) and New Mexico (4).
Senior punt returner Andrew Rodriguez and redshirt senior nose guard Travis Seefeldt were both named to the preseason all-Mountain West first-team, while senior defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua, senior offensive tackle Jake Simonich, senior offensive center Austin Stephens, junior cornerback Jalen Davis and junior quarterback Kent Myers were all named to the second-team. Senior running back Devante Mays was named to the third-team, while senior tight end Wyatt Houston and redshirt junior safety Dallin Leavitt were both named to Athlon Sports preseason all-Mountain West fourth-team.
Rodriguez, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder from Allen, Texas (Allen HS/Houston), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors and was named second-team all-Mountain West by Phil Steele as a punt returner in 2015 as he returned 26 punts for 258 yards for an average of 9.9 yards per return to rank sixth all-time in school history. He finished the season ranking tied for second in the conference and tied for 13th in the nation with one punt return for a touchdown (0.08 pg), and second in the conference and 30th in the nation in punt return average (9.9 ypr). He was also named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Week following USU’s 12-9 home win against Southern Utah (9/3) as he returned a conference- and school-record eight punts for 136 yards, including an 88-yard return for touchdown with 4:54 to play in the game for the winning score. That 88-yard punt return is a Maverik Stadium record, tied for the second-longest return in MW history and is the third-longest return in USU history.
Seefeldt, a 6-2, 305-pounder from Peoria, Ariz. (Liberty HS), missed the 2015 season following injuries sustained in a car crash and was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. As a junior during the 2014 season, he had 35 tackles, which included 2.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss. He also recorded two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and blocked two kicks.
Ali’ifua, a 6-2, 285-pounder from San Leandro, Calif. (San Leandro HS), started 11 games as a junior and finished the season with 24 tackles, which included 3.0 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss, as he tied for fourth on the team in sacks and was seventh in tackles for loss. He also had one quarterback hurry on the season and forced his first career fumble.
Simonich, a 6-5, 300-pounder from Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as both a sophomore and junior, along with being named a Phil Steele second-team all-conference selection in 2015. During his junior season, he started all 13 games and had an overall performance grade of 74 percent, which included four games over 80 percent. For the year, he recorded 43 knockdowns, including a season-high seven at San Diego State (10/23) and five at Fresno State (10/10). His best game of the year was against No. 21 Boise State (10/16) as he graded out at 84 percent and recorded four knockdowns.
Stephens, a 6-3, 305-pounder from West Des Moines, Iowa (Valley HS/Iowa Western CC), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as both a sophomore and junior, along with being named to Phil Steele’s third-team in 2014 and second-team in 2015. As a junior, he started all 13 games and had an overall performance grade of 78 percent, which included five games over 80 percent. For the year, he recorded 42 knockdowns, including a season-high six at Utah (9/11). His best game of the year was against Wyoming (10/30) as he graded out at 86 percent and recorded four knockdowns.
Davis, a 5-10, 175-pounder from La Mesa, Calif. (Helix HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors and was named a third-team all-MW selection by Phil Steele as he started all 13 games in 2015 and led the team with eight pass breakups (0.85 pg) to rank ninth in the conference. He also tied for first on the team with three interceptions, which was tied for 10th in the conference, and tied for third on the team with two quarterback hurries. He also ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 51, which included 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks, while adding a forced fumble.
Myers, a 6-0, 195-pounder from Rowlett, Texas (Sachse HS) started eight games as a sophomore and earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as he finished the season ranking fourth in the conference and 57th nationally with 16 touchdown passes (1.79 pg). As a sophomore, he led the team in completions (121), attempts (199), passing yards (1,593) and touchdown passes (16), all of which are career highs, while also setting a career high in passing efficiency (151.56) as he threw just three interceptions during the year, giving him a completion percentage of 60.8, which ranks fifth all-time in school history for a single-season. He also ranked second on the team with both his 356 rushing yards and his 39.6 rushing yards per game, while ranking third on the team with both three rushing touchdowns and 85 carries. As a sophomore, het single-game career-highs against Air Force (11/14) with 25 completions, 47 attempts, 364 passing yards and four touchdown passes. He also set a single-game school rushing record for a quarterback with his 191 yards, which included runs of 34, 34, 27 and 26, on a career-high 16 carries in USU’s 33-18 home win against Colorado State (10/3) as he was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week.
Mays, a 5-11, 220-pounder from Livingston, Texas (Livingston HS/Blinn JC), played in all 13 games and made six starts in his first season at Utah State in 2015 and finished the year with 165 carries for 966 yards (5.9 ypr) with nine touchdowns to lead the team in each category. He ranked third in the Mountain West and 39th nationally with his 5.9 yards per carry, which ranked ninth all-time in school history for a single-season and tied for seventh all-time at USU for a career. He also ranked seventh in the conference with his nine rushing touchdowns and 10th in the league with his 74.3 rushing yards per game. Overall, he had three 100-yard rushing games during the year, highlighted by a season-best 176 yards on a season-high 22 carries against Wyoming (10/30).
Houston, a 6-5, 255-pounder from Tualatin, Ore. (Tualatin HS), played in all 13 games in 2015, making nine starts as he finished the year with 25 receptions for 307 yards (12.3 ypc) with three touchdowns. As a junior, he ranked fourth on the team in receptions, third in receiving yards and tied for second in touchdown catches. During the year, he tied his career high with four receptions for a career-best 66 yards against Wyoming (10/30), while catching a career-best two touchdowns against the Cowboys.
Leavitt, a 5-11, 200-pounder from Portland, Ore. (Central Catholic HS/BYU), redshirted during his first season at Utah State after transferring from BYU. As a sophomore in 2014 for the Cougars, he ranked fifth on the team with 43 tackles, which included 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, while adding two pass breakups and one quarterback hurry.
Utah State returns 12 starters (O-9, D-3) and 38 letterwinners (O-20, D-15, S-3) from last year’s team that posted a 6-7 record, finished tied for second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 5-3 mark, and ended its season by playing in a school-record fifth-straight bowl game as it faced Akron in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Utah State will open the 2016 season on Thursday, Sept. 1, at home against Weber State and will begin Mountain West play on Saturday, Sept. 24, at home against Air Force.
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