Mountain West Football: Seven Named To Outland Trophy Watch List
Five offensive linemen and two defensive tackles from the Mountain West were named among the nation’s best interior linemen.
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College football’s watch list season continued today with the reveal of athletes in the running for the Outland Trophy, which is given annually to the nation’s best interior lineman. It’s one of the most inclusive watch lists to date with a total of 85 names, including seven Mountain West players.
The Air Force Falcons headline the list of the conference’s entrants by landing two players on the list, guard Nolan Laufenberg and tackle Parker Ferguson. Both return in 2020 to anchor what was one of the best offensive lines in the country last season, ranking third by Line Yards Per Carry and Power Success Rate, second by Stuff Rate allowed, fifth in sack rate allowed, and ninth in Opportunity Rate.
Laufenberg, in particular, was named a first-team all-conference performer by both the conference media and by Pro Football Focus, though both he and Ferguson ranked in the top eight among PFF’s highest-graded returning linemen this year.
Hawaii tackle Ilm Manning spent 2019 protecting Cole McDonald’s blindside and ensuring that one of the conference’s most powerful scoring offenses operated without a hitch. A starter for the past two seasons, Manning played all 15 games for the Warriors and helped them finish in the top 20 by sack rate allowed while improving the rushing attack from 3.67 yards per carry in 2018 to 4.77 in 2019.
Wyoming’s Keegan Cryder is the lone center among the seven Mountain West names and one of just 15 total on the watch list. After breaking out as a freshman all-American in 2018, Cryder anchored a Cowboys offense that dealt with injuries on the line and elsewhere but remained one of the conference’s most punishing running attacks. He only allowed one sack in 2019 and was on point all season long for Mountain West rushing champion Xazavian Valladay, earning second-team all-conference honors for his efforts.
New Mexico’s Teton Saltes might appear to be the surprise entry among the names to make the cut, but he has been a quietly productive multi-year starter for the Lobos. He trailed only center Kyle Stapley in the number of snaps played for UNM last fall, totaling 819 in all, and allowed only three sacks in nearly 400 pass attempts, earning an honorable mention from both Pro Football Focus and the conference media.
Nevada’s Dom Peterson and San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas represent the Mountain West on the defensive side of the ball, two among 17 total entries on the Outland list. Both were first-team all-conference honorees in 2019, with Peterson collecting 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks, both of which rank first among Mountain West defenders returning in 2020, while Thomas finished with nine TFLs and 5.5 sacks. In addition, Thomas was the lone freshman to be named to the conference media’s first team on offense or defense.
Last year’s Outland Trophy winner was Oregon’s Penei Sewell.