Mountain West Football: Seven Players Named to Maxwell Award Watch List
Seven players from six different Mountain West teams start in the running to be named college football’s best overall player.
The absolute best of the best.
Watch list season got underway today, in part, with the reveal of the Maxwell Award roll call. Given annually to the nation’s best player, there are seven players from the Mountain West on this year’s iteration, which includes 80 players altogether.
𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏 𝐌𝐚𝐱𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐀𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐖𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐋𝐢𝐬𝐭 📄
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Congratulations to the 80 athletes who have been named to the list.
— Maxwell Football (@MaxwellFootball) July 19, 2021
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong, a surprise entrant on this same watch list last summer, headlines the nominees after leading the Wolf Pack to a very successful 2020 season. He made good on the Maxwell committee’s foresight by leading the Mountain West with 2,858 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and a 70.1% completion rate on 355 attempts.
He’s joined by Wolf Pack wide receiver Romeo Doubs, a first-time Maxwell watch list nominee who developed into one of college football’s premier deep threats in 2020. No one in college football had more 50-yard catches than Doubs, which goes a long way toward explaining why he led the Mountain West in receptions (58) and receiving yards (1,002) while finishing in a tie for first with nine receiving touchdowns. Strong and Doubs make up one of just 14 pairs of teammates on this year’s Maxwell list.
Boise State’s Khalil Shakir is the other Mountain West wide receiver to appear here. The Broncos found all kinds of ways to get the ball in his hands last season and it paid off in spades as he finished fifth in the conference with 123.9 all-purpose yards per game and scored six touchdowns.
Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers and Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay are also back on the Maxwell watch list. Despite getting banged up in the latter parts of the abbreviated season, Rivers paced the Mountain West with 136.3 all-purpose yards per game and finished in a tie for second with nine total touchdowns. Valladay, meanwhile, led the conference with 110 rushing yards per game, averaging 5.56 yards per carry and scoring four touchdowns in five games for the Cowboys.
Greg Bell is the third Mountain West running back on the list after putting together a historic debut for San Diego State. Like Rivers and Valladay, Bell was slowed by minor injuries in the later parts of 2020, but he managed to become the first Aztec in program history to begin his career with four straight games of at least 100 rushing yards, finishing second in the Mountain West with 637 yards while adding six touchdowns.
Nick Starkel’s arrival at San Jose State was one of the major catalysts for the Spartans’ rise to the top of the conference. He completed 64.2% of his 254 pass attempts for 2,174 yards and 17 touchdowns, providing the perfect engine for SJSU’s quick-striking passing offense.
Last year’s Maxwell Award winner was Alabama’s Devonte Smith.