Football Lands 13 on Athlon Sports Preseason All-MW Team
May 23, 2017
SAN DIEGO -
San Diego State had 13 football players selected to the Athlon Sports preseason all-Mountain West team, the magazine recently announced. The back-to-back Mountain West champion Aztecs had a league-high 14 selections overall with senior Rashaad Penny (Norwalk, Calif.) named to the first team as a running back and a kick returner.
Joining Penny on the first team by Athlon was senior tight end David Wells (Clovis, Calif.), junior kicker John Baron II (Temecula, Calif.) and senior punt returner Quest Truxton (Newport Harbor, Calif.), while senior offensive lineman Antonio Rosales (Tucson, Ariz.), junior linebacker Ronley Lakalaka (Kalihi, Hawaii) and sophomore cornerback Ron Smith (Oakland, Calif.) were named to the second team. Junior defensive lineman Noble Hall (Las Vegas) and senior cornerback Kameron Kelly (Murphy, Texas) made the third team, while the fourth team was compiled by sophomore running back Juwan Washington (Kennedale, Texas), senior wide receiver Mikah Holder (Oceanside, Calif./Oceanside HS), senior defensive lineman Sergio Phillips (DeSoto, Texas) and junior Aztec (safety) Parker Baldwin (Siloam Springs, Ark.).
SDSU's 14 picks were the most in the MW, followed by Wyoming and Colorado State with 12 apiece, Boise State with 11 and Hawai'i, Nevada and New Mexico each at 10.
Last year, Penny rushed for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns on 136 attempts (7.5 avg.), while adding 15 catches for 224 yards (14.9 avg.) and three touchdowns, and returning 20 kickoffs for 624 yards (31.2 avg.) and two additional scores. He was one of just nine players in the country with at least 11 rushing TDs and at least three receiving scores, and the only player with a kick return TD as well (he had two). Penny ranked in a tie for second in the country in kick return touchdowns (2), fourth in kick return average (31.2), tied for 20th in total touchdowns (17) and 29th in all-purpose yards per game (133.3). For his efforts, he became the second kick returner in MW history to win the league's special teams player-of-the-year award twice (also 2015) and was first-team all-MW pick as a kick returner for the second straight season.
Wells, meanwhile, caught 25 passes (tied for third on the team) for 294 yards (11.8 avg.) and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns were tied for the 22nd most in the country among tight ends. Considered one of the best blocking tight ends in the country, Wells also caught a 2-point conversion. He was a second-team all-MW selection last year.
Baron garnered first-team all-MW accolades a year ago with a school-record 21 field goals, including 19 straight from 50 or less yards to close the season. A Lou Groza Award Collegiate Place-Kicker Award semifinalist, SDSU's first since 2003, Baron led the team with 109 points, and ranked 10th nationally in field goal percentage (.913), 20th in points per game among kickers (8.50), 20th in field goals per game (1.50) and 35th in points per game (8.50). His .913 field goal percentage was also a school record.
Truxton made the preseason all-MW team as a punt returner after leading the league and ranking 27th nationally with a 9.0 punt return average. An honorable-mention all-league selection last year, Truxton returned 30 punts on the season for 271 yards. His 9.0 punt return average was the second best by an Aztec since 1996 (min. 20 punt returns), while his 271 yards rank as the third most since 1996.
The only returning starter from the offensive line last year, Rosales made Athlon's preseason second team after helping SDSU to program records in rushing yards (3,680), rushing touchdowns (34), rushing yards per carry (5.8), points (493) and field goals (21) last year. Additionally, he blocked for a team that had the first 2,000-yard rusher (Donnel Pumphrey) and 1,000-yard rusher (Penny) in NCAA FBS history.
Lakalaka totaled 73 tackles last year (37 solo) to go along with three tackles for loss, an 8-yard sack, two interceptions for 20 yards and a touchdown, a pass breakup and five quarterback hurries. Ranking second on the team in tackles a year ago, Lakalaka backed a defense that finished with national rankings of first in interceptions (26), fifth in turnovers gained (29), sixth in rush defense (105.7), 11th in total defense (315.4), 17th in scoring defense (20.2), 18th in pass efficiency defense (115.5), 20th in first downs allowed (236) and 26th in sacks (2.7).
Smith joined Rosales and Lakalaka on the preseason all-MW team after making 57 tackles (30 solo), three interceptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and 0.5 tackles for loss, despite only starting the final six games of the season. His two interceptions returned for a touchdown were tied for the third most in the country, while his 77 interception return yards ranked 46th. Smith was named to the 2016-17 Associated Press and Athlon Sports all-bowl teams after making a career-high 10 tackles (seven solo) and a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown against Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl game.
Hall made Athlon's preseason all-MW third team after recording 26 tackles (12 solo), six tackles for loss for 27 yards, three sacks for 19 yards, a pass breakup and five quarterback hurries last year. Hall is expected to play defensive end this year after starting all 14 games at defensive tackle last year.
Kelly followed Hall with a preseason all-MW third-team selection after totaling 38 tackles (19 solo) in 2016 with five interceptions for 47 yards and six pass breakups. He is making the move to cornerback this year after playing Warrior (safety) each of his first three years on The Mesa.
Headlining the fourth team for SDSU is Washington, who rushed 55 times for 441 yards (8.0 avg.) and six touchdowns, caught three passes for 72 yards (24.0 avg.) and returned 10 kicks for 293 yards (29.3 avg.) and another score. Heading into the bowl game last year, Washington was one of only five freshmen in the country with at least five rushing touchdowns and a receiving score, and one of only two with a kick return TD as well.
Holder caught 27 passes for 581 yards (21.5 avg.) and five touchdowns, leading the Aztecs in all three categories (tied for lead in catches, min. four receptions for average). He ranked seventh in the country last year in catch average (21.5).
Backing up Hall at defensive tackle, but splitting reps, Phillips amassed 42 tackles (20 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks for 17 yards, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and three quarterback hurries.
Baldwin joined Washington, Holder and Hall on the fourth team after making 66 stops (37 solo), three tackles for loss, two interceptions, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and seven pass breakups, despite only starting the final eight games. His 66 tackles were third most on the 11th-best defensive team (total defense) in the country last season.
The Aztecs are coming off an 11-3 season, knocking off Wyoming, 27-24, in the MW Championship game and Houston, 34-10, in the Las Vegas Bowl, to finish with a No. 25 ranking in both the AP Top 25 poll and the Amway Coaches Poll. It is just the second time that SDSU has been ranked in the final AP poll in program history (also 1977). The 11 wins tied a school single-season record as San Diego State became the first team in program history with back-to-back 11-win campaigns.
SDSU is accepting new account deposits on 2017 season tickets through the Aztec Ticket Office, while current season-ticket holders can also renew their tickets for the 2017 campaign. Fans can purchase tickets through GoAztecs.com, over the phone by calling (619) 283-7378, or by visiting Qualcomm Stadium's Window E between 9 a.m. PT and 5 p.m. PT.
2017 Athlon Sports Preseason All-Mountain West (SDSU listed only)