Utah State has 12 football players named to Athlon Sports 2019 Preseason All-Mountain West teams

Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) throws against North Texas during the second half of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State football had 12 players named to the Athlon Sports 2019 preseason all-Mountain West teams, it was announced Monday by the publication. The Aggies had four players recognized on offense, five players on defense and three specialists.

Boise State had the most preseason selections with 17, followed by Fresno State (13), Utah State (12), Hawai’i (10) and Wyoming (9). Nevada and New Mexico had eight selections apiece, while UNLV and San Diego State both had seven. Colorado State and San José State each had six selections and Air Force had five.

Overall, Utah State had seven first-team honorees to lead the conference. Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State all tied for second with four first-team selections.

Senior all-purpose player Gerold Bright, senior defensive end Tipa Galeai, senior cornerback DJ Williams, junior quarterback Jordan Love, junior punt return Jordan Nathan, junior kickoff returner Savon Scarver and junior linebacker David Woodward were all named to the preseason all-Mountain West first team, while senior placekicker Dominik Eberle and sophomore offensive lineman Alfred Edwards were both named to the second team. Aggies named to the preseason third team include senior defensive tackle Christopher ‘Unga and Nathan as an all-purpose offensive player, while senior defensive tackle Fua Leilua was tabbed to the Athlon Sports Preseason all-Mountain West fourth team.

Bright, a 5-foot-10, 190-pounder from Pensacola, Fla. (Escambia HS), played in all 13 games and made four starts as a junior as he finished the season rushing for 888 yards on 141 carries (6.3 ypc) and 10 touchdowns, while adding 22 receptions for 232 yards (10.5 ypr) and three touchdowns. He finished the 2018 season with 1,184 all-purpose yards as he also returned four kickoffs for 64 yards (16.0 ypr).

Entering his senior season, Bright ranks 24th all-time in school history with 1,224 career rushing yards, while his 6.8 yards per carry average is tied for fourth all-time at USU.

Galeai, a 6-5, 230-pounder from Euless, Texas (Trinity HS/TCU), earned second-team all-Mountain West honors in 2018 as he played in all 13 games and made 12 starts. He finished his redshirt junior season fifth on the team with 64 tackles (30-solo, 34-assist), while leading the team in both sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (14.0). In fact, his 10.5 sacks are the most by an Aggie since 2005, while his 14.0 tackles for loss are the most by an Aggie since 2015. He also led the team with three forced fumbles and seven quarterback hurries, while adding two interceptions, three pass breakups and one blocked kick during the year.

Williams, a 5-9, 180-pounder from Smyrna, Tenn. (Smyrna, Tenn./Independence CC), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as a junior as he started all 13 games in his first season at Utah State. He finished the 2018 campaign with 42 tackles (33-solo, 9-assist), which included 1.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss, while adding 11 pass breakups, four interceptions, one forced fumble and one quarterback hurry. For the season, he led the team with 15 passes defended, which included a team-best 11 pass breakups, while his four interceptions tied for the team lead.

Love, a 6-4, 220-pounder from Bakersfield, Calif. (Liberty HS), earned second-team all-Mountain West honors in 2018 as he set five school records with 32 touchdown passes, 3,567 passing yards, seven 300-yard passing games, 234 points responsible for and being named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week five times. Love also tied the single-season school record with a pair of 400-yard passing games. Furthermore, Love tied the single-game school record for touchdown passes with five against both UNLV and San José State, becoming just the fifth quarterback in school history to accomplish the feat.

Heading into his junior campaign, Love is 396-of-652 (.607) passing for 5,198 yards and 40 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions during his career and ranks fourth all-time in school history in touchdown passes, tied for fourth in completion percentage, and 10th all-time in passing yards, completions and total offense (5,426).

Nathan, a 5-9, 180-pounder from Monrovia, Calif. (Monrovia HS), earned second-team all-Mountain West honors from Phil Steele’s Magazine as a punt returner as a sophomore in 2018 as he returned 20 punts for 166 yards (8.3 ypr) and one touchdown. Nathan also played in 12 games at wide receiver and made six starts as he caught 28 passes for 297 yards (10.6 ypr) and three touchdowns.

Nathan, who also earned third-team all-Mountain West honors from Phil Steele’s Magazine as a punt returner in 2017 after returning 23 punts for 196 yards (8.5 ypr), ranks 10th all-time in school history with a career punt return average of 8.4 yards as he has returned 43 punts for 362 yards in his career.

Scarver, a 5-11, 190-pounder from Las Vegas, Nev. (Centennial HS), was named just the third consensus All-American in school history as a returner/all-purpose player and just the 16th in Mountain West history as he earned first-team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF), Football Writers Association of American (FWAA) and Phil Steele’s Magazine and second-team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as he returned 22 kickoffs for 742 yards (33.7 ypr) and two touchdowns. His 742 return yards on kickoffs are the most by an Aggie since 2011, while his kickoff return average of 33.7 yards ranks second all-time in school history. In 2018, Scarver led the nation in kickoff returns (33.7 ypr) and tied for second in the nation with his two kickoff returns for touchdowns (0.15 pg). In fact, his two kickoff returns for touchdowns (100 yards vs. New Mexico State, 99 yards vs. Wyoming) are the second-most in a single-season in school history, and he is one of just two players in school history to have multiple kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single-season. Scarver was also named the winner of the 2018 Johnny “The Jet” Award as the nation’s top return specialist.

Heading into his junior campaign, Scarver has three career kickoff returns for touchdowns, which ranks second all-time in school history, while his career kickoff return average of 28.5 yards ranks as the third-best in school history as he has returned 48 kickoffs for 1,367 yards in his career.

Woodward, a 6-2, 230-pounder from Olympia, Wash. (Olympia HS), earned first-team All-America honors from Pro Football Focus (PFF) and third-team All-America honors from The Associated Press (AP) as a sophomore in 2018 as he started all 13 games and finished the season with 134 tackles (52-solo, 82-assist), which included 5.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, to go along with two forced fumbles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. He was also named the PFF Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year as he ranked first in the MW and 11th in the nation with 134 tackles (11.2 pg).

Following his sophomore season, Woodward graded out as the top linebacker in the nation, according to PFF, at 91.6 percent as he ranked fourth among linebackers with a 92.4 grade against the run and fourth in coverage at 90.5 and only missed two tackles all season.

Eberle, a 6-2, 195-pounder from Nuremberg, Germany (Redondo Union (Calif.) HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors from the league’s coaches and third-team all-MW honors from Phil Steele’s Magazine after serving as the team’s placekicker in all 13 games. He was also named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top placekicker in 2018 as he set a single-season school record by scoring 141 points. For the season, he was 22-for-28 on field goals and 75-for-75 on extra points, setting the school record for PATs made and attempted in a single-season. He also set the single-season school record for points per game (10.8), which ranked fourth nationally.

Eberle had the best game of his career against New Mexico State during his junior season as he tied the NCAA record for points scored by a kicker with 24 and 50-yard field goals made in a single game with three.

Eberle also earned third-team All-America honors from Phil Steele’s Magazine, honorable mention All-America honors from SB Nation and first-team all-Mountain West honors, along with being named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, as he finished the season scoring a team-best 101 points as he was a perfect 47-of-47 on extra points and 18-of-24 (.750) on field goals.

Heading into his senior campaign, Eberle ranks second all-time in school history in field goals made (43) and fourth all-time in field goals attempted (57), and is third all-time in field goal percentage (.754). He has also scored 251 points in his career to rank fourth all-time in school history, including third all-time among kickers and is the only player in school history to have four or more 50-yard field goals in a career.

Edwards, a 6-7, 310-pounder from Redlands, Calif. (Redlands Senior HS), played in 12 games, making 11 starts at left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2018. Overall, he played in 662 offensive snaps and graded out at 83 percent during the season, which included 92 percent in effort and 88 percent in assignment. He finished the year with 10 knockdowns.

‘Unga, a 6-0, 300-pounder from Rochester, Calif. (Rancho Cucamonga HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors at nose guard as he started all 12 games he played in during the season. He finished the 2018 season with 31 tackles (6-solo, 25-assist), which included 0.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Leilua, a 6-3, 305-pounder from Anaheim, Calif. (Spanish Fork (UT) HS/Oklahoma State), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as he started all 13 games in 2018. As a redshirt junior, he tied for first on the team among defensive linemen with 38 tackles (9-solo, 29-assist), which included 1.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss, while adding one pass breakup and six quarterback hurries.

Utah State returns nine starters (O-2, D-7) as part of 35 letterwinners (O-15, D-18, S-2), including two All-Americans and eight players that earned various all-Mountain West honors, from last year’s team that ended the season ranked 21st in the final Amway Coaches poll and 22nd in the final AP poll as it tied the school record for wins and best record with an 11-2 mark following its 52-13 win against North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl.

Utah State will open the 2019 season on Friday, Aug. 30, at Wake Forest and begins its home season the following weekend against Stony Brook on Saturday, Sept. 7. Mountain West play begins for USU two weekends later at San Diego State on Saturday, Sept. 21.

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