8 CSU Rams receive Mountain West honors

Eric Wolf

Eight Colorado State football players earned All-Mountain West honors for their efforts during the 2016 season, the conference announced on Tuesday.

To no surprise, wide receiver Michael Gallup and punter Hayden Hunt were named first team All-Mountain West performers, while guard Fred Zerblis was also named to the first team.

Senior linebacker Kevin Davis and junior center Jake Bennett were named to the second team, while senior guard Paul Thurston, senior tackle Nick Callender and junior quarterback Nick Stevens received honorable mention honors.

Six out of eight of the CSU award winners came from the offensive side of the ball, while Davis was the only CSU defensive player named to the All-conference teams.

The CSU offense finished sixth in the conference in scoring at 34.1 points per game and the team finished 4th in total offense at 451 yards per game, but no offense in the conference played better over the second half of the season than the Rams, who averaged 43.3 points per game over the final six games.

Zerblis, a second team performer from a season ago, made 12 starts this season at right guard along with the other anchor of the offensive line in Bennett who started every game at center.

Overall, four out of five starters on the CSU offensive line were recognized for their play during the 2016 season.

That CSU offensive line gave up just over one sack per game this season and helped pave the way for a rushing attack that finished fifth in the run-heavy conference with 223.2 yards per game on the ground.

The offensive front proved especially effective in the last five weeks of the season, as the Rams picked up 274.4 yards per game on the ground, and 520.6 total yards per game.

Gallup, a junior juco transfer from Butler Community College, took awhile to fully get involved in the CSU offense, but by the end of the season, he proved to be one of the better playmakers in the entire conference.

Gallup finished second in the Mountain West to fellow first-teamer Thomas Sperbeck of Boise State in total receiving yards with 1,164, but it was in conference play when Gallup really blew up. In eight conference games, Gallup caught 56 passes for 991 yards and nine touchdowns.

And Hunt, who was named as the second team punter last season, capped off another great year by being named the conference’s number one punter.

Hunt finished fourth in the conference by averaging 44.3 yards per punt, but Hunt was particularly effective in pinning teams deep, as he downed 24 punts inside the opponents twenty yard line while only picking up three touchbacks on the season.

Davis, who had a strong season as the unquestioned leader on the young CSU Rams defense might come as a surprise second team selection.

For the year, Davis finished eighth in the conference with 101 total tackles. He also picked up 9.5 tackles for loss, an interception and finished second in the conference with four forced fumbles.

Nick Stevens went from the 2015 second team All-Mountain West quarterback to a backup after week one this year, but his resurgence after returning to the lineup in week seven against Boise State revitalized the CSU offense and landed a post-season honor for Stevens.

Stevens, who completed over 65 percent of his passes, led the conference in completion percentage while throwing for 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions in seven starts.

For the second year in a row, a repeat trio of San Diego State Aztecs swept the major conference awards. Running back Donnel Pumphrey was named the offensive player of the year, defensive back Damontae Kazee received the defensive player of the year award and kick returner Rashaad Penny was named the special teams player of the year.

After leading the Wyoming Cowboys to a 8-4 season and a Mountain division title, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl was named the conference’s coach of the year.

Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5