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July 23, 2013
The first day of Mountain West Media Days was buzzing with the sounds of the new season. Coaches and players took their places at the podiums and began to spell out their plans for what they hope will be a successful 2013 campaign. The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas played host to Mountain West neophytes like San Jose State's David Fales and Utah State's Chuckie Keaton, as well as veterans like Fresno State's Derek Carr and Boise State's Joe Southwick. Despite the fact that most of these players and coaches will meet on the field of play, the Cosmo was filled with mutual respect and gamesmanship.
FSBulldogs.com caught up with Carr and free safety Derron Smith to talk to them about the upcoming season. Both guys were excited at the prospect of adding depth to the conference. Specifically, both guys feel that the additions of San Jose State and Utah State will bolster the conference as they move into the playoff format.
"It's cool," Carr said. "It's like the old WAC now. We just have a different name. I've gotten to play against them both during my sophomore year. One and one in those games. That was an awful year. We got to play them both, so I have some familiarity with some of their players that they have this year. But it's great. I think that this is the best non-BCS conferece that there is. I really feel that the highest ranked team coming out of our conference will get the BCS game."
Smith, who will have to deal with Fales and Keaton on defense, felt the same way as his quarterback.
"I think it just brings more stability, more games that people wanna see. Both of them are good, strong teams. It's gonna be tough games with both of them. I think everybody wants to see those two games."
One of the perks this season brings is the conference championship game. No longer will teams have to share a conference championship, and that's just fine with Fresno State's leader.
"It's great for us," Carr said. "We love that we don't have to share. Everybody probably feels that way. I did at the end of the year. We'll take a championship, don't get me wrong. That's why I came to Fresno, was to hold that trophy up. But if you have a conference championship game, it doesn't get much more pressure packed than that. I think it's a great idea and the Mountain West did a great job of putting that together."
While the stakes have been raised, both Carr and Smith are well aware of the fact that they will be getting the best every team has to offer. The challenges are sure to be great, both guys embrace the grind and plan to rise to the occasion.
"I feel bad for defensive coordinators, but I'm sure they love it," Carr said. "They love the challenge and we love the challenge. The thing in this conference is that, as we started getting good on offense, teams started showing things on defense in film, we would get to the game, and they wouldn't do anything that they showed on film. These guys hide everything. I don't know what they're doing half the time, until the ball is snapped. It's much more challenging, but it makes it more fun."
Smith was quick to echo this sentiment when asked if there was a game he was looking forward to more than any other.
"Not one that I look forward to playing the most, but if you wanna talk about a challenge, I'd probably say the Nevada game," Smith said. "The option attack that they run with Cody Fajardo, you know, they do a good job of running the option. He's lethal on his feet and throwing the ball. He possesses that dual-threat that really causes defenses to break down."
But Fajardo is just one of the many quarterbacks that Smith and the Bulldog defense will see. Chuckie Keaton, Utah State's signal caller, is another guy that Smith believes can causes a defense problems.
"I've seen some of the games and stuff," Smith said. "I've seen how elusive he is. He's real shifty. So, if we do run into them, then that would be another tough quarterback matchup with the dual-threat aspect of it."
Both guys plan to soak the moment and enjoy the year. They are thrilled at the prospect of getting to know and play against some of the nation's finest players.
"Yeah, it's always fun when you play a good quarterback because you know that you're going to get tested by them," Smith said. "You know they're not just going to hand the ball off or throw a check down. They're going to try and test you. It's gonna be a little difficult to prepare for all the different types of quarterbacks that we have in the league, but it's also exciting at the same time."
Carr wasn't far behind with his praise of the conference's top talent. He also added in praise for the number of offensive players being asked to speak at the Media Days.
"Oh, they're great," Carr said. "These guys are cool. They're really, really great. A lot more laid back and easy going. They're very personable just like we're very personable. We joke around a lot. I remember last year, me and Phillip [Thomas] were here joking around and some of the guys were just staring at us. So, it's been fun. There's more of us, there's more offensive guys this year. Which is better, I think."
The chance to meet new people and grow as men wasn't lost on Carr or Smith. But why let that get in the way of a little gamesmanship? At the end of the day, this is football. And Carr did end the day by mixing a little bit of praise with a little bit of 'real.'
"I just try to get to know these guys on a personal level," Carr said. "I don't really care about the football sense. I wish them all the best of luck and I hope they play for another twenty years, all of them. When the games comes on I don't wish them the best of luck and I hope Derron picks them off eight times. But they're all so talented and they all bring something different. I wish them all the best, except for that one time of year. But I don't keep up with them. I just want to know what kind of person they are. If you're a cool guy, someone I would want my son to look up to, then I'll root for you."
Seems reasonable. Though it's hard to imagine anyone walking away from today without being a fan of someone. It was just that kind of day.
Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates from Mountain West Media Days.
Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.
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