San Diego, California - San Diego State had 11 football players selected to the Athlon Sports preseason all-Mountain West team, the magazine announced Wednesday. Juwan Washington led the way for the Aztecs, earning first-team honors as a running back and second-team accolades as a kick returner.
Joining Washington on the first team were offensive linemen Keith Ismael and Tyler Roemer, while four SDSU players landed on the second-team defense, including defensive end Noble Hall, linebacker Ronley Lakalaka, cornerback Ron Smith and Warrior (safety) Tariq Thompson. Tight end Kahale Warring was selected to the third team, while Aztec (safety) Parker Baldwin and linebacker Kyahva Tezino made the fourth team.
San Diego State’s three offensive players on the first team were tied for the most in the league, while its six players selected on four teams on the defensive side of the ball rank second in the MW.
Last year, Washington rushed for 759 yards and seven touchdowns on 127 attempts (6.0 avg.) while backing up the nation’s leading rusher Rashaad Penny, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was named a consensus first-team All-American. Washington also returned 14 kicks for 333 yards (23.8 avg.) with two touchdowns, while adding three catches for 38 yards (13.0 avg.). Washington, SDSU’s sixth straight running back named a preseason all-MW first pick by Athlon Sports (also Adam Muema in 2013, Donnel Pumphrey from 2014-16 and Penny in 2017), enters his junior season tied for third among active FBS players with three kick return scores.
Ismael and Roemer, meanwhile, also made the Athlon first team after finishing as second-team all-MW picks by the league’s coaches and media last year as redshirt freshmen (the other eight on the first or second team were seniors). Roemer was named a USA Today Freshman All-American last season and San Diego State’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, while Ismael shared the Aztecs’ Outstanding Freshman Award with Tariq Thompson. The duo blocked for a running back group than averaged 252.5 yards per game on the ground and scored 33 touchdowns in 13 games (2.54 TD per game).
Hall, Lakalaka, Smith and Thompson return from a defense that since 2015 has ranked first in FBS in turnover margin (+43) and interceptions (63), third in rush defense (116.3), turnovers forced (83) and interception touchdowns (10), sixth in total defense (305.5 ypg), seventh in scoring defense (18.9) and 12th in pass defense (189.2).
Hall finished with 39 tackles (24 solo), 8.5 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four quarterback hurries a year ago. He’s SDSUs’ top returning TFL leader.
Lakalaka, meanwhile, led the team with 82 tackles last year, despite missing a game, while adding 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and five quarterback hurries. He ended up as a second-team all-MW selection.
Smith registered 62 tackles (46 solo), two tackles for loss, two interceptions, a team-high 16 pass breakups and a forced fumble. Smith’s 1.38 pass deflections per game (PBU + INT) ranked 13th in the country a year ago.
Thompson totaled 63 tackles (46 solo) with three tackles for loss in 2017 as a true freshman, while recording a team-high five interceptions for 83 yards and a touchdown, four pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. For his efforts, Thompson was named a FWAA Freshman All-American and a USA Today Freshman All-American, as well as a second-team all-league pick.
Warring made the Athlon Sports third team after making 18 catches a year ago for 248 yards (13.8 avg.) and a team-high three touchdown catches. Warring was also third on the team in catches and yards, despite starting just four games.
Baldwin landed on the Athlon fourth team after ranking second on the Aztecs last year in tackles (75), while adding an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumbles. Baldwin ended up earning honorable-mention all-MW accolades for his play in 2017.
Tezino is coming off an impressive stretch to close the season last year, when he finished with 56 stops and 8.5 TFL over his final five games (all first career starts). Tezino ended his season in style, making the Sports Illustrated all-bowl team after recording 17 tackles (11 solo) and a career-best 2.5 tackles for loss against Army West Point in the Armed Forces Bowl. The 17 stops were a San Diego State bowl record and the most by an Aztec in a game since 2008.
San Diego State finished 2017 with a 10-3 record, its school-record third consecutive season with at least 10 victories. The Aztecs are one of just seven schools in the nation to win at least 10 games in three straight seasons (also Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin). SDSU is scheduled to return seven starters on offense and seven on defense, along with its kicker and punter.
San Diego State is accepting new account deposits on 2018 season tickets through the Aztec Ticket Office, while current season-ticket holders can also renew their tickets for the 2018 campaign. Fans can purchase tickets through GoAztecs.com, over the phone by calling (619) 283-7378, or by visiting SDCCU Stadium's Window E between 9 a.m. PT and 5 p.m. PT.
The Aztecs kick off their season at Stanford on Friday, Aug. 31, and begin a three-game homestand against Sacramento State on Saturday, Sept. 8.
2018 Athlon Sports Preseason All-Mountain West (SDSU listed only)
- RB Juwan Washington
- OL Keith Ismael
- OL Tyler Roemer
- DL Noble Hall
- LB Ronley Lakalaka
- CB Ron Smith
- WAR Tariq Thompson
- KR Juwan Washington
- TE Kahale Warring
- LB Kyahva Tezino
- AZ Parker Baldwin