That’s in addition to being picked to finish second in their six-team division in the Mountain West, behind Fresno State and ahead of San Jose State. Boise State was picked to win the Mountain Division.
Two Aztecs received particular notice – Patrick McMorris as preseason co-defensive Player of the Year, and Jordan Byrd, as preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.
Joining them on the preseason all-conference team were Keshawn Banks, Jesse Matthews, Caden McDonald, Jonah Tavai and Alama Uluave.
The all-conference team and preseason poll are voted on by the media members who cover the conference.
McMorris, out of Santa Ana, became SDSU’s first MW preseason Defensive Player of the Year since Damontae Kazee in 2016. He was a first-team all-MW selection last year while playing the signature ‘Aztec’ position in San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense. He had a team-high 90 tackles (53 solo), including 2.5 tackles for loss and a team-best four interceptions for 61 yards.
Byrd, from Albuquerque, became San Diego State’s second MW preseason Special Teams Player of the Year, joining Rashaad Penny in 2016 and 2017. A two-time all-MW selection at kick returner – first team in 2021, second team in 2020 – Byrd returned 22 kickoffs for 601 yards (27.3 avg.) with a 100-yard kick return touchdown in 2021.
Matthews, a graduate of Christian High in El Cajon, had team highs of 57 catches, 642 yards and nine touchdowns last year. The nine touchdown catches were the most by an Aztec since Vincent Brown had 10 in 2010.
Uluave, from Laie, Hawaii, who has started all 22 games the past two seasons for San Diego State at center, played the most offensive snaps on the team, 953.
A three-time all-MW pick – 2019 & 2021 second team, 2020 honorable mention – Banks, from Rio Rancho, N.M., logged 35 tackles in 2021, including 11 tackles for loss for 51 yards, and five sacks for 31 yards.
A two-time honorable-mention all-MW pick (2020-21), Tavai, from Manhattan Beach, had 47 tackles, last year, including 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries in 14 starts.
McDonald, from Haslet, Texas, is a two-time first-team all-MW pick (2020-21), joining Kirk Morrison (2002-04), Miles Burris (2010-11), Calvin Munson (2015-16) and Kyahva Tezino (2018-19) as the only Aztec linebackers to make multiple all-MW first teams in league history. He had 49 tackles in 2021, including three sacks for 22 yards.
SDSU (12-2) finished with a school-record 12 victories last season and ranked 25th in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.
After two years playing home games in Carson while Mission Valley stadium construction continued, the Aztecs open Snapdragon Stadium against Arizona on Sept. 3.