LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Utah State football had four players named to the 2016 Preseason All-Mountain West team, it was announced Tuesday at the league’s annual Media Days held at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Senior defensive end Ricky Ali’ifua, redshirt senior nose guard Travis Seefeldt, senior offensive tackle Jake Simonich and senior offensive center Austin Stephens were the four Aggies recognized.
The preseason all-conference team, as selected by members of the media, features 20 student-athletes who were all-Mountain West selections in 2015, including nine first-team honorees. The 26-member squad is comprised of 19 seniors, four juniors and three sophomores.
Ali’ifua, a 6-foot-2, 285-pounder from San Leandro, Calif. (San Leandro HS), started 11 games as a junior and finished the season with 24 tackles, which included 3.0 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss, as he tied for fourth on the team in sacks and was seventh in tackles for loss. He also had a quarterback hurry and forced his first career fumble.
For his career, Ali’ifua has played in 39 games with 11 starts and has 70 career tackles, which includes 4.5 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss, to go along with two pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Ali’ifua is also a preseason first-team selection by both Phil Steele and College Sports Madness, and a preseason second-team selection by Athlon Sports heading into the 2016 season.
Seefeldt, a 6-1, 305-pounder from Peoria, Ariz. (Liberty HS), missed the 2015 season following injuries sustained in a car crash and was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. As a junior during the 2014 season, he had 35 tackles, which included 2.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss. He also recorded two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries, and blocked two kicks.
For his career, Seefeldt has played in 39 games with two career starts and has 54 career tackles, which includes 4.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He has also recorded two blocks, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble, to go along with three fumble recoveries.
Seefeldt is also a preseason first-team All-Mountain West selection by Athlon Sports, Phil Steele and College Sports Madness, along with being named to the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List and being nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
Simonich, a 6-5, 300-pounder from Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley HS), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as both a sophomore and junior, along with being named a Phil Steele second-team all-conference selection in 2015. During his junior season, he started all 13 games and had an overall performance grade of 74 percent, which included four games over 80 percent. For the year, he recorded 43 knockdowns, including a season-high seven at San Diego State (10/23) and five at Fresno State (10/10). His best game of the year was against No. 21 Boise State (10/16) as he graded out at 84 percent and recorded four knockdowns.
Simonich is also a preseason first-team selection by both Phil Steele and College Sports Madness, and a preseason second-team selection by Athlon Sports heading into the 2016 season.
Stephens, a 6-3, 305-pounder from West Des Moines, Iowa (Valley HS/Iowa Western CC), earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors as both a sophomore and junior, along with being named to Phil Steele’s third team in 2014 and second team in 2015. As a junior, he started all 13 games and had an overall performance grade of 78 percent, which included five games over 80 percent. For the year, he recorded 42 knockdowns, including a season-high six at Utah (9/11). His best game of the year was against Wyoming (10/30) as he graded out at 86 percent and recorded four knockdowns.
Stephens was recently tabbed to the Dave Rimington Trophy Fall Watch List and he is a preseason first-team all-Mountain West selection by both Athlon Sports and Phil Steele, along with being a preseason second-team all-conference selection by College Sports Madness.
San Diego State, which was selected as a unanimous choice to win the West Division in 2016, swept all three preseason Player of the Year awards. Senior running back Donnel Pumphrey was named Preseason MW Offensive Player of the Year, senior corner back Damontae Kazee was named Preseason MW Defensive Player of the Year and junior return man Rashaad Penny was selected as Preseason MW Special Teams Player of the Year.
Utah State returns 12 starters (O-9, D-3) and 38 letterwinners (O-20, D-15, S-3) from last year’s team that finished tied for second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West with a 5-3 record, and played in its school-record fifth-straight bowl game.
Over the last four years, Utah State is the only program among the Group of 5 (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) to record a win against an Associated Press Top 25 team each season. In 2012, USU won at No. 19 Louisiana Tech (48-41, OT). In 2013, USU defeated No. 24 Northern Illinois (21-14) in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. In 2014, USU was at No. 18 BYU (35-20). And in 2015, USU defeated No. 21 Boise State (52-26) at home.
Utah State will open the 2016 season on Thursday, Sept. 1, at home against Weber State and will begin Mountain West play on Saturday, Sept. 24, at home against Air Force.
For Aggie football ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the “Buy Tickets” tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on Facebook at Utah State Football, as well as on Instagram at instagram.com/USUFootball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
2016 Mountain West Football Preseason All-Conference Team
QB Brett Rypien, So., Boise State
WR Thomas Sperbeck, Sr., Boise State
WR Devonte Boyd, Jr., UNLV
RB Donnel Pumphrey, Sr., San Diego State
RB Brian Hill, Jr., Wyoming
OL Fred Zerblis, Sr., Colorado State
OL Nico Siragusa, Sr., San Diego State
OL Jake Simonich, Sr., Utah State
OL Austin Stephens, Sr., Utah State
OL Chase Roullier, Sr., Wyoming
TE Billy Freeman, Sr., San Jose State
DL Nik D’Avanzo, Sr., New Mexico
DL Alex Barrett, Sr., San Diego State
DL Travis Seefeldt, Gr., Utah State
DL Ricky Ali’ifua, Sr., Utah State
LB Christian Tago, Sr., San Jose State
LB Calvin Munson, Sr., San Diego State
LB Dakota Cox, Sr., New Mexico
DB Weston Steelhammer, Sr., Air Force
DB Damontae Kazee, Jr., San Diego State
DB Dameon Barber, So., Nevada
DB Andrew Wingard, So., Wyoming
P Hayden Hunt, Sr., Colorado State
Michael Carrizosa, Jr., San Jose State
PK Tyler Rausa, Sr., Boise State
Ret. Rashaad Penny, Jr., San Diego State
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Donnel Pumphrey, Sr., RB, San Diego State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Damontae Kazee, Sr., DB, San Diego State
Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year: Rashaad Penny, Jr., KR, San Diego State