LAS VEGAS, Nev. – University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales can be happy about San Diego State standouts Jordan Byrd and Keshawn Banks for now, but just not on Nov. 18 when the Aztecs come to what the two call “home” to play against the Lobos.
Byrd, the explosive running back from Manzano High, was named the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Preseason Player of the Year on Thursday. Banks, out of Rio Rancho High, was picked by the media as an all-league defensive lineman.
UNM senior defensive back Jerrick Reed II, who led the Lobos in tackles with 89 last year, and junior punter Aaron Rodriguez were also named to the All-MWC preseason team.
Gonzales, a former SDSU assistant coach, often says he wishes he didn’t recruit Byrd and Banks to San Diego so that they could stay home and would be Lobos with him now.
Byrd and Banks return for their fifth season, gaining the extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.
Byrd led the Mountain West in total punt returns (27, fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision), combined kick return yards (794, sixth), kick return average (27.3, 15th), punt return yards (193, 18th in FBS) and punt return average (7.1, 30th) in 2021. He tied for first in kick return touchdowns (1, tied for 13th in FBS), and third in kick return yards (601, 18th) and total kick returns (22). He was one of only 19 FBS players with a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown, which helped the Aztecs beat Utah 33-31 in overtime.
He rushed 37 times for 246 yards (6.6 per carry) with three touchdowns and a long of 55 yards. SDSU coach Brady Hoke still plans to play Byrd at running back in addition to his valuable special teams role.
“Jordan Byrd has some really good skill sets,” Hoke said while at the MWC Media Days. “We’re gonna make sure for those plays that demand those skill sets, he’ll be in the game.”
Banks was an All-MWC second-team selection last season as the Aztecs went 12-2, reached the league championship game and won 38-24 over UTSA in the Frisco Bowl. He was an All-MWC first-team selection in 2019, second-team last year, and has the most starts (34) among active Aztecs. Last season at defensive end, he had 35 tackles, including 11 for losses for 51 yards, five sacks for 31 yards, two pass breakups and 17 quarterback hurries.
Banks has slimmed down a bit during the offseason and has added speed, SDSU running back Chance Bell said.
ALL-MWC LOBOS: Reed, who started all 12 games at safety, tied for the team lead with seven pass breakups and also recorded one interception in 2021. He was named honorable
mention All-Mountain West and was a first-team selection in 2020 after he led the league with four interceptions, eighth most in the nation.
Reed said he had heard that he was projected as a late-round NFL draft selection by some analysts after 2020, and that he returned as a 2021 senior with hopes of upgrading his draft stock.
“But things didn’t go my way,” he said. “I had a good year but I didn’t have the best year … I got (an All-MWC preseason defense honor) last year. It’s nothing new. It’s just a preseason accolade, which I’m grateful for, blessed for, but the work’s gotta be done for the season.”
Rodriguez, a junior who transferred to UNM from Missouri, led the nation with 81 punts, and he was third in total yards with 3,466 yards, or 42.8 yards per punt. He forced 33 fair catches with 16 inside the 20-yard line.
NIL DEALS: UNM wide receiver Luke Wysong said he remembers eating at Sadie’s with family and friends after Young America Football League games when he was a little playmaker. Now he’s partnered with the New Mexican restaurant as part of a name, image and likeness deal, along with UNM senior soccer player Jadyn Edwards.
(Click here for a video interview with Jerrick Reed II.)
Wysong and Edwards have Lobo jersey T-shirts for sale and soon Wysong said there will be a meal named on his behalf.
Wysong, a former Cleveland High standout, also has an NIL deal with Duke City Heat, a shoe shop at Cottonwood Mall.
He declined to provide the amount of money or merchandise he is receiving from the deals.
Wysong led the Lobos with 24 receptions and 224 yards last year.
2022 MOUNTAIN WEST FOOTBALL PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
QB Jake Haener** Sr. Fresno State
WR Jalen Cropper** Sr. Fresno State
WR Jesse Matthews Sr. San Diego State
RB Jordan Mims Sr. Fresno State
OL Isaac Cochran Sr. Air Force
OL John Ojukwu* Sr. Boise State
OL Dontae Bull Sr. Fresno State
OL Aaron Frost** Sr. Nevada
OL Alama Uluave Sr. San Diego State
TE Tanner Arkin RS-Fr. Colorado State
DL Scott Matlock Sr. Boise State
DL Keshawn Banks** Sr. San Diego State
DL Jonah Tavai Sr. San Diego State
DL Viliami Fehoko* Sr. San José State
DL Cade Hall Sr. San José State
LB Vince Sanford** Sr. Air Force
LB Caden McDonald* Sr. San Diego State
LB Kyle Harmon* Sr. San José State
DB JL Skinner** Sr. Boise State
DB Evan Williams* Sr. Fresno State
DB Jerrick Reed II Sr. New Mexico
DB Patrick McMorris* Sr. San Diego State
P Aaron Rodriguez Jr. New Mexico
PK Jonah Dalmas* Jr. Boise State
PR Jordan Byrd Sr. San Diego State
KR Jordan Byrd* Sr. San Diego State
Offensive Player of the Year: Jake Haener, Sr., QB, Fresno State
Co-Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick McMorris, Sr., DB, San Diego State and Cade Hall, Sr., DL, San José State
Special Teams Player of the Year: Jordan Byrd, Sr., PR/KR, San Diego State
* – member of the 2021 All-Mountain West first team
** – member of the 2021 All-Mountain West second team