SDSU, BYU feature strong defensive talent

Mel Kiper Jr. evaluates the top talent at four of eight schools in the Mountain West Conference.

Originally Published: August 12, 2004
By Mel Kiper Jr. | Special to ESPN Insider
Editor's note:'s Mel Kiper Jr. continues his look at the best players in each conference by examining the top five players on the rosters of four of the eight teams in the Mountain West Conference (Part 1) (schools listed in alphabetical order).
Mountain West Conference: Part 2

Air Force
1. Darnell Stephens, Wingback, sr. -- He rushed for 604 yards and scored four touchdowns last season. He'll rotate at wingback with Anthony Butler.
2. Anthony Butler, Wingback, sr. -- Last season he rushed for 388 yards with a 5.1-yard average and three touchdowns.
3. John Rudzinski, LB, sr. -- He moved to MLB last season and posted 65 tackles, 3.5 for losses despite the transition. The coaching staff believes he'll flourish in his second season.
4. Dennis Poland, S, jr. -- Last season he had 64 tackles and two interceptions. He plays the Falcon back position, which is essentially a rover on defense. The staff really likes this kid and likes to use him in a lot of blitzes. He's a mainstay in the defense and wreaks havoc behind the line of scrimmage.
5. Adam Cole, FB, sr.; Dan Shaffer, FB, sr. -- Both are seniors and will split time at this position in the Falcons' option attack. Last season Cole had 341 yards and averaged 4.3 yards per carry with two touchdowns. Schaeffer had 296 rushing yards with a 4.4-yard average and three touchdowns. They will switch every series.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst
Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.