What Stands Out In The Mountain West’s Post-Fall Camp Depth Charts?
The 2019 season is almost here and Mountain West football’s depth charts are set. Here’s what we’ve learned.
Everyone’s prepared to kick off 2019, but how?
It turns out the Falcons didn’t beat around the bush after all… at least not all the way. Donald Hammond and Isaiah Sanders are stuck together with an “or” at quarterback, for one, but at least we now have a better sense of who will step up at wide receiver. Ben Waters will start opposite Geraud Sanders, while Ben Peterson and Jake Spiewak fill out the two-deep.
The biggest news, of course, is Hank Bachmeier’s emergence as starting quarterback, but just as noteworthy is Robert Mahone earning the RB1 role ahead of Andrew Van Buren. Boise State’s offense has been effective in years past because of its efficiency, and the running game is likely to be key in helping ease the true freshman’s learning curve under center.
Josh Fredlund has provided his takeaways from the Rams depth chart, but one more thread to keep an eye on is just how much opportunity the young wide receivers on the two-deep create for themselves. Freshman Dante Wright is the most notable entry behind Brendan Fulton, but Fulton and Jackson have a quartet of freshmen and sophomores behind them. If last year’s targets are spread around a little more democratically, the young pass catchers might be key to the Rams reaching their potential this fall.
This is the one instance where we’re looking back rather than forward, but the linebacker situation looks like multiple athletes could play a role. Penei Pavahi’s season-ending injury puts a dent in the unit’s depth, but Solomon Matautia is a solid contributor and Kana’i Picanco had one of the team’s two sacks against Arizona on Saturday night.
Aside from the Wolf Pack turning to Carson Strong at quarterback, the other intriguing development is the youth movement in the secondary. Redshirt freshman Jaden Dedman is listed ahead of E.J. Muhammad at cornerback, while sophomore Tyson Williams landed one of the team’s three safety spots. If they can both be as productive as fellow underclassman Dom Peterson, Nevada might be able to make some serious noise.
The Lobos brought in a ton of junior college transfers as part of their most recent recruiting class, so the fact that just two juco athletes, wide receiver Jordan Kress and right guard Jacob Jankoviak, cracked the starting lineup right away may give some people pause. Many others seem to be in a position to at least contribute as role players, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but clearly there’s some work to be done to validate the investment.
Also, New Mexico strung together four quarterbacks with an “or”. And all four might actually play against Sam Houston State! We’re so close to a true #quinterback situation.
The uncertainty at running back behind Juwan Washington is one thread that jumps out, which seems to suggest the opener against Weber State will be an opportunity for Chase Jasmin, Chance Bell, and Kaegun Williams to prove they should be the primary backup.
More surprisingly, however, it seems that a wealth of underclassmen will shape the passing game in early weeks. Ethan Dedeaux, the team’s leading returning receiver, had one spot locked down, but fellow sophomore B.J. Busbee is listed behind him. Daniel Bellinger is ahead of senior Parker Houston. Elijah Kothe beat out Kobe Smith and appears set to take on the role vacated by Tim Wilson Jr., while redshirt freshman Jesse Matthews has a hold on the Z-receiver spot.
One development that jumps out right away from the Spartans’ initial depth chart is that DeJon Packer is listed as the starting running back ahead of Tyler Nevens. It remains to be seen how the workload at that position will be parceled out — SJSU hasn’t had a true workhorse since Tyler Ervin had 295 carries in 2015 — and the opener against Northern Colorado may end up being a proving ground for both athletes.
The other significant note is the young defensive line that counts two sophomores and a redshirt freshman at the front of the 3-4. Cade Hall had success rushing the passer in 2018 but he, Jamaar Hardy, and Viliami Fehoko will have some work to do to replace the production of Bryson Bridges and Boogie Roberts.
Considering how quickly things had to come together to even get him out on the practice field for fall camp, the fact that the Rebels listed graduate transfer linebacker Rayshad Jackson with an “or” at linebacker is a very intriguing development. Even more interestingly, however, true freshman Jacoby Wildmon will start the season atop the two-deep in place of Rebels star Gabe McCoy. There’s a lot riding on the development of the UNLV defense this fall, so the new guys will face pressure to step up.
This one may sound like a cop-out, but the one thing that stands out is that, really, there aren’t any surprises at all. A pair of redshirt freshmen, Karter Shaw and Andy Koch, are slated to start on the right side of the offensive line, but that was expected. Troy Lefeged won the battle to start at safety opposite Shaq Bond, too, and Carson Terrell is listed with an “or” alongside Caleb Repp, but those are mild shifts.
Aside from the fact that the Cowboys are one of just two teams in the Mountain West with a two-deep at fullback, the one big surprise is that redshirt freshman Rome Weber won the starting job at free safety over Braden Smith. Smith did battle a lingering hamstring injury in fall camp, as well, so there’s a fair chance he still sees a good amount of playing time, but it’s not hard to see why there’s enthusiasm surrounding Weber’s ascension.