San Diego State
The Aztecs have often been plagued by offensive inefficiencies in recent years, but running back Greg Bell looked like he could put a lot of those concerns to rest when he was on the field last year. He sat out 2019 after transferring from Nebraska and then ripped off four straight 100-yard games to start his career with the Aztecs, the first player in program history to accomplish that feat.
How important was Bell to SDSU’s fortunes last year? In those first four games, he averaged a whopping 6.3 yards on 85 total carries; in their last four games, when Bell was limited by injuries, the Aztecs’ per-carry average as a team fell to just 2.9. At six feet and 200 pounds, he has the requisite size and tough running style to follow in the footsteps of Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny if he can stay healthy.
In the mix: Keshawn Banks, DL; Daniel Bellinger, TE; Caden McDonald, LB; Cameron Thomas, DL; Zachary Thomas, OL
San Jose State
After arriving in San Jose from Arkansas, there were a few questions about how well Nick Starkel could replace Josh Love, the Mountain West’s offensive player of the year. However, the quarterback from Argyle, Texas took to Brent Brennan’s quick-striking passing game with aplomb by averaging a shade under eight yards per play and helped the Spartans win the conference title last fall.
It remains to be seen just how effective he’ll be now that his two leading receivers have moved on, and his deep ball accuracy could use a touch of improvement, but a signal-caller who knows how to get rid of the ball quickly and accurately is a pretty good starter kit for any quarterback prospect.
In the mix: Derrick Deese Jr., TE; Cade Hall, DL; Kyle Harmon, LB; Jack Snyder, OT; Tre Webb, DB
The pick here is the same as it was last year: Running back Charles Williams. 2020 wasn’t kind to Williams’s stat sheet as the Rebels offense had numerous growing pains under new head coach Marcus Arroyo, but the tough running style and the experience that he’ll bring back to the desert one last time — no current Mountain West running back has more career rushing attempts than Williams — will once again make the Chuck Wagon a key cog in the team’s overall progression.
In the mix: Giovanni Fauolo Sr., TE; Julio Garcia, OL
Not many players have had a career path like Justin Rice, who is back to terrorize offenses in the Mountain West after a brief sojourn to the Sun Belt Conference. Rice was the Mountain West’s preseason pick as defensive player of the year in 2020 before transferring to Arkansas State in last year’s COVID-related confusions and though he didn’t win that postseason honor back east, he did 76 tackles, 7.5 sacks and an eye-popping 18.5 tackles for loss, the last of which led the country.
Put simply, Rice is a tackling machine with strong instincts and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him become the next Aggies linebacker to make the jump to the pros.
ArkSt LB Justin Rice (fmr Fres St) does just about everything: goal-line stops, tackles in coverage, attacking the QB trying to make a play outside the pocket. At minimum, he'll be a special teamer and versatile reserve NFL LB. #SnapScout21 pic.twitter.com/RaKeeqHDXW
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) December 15, 2020
In the mix: Shaq Bond, S; Alfred Edwards, OL; Kyle Mayberry, DB; Savon Scarver, WR/KR; Carson Terrell, TE
A team with a rugged offensive mentality like the Cowboys needs power up front to make it work and Logan Harris has fit that bill nicely over the last few years. With 39 career games under his belt at both guard and center and a 6-foot-3 and 310-pound frame, he has the versatility and size to fit right into a NFL rotation on the interior as the next Chase Roullier.
In the mix: Garrett Crall, DL; Logan Harris, OL; Alonzo Velazquez, OL