Mountain West Football: Early National Signing Day Winners and Losers
College football’s national signing day has come and gone, so who came out ahead and who is lacking across the Mountain West?
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the day that was.
This year’s early national signing day certainly made some waves, most notably with the country’s number one recruit signing with a HBCU football program, but while the Mountain West mostly flew under the radar by comparison, Wednesday morning and afternoon wasn’t without intrigue across the conference. Here are the winners and losers from this year’s NSD.
1. Boise State
You can count upon the Broncos having the best recruiting haul of any team in the Mountain West year after year and not even a down season on the field could damper prospects’ enthusiasm. Not only did Boise State land the conference’s only four-star commitment, linebacker Dishawn Misa, they picked up a wealth of impact players on both sides of the ball about whom the fanbase is already excited.
Running back Ashton Jeanty, for instance, was a big enough pickup to merit a strong GIF reaction from Boise State offensive coordinator Tim Plough. They also brought in some athletes who could contribute immediately on defense in juco transfers Deven Wright and Cortez Hogans. In all, it was business as usual for this program, who always stays winning on the recruiting trail.
2. Colorado State
If you’re looking for the definition of “from zero to sixty” as it relates to National Signing Day, well, this is a stunning development:
Jay Norvell says on Saturday, CSU had 0 commitments. But by Tuesday afternoon, the #CSURams had 22 –– all of which they signed today.
— Eddie Herz (@Eddie_Herz) December 15, 2021
A significant chunk of those commitments came from raiding the Nevada Wolf Pack for a pair of offensive line starters (Jacob Gardner and Gray Davis) and skill position talents (Tory Horton, Melquan Stovall, Avery Morrow), but the recruiting haul is also pretty impressive for having come together in a matter of days. As one example, replacing Carson Strong in Fort Collins won’t be easy but landing Nevada transfer Clay Millen and both Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi and Jackson Stratton at least gives the Rams a few strong options to consider.
3. San Jose State
Perhaps no team in the Mountain West did a better job of fortifying their immediate competitive window and their long-term one than the Spartans. On the one hand, they landed a few key offensive contributors from West division rivals in quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and wide receivers Elijah Cooks and Justin Lockhart. They also found reinforcements for the offensive line outside of the conference, as well, bringing in James McNorton from Washington State and Bryce Petersen from Akron. If the coaching staff can find ways to get that unit back on track come spring, watch out.
The Spartans also landed a solid crop of recruits from up and down the state, as well, best exemplified by athlete Jakob Galloway and linebacker Justin Eklund, and also found a way to reload in the trenches with the likes of Uluakinofo Taliauli and Jake Steele. What the class lacks in flash, it makes up for in being exactly what San Jose State needed.
The rebuild still has a ways to go in Las Vegas, but what the early signing day lacked in quantity the Rebels made up for in quality: According to 247Sports, UNLV had the highest average star rating of any class in the conference.
Top recruit Randy Masters chose the Rebels over a number of Power 5 programs like Baylor, Auburn, and Oregon, while local quarterback product Jayden Maiava decided to stay home over heading out to Louisville. They’re hardly alone in this decision, too, though it may be the junior college transfers, like City College of San Francisco teammates Jeffrey Weimer and Fred Thompkins, who may be the most important pieces for a program looking to make a leap toward contention next fall.
The timing of the program’s recent exodus of talent put Nevada behind the eight ball with regards to the early signing period, which goes a long way toward explaining why the Wolf Pack ended up with just three recruits at the end of the day. There really isn’t much to say other than that new head coach Ken Wilson is going to need every minute he can get to evaluate talent for the secondary signing day and, at least for Nevada fans, patience will be a virtue.
Todd Graham’s recent conflict with his players has been well documented at this point, which makes the fact that 247Sports puts the Warriors’ incoming class dead last among Mountain West programs all the more concerning. That’s right: Even Nevada, with all of the recent chaos, brought in a more highly-regarded crop of prospects.
One thing that softens the blow is a trio of incoming transfers — running back Tylan Hines, safety Virdel Edwards II, and cornerback Chigozie Anusiem — but it’s hard not to notice that local quarterback prospect A.J. Bianco, who plays for the same program that Chevan Cordeiro once did, decided to hold off on signing where two-star teammates Kona Moore and Ethan Spencer did.
3. New Mexico
Slotting the Lobos here may not be totally fair, but at first glance their recruiting class doesn’t have the same kind of shine as, say, UNLV. New Mexico stocked up with 24 new prospects, including in-state talents like running back Zach Vigil and linebacker Hunter Haemker, but landed just two three-star high school players altogether.