Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Running Back Rankings
The Mountain West is usually flush with talented runners, but how does the conference stack up there during this year’s spring practices?
The landscape is much different than years past.
Depth chart: Chad Magyar, Jayvaun Wilson, Courtney Reese, Sammy Green
The Chuck Wagon has ridden off into the proverbial sunset, so who will step up to replace Charles Williams? Thankfully, this isn’t the first time the Rebels have had to replace an all-time leading rusher in memory (Tim Cornett set the previous mark back in 2013), and the pair of names atop the depth chart are veterans who may be up to the task.
One question that remains is whether anyone will be tasked as the offense’s new workhorse or whether head coach Marcus Arroyo will shift to more of a committee. Magyar has a career average of five yards per carry, but he has just 84 carries over three seasons; Reese has 34 and Wilson had seven in 2021.
11. San Jose State
Projected depth: Kairee Robinson, Shamar Garrett, Kenyon Sims, Jakai Torres
Tyler Nevens didn’t etch his name into the San Jose State record books like Charles Williams did, but it seems like he’ll be just as difficult to replace. Robinson seems likely to have first crack at the lead role since he was Nevens’s primary running mate over the past two seasons, and it’ll be interesing to see what more he and Garrett, who scored a touchdown during the team’s spring game, can do as pass catchers (55 combined catches between 2020 and 2021) with Chevan Cordeiro now in tow.
As the four names listed above are the only one labeled as running backs on the current roster, however, you can bet Sims and Torres will get more opportunities in the fall to earn more work, as well.
10. New Mexico
Projected depth: Nathaniel Jones, Peyton Dixon, Bobby Wooden, Chad Alexander
Aaron Dumas did yeoman’s work during a very tough 2021 for the Lobos offense, but he’s off to Washington now and New Mexico now needs to figure out whether anyone can replace him as the running game’s heavy lifter. Jones flashed a lot of promise back in 2020 and earned high praise from head coach Danny Gonzales for his recent work on and off the field, while Dixon had a very good game in last year’s season finale against Utah State, but it remains to be seen whether the coaches will ultimately favor a committee approach or identify someone who can be the man for three downs.
9. Utah State
Projected depth: Calvin Tyler Jr., John Gentry, Pailate Makakona
The Aggies’ running game was more good than great during their run to the conference championship last year, but the edge they have here is in experience and potential for growth. Tyler Jr. is the established RB1 and he’s clearly motivated to lead the way toward a title defense heading into the summer, while Gentry and Makakona, who’ve flashed speed and toughness, respectively, are most likely to pick up the slack left by Elelyon Noa, who left the program via the transfer portal.
Projected depth: Dedrick Parson, James Phillips, Nasjzaé Bryant, Dior Scott
Parson probably didn’t get his due last year while operating in Calvin Turner Jr.’s shadow, but he’s very clearly the guy that new head coach Timmy Chang will count on to lead the running game next fall. Phillips got reps as the first-team slotback, perhaps with an eye toward taking on a Turner-like role, while Bryant turned some heads with big plays. This may end up being a pass-first attack, but the Warriors seem to feel pretty good about their ability to do damage on the ground.
7. Fresno State
Projected depth: Jordan Mims, Jordan Wilmore, Malik Sherrod
The Bulldogs lost a little backfield depth when Jordan Hornbeak opted to hit the transfer portal (at a minimum, they no longer corner the market on running backs named Jordan). Mims looked like his old self and could be an all-conference-caliber player if he stays healthy, while Wilmore averaged 5.5 yards per carry in spot duty last year and Sherrod is an up-and-comer worth watching.
Projected depth: Toa Taua, Devonte Lee, Wesley Kommer, Dylan Overstreet
All of a sudden, Taua and Lee stand alone as the Mountain West’s most experienced running back duo, a welcome development for the rebuilding Wolf Pack. Neither was as efficient on a per-carry basis as they had been in 2020, but they both remain durable runners and reliable pass-catchers and there’s always the chance that they’ll get more opportunities from new offensive coordinator Derek Sage to turn that around than they ever did under Jay Norvell.