Position depth ranking: QB: 4 | RB: 12 | WR/TE: 8 | OL: 10 | DL: 9 | LB: 4 | CB/S: 8 | K/P: 8
What the ranking means: The Rebels improved last year but got held back by some suspect in-game decision making and some critical injuries. We already knew, at least according to returning production, that their outlook for 2022 had a lot of upside, so this ranking reflects that their aims for this season are higher than simply being the West division’s cellar dweller.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: It may sound crazy to say, but could UNLV have a Utah State-type jump in them? The Rebels had rotten close game luck last year, but that could regress to the mean and then some if they catch a few breaks. That’s upside earned by bringing in an influx of real talent in the last two to three years.
The biggest question heading into fall: With three pretty good options at quarterback, who will win the starting job: Cameron Friel, Doug Brumfield, or Harrison Bailey?
A reason for optimism: The Rebels have established a pretty solid track record of development on both sides of the ball under Marcus Arroyo: Kyle Williams, Leif Fautanu, Nohl Williams, and Brennon Scott are just a few examples. As the team on the field becomes more and more a product of his recruiting, the ceiling for UNLV’s future could get higher in turn.
A name worth remembering: Austin Ajiake, LB
8. San Jose State
Position depth ranking: QB: 5 | RB: 11 | WR/TE: 2 | OL: 8 | DL: 3 | LB: 8 | CB/S: 5 | K/P: 12
What the ranking means: On paper, the Spartans aren’t a flawless team heading into the fall… but they aren’t that far away from regaining their 2020 form, either.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: It all depends on how much the offense can regroup. The early indication is that Chevan Cordeiro is exactly what the doctor ordered, at least, and the new wide receiver trio of Elijah Cooks, Justin Lockhart, and Isaiah Hamilton could be as good as any in the conference.
The biggest question heading into fall: Now that they’re no longer one of the most experienced units at any position in the Mountain West, how will the offensive line regroup to help the attack rediscover its form?
A reason for optimism: The defense returns nearly all of its best talents. Viliami Fehoko and Cade Hall are still a dangerous edge rushing duo, Kyle Harmon just made another tackle as you were reading this, and Nehemiah Shelton and Tre Jenkins lead an underrated secondary.
A name worth remembering: Alii Matau, LB
7. Colorado State
Position depth ranking: QB: 8 | RB: 5 | WR/TE: 3 | OL: 7 | DL: 12 | LB: 1 | CB/S: 9 | K/P: 4
What the ranking means: Jay Norvell really made a meal out of the transfer portal to restock the Rams roster.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: If the Rams made as much of a meal out of the transfer portal as Utah State did last year then, like the Aggies, this could be a team that’s equally potent on both sides of the ball by the end of the year, even if it doesn’t look like it on paper at the moment.
The biggest question heading into fall: Speaking of eating healthy, the Rams defensive line ate good in 2021, but how much of that surge can they hold onto now that Scott Patchan, Manny Jones, and Toby McBride are gone?
A reason for optimism: If Clay Millen makes good on the praise he earned this spring, he could help reverse trends both big and small in last year’s offense. Case in point, CSU had the second-worst red zone touchdown rate in the Mountain West (42.9%); by contrast, Nevada was first (69.2%) thanks in no small part to Carson Strong.
A name worth remembering: Gary Williams, TE