Mountain West Football: Examining Each Opponent’s Week 1 Depth Chart
What stands out in the depth charts released by each of the Mountain West’s 11 Week 1 opponents?
What to keep in mind before kickoff.
Cal Poly (link to game notes, depth chart on page 11)
What stands out: The Mustangs have a couple of solid defensive pieces, most notably defensive end Eljiah Ponder, and they’ll hope that sophomore Robbie Greer can bookend Ponder’s production at the other edge spot.
Why that could be important: Cal Poly’s pass rush wasn’t a particularly strong one in 2021, as the team had just 22 sacks, tied for tenth among teams in the Big Sky. Ponder had eight by himself, so the 6-foot-6, 250 pound Greer, who got his first taste of action as a true freshman in the spring season last year but redshirted during the fall, will be expected to do his part in taking down Jake Haener.
Portland State (link to game notes, depth chart on page 13)
What stands out: Dante Chachere is tasked with replacing Davis Alexander, one of the best quarterbacks in Portland State football history.
Why that could be important: Alexander had a lot of moxie and, more importantly, knew how to produce, doing so to the tune of 294.5 yards of total offense per game last year. The sophomore Chachere, after winning the competition over Jaden Casey, is a Fresno native who has earned a lot of praise throughout the offense for his growth as a potential dual-threat quarterback. His homecoming will be a test of how true that is.
Texas State (link to depth chart)
What stands out: As the Bobcats already return more than half of last year’s starters on both sides of the ball, there weren’t a ton of roles for players to step up and claim but nickelback Jarron Morris, who’s actually reclaiming a spot, could be the rare exception.
Why that could be important: Texas State’s secondary got picked on quite a bit last year, allowing a completion rate of 65.4% while interceptions just three passes all season. It could be in part because they missed Morris, a second-team all-Sun Belt defender who played in only one full game before a hip injury cost him the entire season. If he’s back in form, the Bobcats will be that much better for it.
Michigan (link to discussion of depth chart)
What stands out: The Wolverines will have work to do in replacing Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, but one surprising entry that will be part of the cohort to do so is true freshman Mason Graham.
Why that could be important: A two-way player who also wrestled at California’s Servite High School, Graham won’t have to do everything by himself with veterans like Mazi Smith and Kris Jenkins back, as well. At 6-foot-3 and 317 pounds, though, Graham could disrupt Colorado State’s best laid plans from the point of attack if the Rams aren’t ready.
Northern Iowa (link to overview of team depth)
What stands out: The Panthers found themselves having to replace a first-round NFL Draft pick this summer, but Matthew Vanderslice emerged as Trevor Penning’s successor throughout the off-season.
Why that could be important: Vanderslice isn’t completely new to the starting lineup, having made two starts in 2019, three in the spring of 2021 and three last fall, but you could make a reasonable case that no one else mentioned in this article has bigger shoes to fill.
The upside? Vanderslice is a pretty big dude himself, listed at 6-foot-8 and 318 pounds on the UNI roster. If he can protect Theo Day’s blind side half as well as Penning did, Air Force could be in for a much tougher fight than expected.
Arizona (link to depth chart)
What stands out: The Wildcats aren’t wasting any time throwing true freshman Tetairoa McMillan into the mix, starting opposite UTEP transfer Jacob Cowing and sophomore Dorian Singer.
Why that could be important: McMillan is the highest-ranked recruit that Arizona has ever landed, a five-star prospect according to some sites, and at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, it’s not hard to see why. We know that Cowing is one of the nation’s premier deep threats, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role Jedd Fisch carves out for his off-season’s biggest prize.