Mountain West Football: Early National Signing Day Winners and Losers
College football’s early signing period is in the books, so who came out ahead and who is lacking across the Mountain West?
Some encouragement and some letdowns from the day that was.
Though bowl season is still in full swing, yesterday’s national signing day proved to be a big deal in every corner of the Mountain West. While it may not have had quite the same caliber of narrative as last year’s iteration, some teams did a much better job of setting themselves up for the future than others.
Here are the winners and losers from this year’s early national signing day.
1. Colorado State
Yes, the Rams faced a trickle of departing talent throughout the regular season, losing the likes of Dante Wright, Tywan Francis and others to the transfer portal, but the Rams cleaned up on Wednesday with, at least according to 247Sports, the top-rated recruiting class in the Mountain West.
Part of that comes down to strength in numbers, as CSU signed more than 30 players altogether, but the Rams continued to utilize the portal themselves to pick up some potential crucial pieces like Oliver Jervis, who had the 12th-highest PFF grade of any FCS guard this season, and Tyrell Grayson, who was twice an all-WAC selection at Utah Tech. Colorado State also landed more than half a dozen new pass catchers, as well, so they’ll have plenty of puzzle pieces to try and fit together as the team looks to build off of the flashes of potential we saw in 2022.
2. Utah State
The Aggies weren’t able to defend their Mountain West football title this fall, but that didn’t diminish recruits’ enthusiasm for being part of a substantial reload heading into 2023. 247Sports gave Utah State’s incoming class the second-highest overall average ranking of any in the Mountain West at 84.47 for some literally big reasons.
Chief among them: Offensive lineman Taliafi Taala, graded as a four-star recruit by at least one service and one of Utah’s top overall prospects. The Aggies also signed two other promising linemen, too, in Hyrum Dewsnup and JR Sia, to provide some potential cornerstones in the trenches. They also added former Air Force wide receiver Micah Davis, who spent last year at Iowa Western Community College, giving them another explosive element on offense. At a minimum, Utah State’s competitive window looks like it will remain wide open for the foreseeable future.
3. Boise State
Fresh off of a Frisco Bowl victory, the Broncos kept on with business as usual and signed another excellent recruiting class. Quarterback CJ Tiller represents the potential future at the position while Jambres “Breezy” Dubar gives them another Texas running back with plenty of hype who could contribute right away, but they also managed to beat North Texas off the field, too, by flipping tight end Matt Wanger and secured much needed reinforcements at every level on defense with signings like lineman Michael Madrie and defensive back Franklyn Johnson Jr.
In other words, if you’re waiting for Boise State’s downfall, you’re still probably going to be waiting for a while.
4. Familial connections
One of the cool things about the Mountain West’s signing day is that several programs got better with the addition of some athletes with familiar surnames. The New Mexico Lobos, for instance, signed wide receiver Evan Wysong to pair with his brother Luke while Fresno State brought in running back Devon Rivers to continue the legacy established by brother Ronnie and father Ron.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Nate Burleson II chose to play for the Nevada Wolf Pack like his father, a longtime NFL contributor, and San Jose State brought the Conley brothers, Imari and Quali, from Fresno’s Central East High School and Utah Tech, respectively. It all has a way of making the Mountain West that much more fun to root for.
1. New Mexico
After bleeding talent in the transfer portal, it’s clear the Lobos still have some work to do to shore up their ranks and take some pressure off of head coach Danny Gonzales.
UNM continued to capitalize on in-state talent with athletes like Evan Wysong, this year’s state player of the year, and quarterback Aidan Armenta, who set records at La Cueva High School, and found some badly needed reinforcement for the secondary with Skylar Cook and Dereck Moore, the total class of 11 athletes is, at least for now, a little light. That will make the February signing period much more important for a program in need of some on-field stability.
Much like the Lobos, Craig Bohl’s Cowboys may need to leverage the February signing day to plug holes on the depth chart. They did manage to land running back Harrison Waylee from the transfer portal, as well as another three-star quarterback recruit in Kaden Anderson, but there were no obvious game-changers among the seven such high school recruits brought in on Wednesday.
Granted, the team has an extensive track record of developing under-the-radar talents so it wouldn’t be a shock if they did the same two or three years from now, but more will be needed to prop themselves up as a title contender sooner rather than later.
3. San Jose State
Unlike the two teams above, the Spartans’ early recruiting class seems oddly small despite wrapping up its second winning campaign in three years. San Jose State landed 13 prospects altogether, including the aforementioned Conley brothers, juco linebacker Noah McNeal-Franklin, and defensive back Hunter Nowell, but it’ll be interesting to see how Brent Brennan’s staff balances future transfer portal additions with foundational high school prospects, especially given that the team will have many graduations on both sides of the ball.