Mountain West Football: Early Transfer Portal Winners And Losers
We size up Mountain West football’s biggest winners and losers from the early part of transfer portal season.
Encouragements and letdowns from the portal.
The 2022 Mountain West football season has been wrapped up for nearly a month now, but the off-season got off to a rollicking start before bowl season even began in December. The official window to enter the transfer portal has closed for everyone but graduate transfers until May 1, which makes it a good time to determine which teams have best used it to their advantage and who has been hit hard by defections.
Here are the Mountain West’s winners and losers from 45 days of player movement.
After absorbing the biggest blow of any Mountain West team early last off-season, the Wolf Pack bounced back and landed a few solid contributors like Eli’jah Winston, B.J. Casteel, and Shane Illingworth. Ken Wilson and company have remained aggressive over the past month and a half, too, so while losing both Grant Starck and Aaron Frost — easily the team’s two best offensive linemen — will sting, they’ve also brought in a wealth of intriguing prospects, particularly from the Pac-12.
Running back Sean Dollars and linebackers Jackson LaDuke and Adrian Jackson all chose Nevada after spending time at Oregon, while running back Ashton Hayes, tight end Keleki Latu, and linebacker Malcolm McClure arrive in Reno from Cal. Quarterback Brendon Lewis, who started at Colorado in 2021 but played in just two games last year, should push Illingworth for the starting role under center, too. It may take time for things to come together, but it’s hard to argue the Wolf Pack didn’t find themselves a big infusion of talent.
2. San Jose State
The Spartans will be turning over a new leaf in many respects next season, but the good news is that they didn’t lose too many key pieces other than those who were already out of eligibility. Wide receiver Isaiah Hamilton left for Washington State and Jermaine Braddock is still awaiting a destination, but adding quarterback Jay Butterfield (Oregon), kicker Kyler Halvorsen (Hawaii), and running back Quali Conley (1,095 rushing yards at Utah Tech last year) should mean the SJSU offense will remain as potent as ever.
Isaiah Ifanse, meanwhile, could be one of the biggest pickups of the entire off-season. He arrives in San Jose after setting the record for career rushing yards at Montana State and could be the solution to the team’s long-running inconsistency in running the ball.
The braddahhood looked like it turned a corner late in Timmy Chang’s first year as head coach, which could explain the remarkable amount of buy-in the Warriors have generated from the portal so far. The biggest arrival might be Cam Stone, who starred at Wyoming and is the one of the biggest names thus far to have moved from one Mountain West team to another this off-season, but Josh Jerome (Eastern Washington), Kuao Peihopa (Washington), Patrick Hisatake (Cal) and Elijah Robinson (East Carolina) will provide reinforcement for a retooling defensive line, too.
4. San Diego State
Sometimes, the transfer portal is more about quality than quantity. The Aztecs did lose safety C.J. Baskerville to Texas Tech, but bringing in linebacker Cody Moon from New Mexico definitely makes up for that. Add to that former four-star Oklahoma State transfer Samuela Tuihalamaka, and San Diego State has done a good job of utilizing the portal to complement its typically strong recruiting classes so far this off-season.
1. New Mexico
Once the transfer portal opened in December, things went from bad to worse after a lackluster 2022 for the Lobos. New Mexico will have to replace the entire secondary after A.J. Odums, A.J. Haulcy, and Ronald Wilson all decided to leave, losing Jake Saltonstall and Jaden Phillips is a blow to the defensive line’s depth, but Moon bolting Albuquerque for San Diego State is the biggest dagger of all.
While picking up UAB quarterback Dylan Hopkins will give new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent a familiar face would could potentially win the starting job come August, there’s little question UNM has lost more than it’s gained from the portal at this juncture.
New head coach Barry Odom has done well to put together a crack coaching staff and a handful but, like New Mexico, the Rebels have also lost a handful of key veterans who could’ve made a huge difference after leading the way in 2022: Running back Aidan Robbins landed at BYU, wide receiver Kyle Williams left for Washington State, cornerback Nohl Williams ended up at Cal, and center Leif Fautanu bolted for Arizona State.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, of course — Buffalo center Jack Hasz should have the inside track to replacing Fautanu, kickers Andre Meono (Fresno State) and Jose Pizano (Missouri State) should do the same for Daniel Gutierrez, and Gary Quarles could contribute to pick up where Robbins left off — but it’ll definitely be a higher degree of difficulty managing all of the turnover.
3. Utah State
The Aggies didn’t have a great finish to 2022 and now they’ll head into the spring undergoing a much bigger transition on defense, in particular, than you might have expected. Daniel Grzesiak, Byron Vaughns, Phillip Paea, Tavian Coleman and Patrick Joyner all left, and while bringing in Malone Mataele from Utah will help a little bit, there will be a lot of pressure on Blake Anderson and his recruiting staff to effectively shore up the ranks and keep the competitive window open in Logan next season.
Another off-season, another exodus from Laradise. So far, the Cowboys have lost a handful of players with starting experience to the transfer portal — Joshua Cobbs, Oluwaseyi Omatosho, Cam Stone, Keonte Glinton, plus Titus Swen if you want to count his brief dalliance there before trying his hand at the NFL Draft — and have picked up only two players of note themselves in Harrison Waylee (Northern Illinois) and Devin Boddie Jr. (Vanderbilt).