Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Offensive Line Rankings
Which Mountain West teams have the best offensive lines (on paper, at least) at the end of spring football practice?
Who has the most strength among their big men on offense?
POSITIONAL DEPTH RANKINGS
Overall | Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver/Tight End | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebacker | Cornerback/Safety | Kicker/Punter
Note: Italics denote projected starters.
12. New Mexico
High ranking in group: 6th | Low ranking in group: 12th
Projected depth: J.C. Davis, Isaiah Sillemon, CJ James, Shancco Matautia, Devon Smith, DJ Wingfield, Arrison Cole
This Lobos offensive line straight up did not have a good time of things in 2022, finishing 130th in sack rate allowed and 116th in stuff rate allowed as part of an offense which was dead last by offensive SP+. The silver lining? Their two best performers by Pro Football Focus grading, Davis and James, are back for the upcoming season at left tackle and center, respectively.
The trick for new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent and offensive line coach Cam Blankenship is figuring everything else out. Matautia and Sillemon had okay showings in their first extended stints of playing time, but they’ll need to beat out a lot of other options to secure a spot on the replenished two-deep come fall.
High ranking: 8th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Josh Atkins, Sergio Muasau, Eliki Tanuvasa, Solo Vaipulu, Luke Felix-Fualalo, Arasi Mose, Micah Mariteragi
There’s a lot of excitement about the run-and-shoot coming back to the islands, but one thing Timmy Chang no longer has is one of the Mountain West’s most experienced offensive lines. The interior trio of Muasau, Tanuvasa, and Vaipulu provide a solid foundation, but the real key to this year’s success will be how well they replace Ilm Manning and Austin Hopp at the tackle positions: Though the Warriors had a 4.6% sack rate allowed which ranked 34th among FBS offenses, Hopp gave up the most pressures (47) of any lineman in the conference and Manning allowed half that number (24).
High ranking: 7th | Low ranking: 11th
Projected depth: Isaiah World, Zac Welch, Andrew Madrigal, Joey Capra, Kai Arneson, Frank Poso, Josh Grabowski
The Wolf Pack lost their top two offensive linemen to the transfer portal when Aaron Frost and Grant Starck left Reno for Arizona State and Oregon State, respectively, which means that the remaining cohort has a lot to prove.
Case in point: World started ten games as a redshirt freshman last season but, according to Pro Football Focus, graded out as the third-worst lineman in the Mountain West among those who played at least 100 snaps. Capra and Arneson didn’t fare much better, but the hope is that familiarity will lead to steadier protection on all fronts.
9. Colorado State
High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Saveyon Henderson, Oliver Jervis, Jacob Gardner, Teivis Tuioti, Drew Moss, Brian Crespo-Jaquez, Keegan Hamilton
Rams fans certainly don’t need the reminder that this unit was one of the worst in FBS last year and, to his credit, neither did head coach Jay Norvell. That’s why CSU hit the transfer portal hard and Gardner is the lone holdover from last year’s line who looks, for the moment, to have an inside track on a starting job.
You have to think this starting five is far from set in stone, though, considering the Rams also recently picked up Missouri transfer Bobby Lawrence and still have young veterans like Crespo-Jaquez and Hamilton who made it through last year’s trials by fire. No matter who gets the nod, though, they have to improve upon the 54 sacks and 21.6% stuff rate allowed in 2022.
High ranking: 5th | Low ranking: 10th
Projected depth: Marcus Miller, Jalen St. John, Jack Hasz, Amani Trigg-Wright, Tiger Shanks, Graham Keating, Anthony Rosas
The Rebels almost certainly would rank better here if Preston Nichols hadn’t entered the transfer portal and ended up at Purdue in short order and, considering the talent elsewhere on offensive it’s one of the bigger question marks that could make or break whether new head coach Barry Odom has a fast start to his tenure. Trigg-Wright and Shanks provide a decent, if not spectacular, foundation on the right side of the line while Hasz brings starting experience at center from Buffalo, so the biggest wild cards here are St. John, who followed Odom to Las Vegas from Arkansas, and Miller, who got his first extended run at left tackle this spring.
7. Utah State
High ranking: 5th | Low ranking: 10th
Projected depth: Cole Motes, Wade Meacham, Falepule Alo, Jackson Owens, Calvin Knapp, Kingsley Holliday, Wyatt Bowles
Despite losing four different athletes who played at least 600 snaps last season, things could be a lot worse for the Aggies but 2023 will need to see a lot of last year’s part-timers step up into prime positions. Meacham and Alo could make for the start of a sound interior, but Motes will need to improve as a pass protector (nine sacks allowed between 2021 and 2022) regardless of whether he plays on the left or the right while others like Knapp, Bowles, and Elia Migao will have to prove they belong in bigger roles.
6. San Jose State
High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 10th
Projected depth: Fernando Carmona Jr., Tyler Ostrom, Anthony Pardue, Jamie Navarro, James McNorton, Malik Williams, Marist Talavou, Ryan Stewart
Chevan Cordeiro and Elijah Cooks deserve a lot of credit for the Spartans’ rebound in 2022, but so too does an offensive line that was by and large pretty young. It wasn’t always pretty — SJSU ranked 130th among FBS teams in power success rate and 108th in sack rate allowed — but continuity could go a long way: This unit is the only one in the Mountain West returning all five starters for 2023.
Additionally, with players like Williams, Talavou, and Stewart all having played at least 100 snaps a year ago, it has a pretty strong case for being the deepest and most experienced offensive line in the conference, too.