Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Running Back Rankings
Which Mountain West teams are in the best shape at running back following the end of spring football practices?
Ground and pound is still the name of the game across the conference.
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.
High ranking: 6th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Sean Dollars, Wesley Kommer, Ashton Hayes, Cross Patton
The Wolf Pack aren’t starting over after the graduations of both Toa Taua and Devonte Lee, but the new era at running back begins with a lot of unknowns. Kommer made his one carry at Nevada’s Battle Born Showdown count, cashing in with a 60-yard touchdown run, though transfers Dollars and Hayes saw the lion’s share of the work. The former averaged 5.5 yards per carry and caught 16-of-18 targets in spot duty at Oregon last season while the latter has experience as a kick returner.
10 (tie). Hawaii
High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Tylan Hines, Nasjzaé Bryant-Lelei, Jordan Johnson
Lest you think that running backs won’t be important in Timmy Chang’s run-and-shoot attack, remember that Miles Reed ran for over 900 yards when the Warriors won the West division with that offense back in 2019. That makes Hines, who finished with a 84.6 overall PFF grade surpassed by only Boise State’s George Holani and Ashton Jeanty among running backs in the conference, a very intriguing breakout candidate after he averaged 7.64 yards per carry as Dedrick Parson’s backup in 2022.
Behind him, Bryant-Lelei and Johnson figure to build off of their own contributions from last year: The former managed to force 16 missed tackles on only 56 carries while the latter posted 5.75 YPC in a small sample size. How much Hawaii progresses in 2023 could depend a lot on how effectively this group provides a crucial counter to what will be a pass-heavy offense.
10 (tie). New Mexico
High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Andrew Henry, Christian Washington, Sherod White, Dorian Lewis, Zach Vigil
The Lobos have had a different player lead the team in rushing for the last five years. One way or another, 2023 will extend that streak to six with Nate Jones’s retirement from football, but the good news is this unit has some intriguing options that could step up and surprise.
Washington has already done so to some degree, a bright spot in a rough 2022 who served as Jones’s primary backup and made waves as a kickoff return specialist. White’s playing time was somewhat limited after an extended run in non-conference play, but Henry and Vigil may be the real X-factors here: Henry led Louisiana-Monroe in rushing back in 2021 and yards per carry last season while Vigil is a former New Mexico high school player of the year.
High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Jordan Younge-Humphrey, Andrew Wimmer, Courtney Reese
Aidan Robbins bolted to BYU through the transfer portal first, but he wasn’t the only Rebels running back to do so: Spencer Briggs, Samuel Green, Jayvaun Wilson, and Gary Quarles have all exited in recent weeks, too. The three names you see here are the only running backs listed on the current roster, which makes shopping for a new face or two in the portal almost a certainty.
In the meantime, things may not be quite as dire as it seems at first glance. Reese has never been a full-time starter, but he’s averaged 5.9 yards per carry in four seasons at UNLV while Wimmer led the unit in rushing during the team’s April spring game and Young-Humphrey demonstrated toughness in scoring twice against Notre Dame last year.
On top of that, the Rebels have already started shoring up their ranks here by landing William & Mary’s Donavyn Lester from the transfer portal. It’s still not ideal, but it could be a lot worse.
8. Colorado State
High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Avery Morrow (?), Kobe Johnson, Keegan Holles, Vann Scheid
This ranking assumes that Morrow will be involved in some capacity, though that isn’t a guarantee: The Coloradoan’s Kevin Lytle notes that he’s still suspended indefinitely after being arrested back in January, so while reinforcements like North Dakota State transfer Johnson are on the way, it’s a murky situation that, on paper right now, limits their ceiling in this exercise.
7. Utah State
High ranking: 6th | Low ranking: 10th
Projected depth: Robert Briggs, Davon Booth, Cooper Jones, Jordan Wilmore
This is one of the few groups of Aggies not to be carved up by graduations and the transfer portal, so while Calvin Tyler Jr. leaves big shoes to fill, the new committee could be a solid one. Briggs was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman backing up Tyler Jr., but Booth generated a bit of buzz throughout the spring while Briggs was sidelined by injury and could be a juco steal after rushing for nearly 1,500 yards at California’s Cerritos College in 2022. The bet right now is those two take the lead and play a big role in Utah State’s fortunes this fall.
6. Fresno State
High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 10th
Projected depth: Malik Sherrod, Elijah Gilliam, Damien Moore, Johnathan Arceneaux
After sending both Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims to the NFL, the Bulldogs now face the task of turning the page with some part-time players who enter 2023 with bigger roles on the horizon. Don’t underestimate Sherrod, though, who ran for ten or more yards on one of every eight carries last year and, like Mims, had zero fumbles on 80 total rushing attempts.
Gilliam provides a useful counterpart as a 215-pound bruiser, though it remains to be seen what the rest of the committee could look like. Moore spent three years at Cal and has a good deal of in-game experience to draw from while Arcenaux is a former three-star recruit.