Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Quarterback Rankings
Which Mountain West teams are in the best shape at college football’s most important position after spring practice?
Some situations under center are still works in progress.
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. Air Force
High ranking in group: 7th | Low ranking in group: 12th
Projected depth: Jensen Jones, Ben Brittain, Zac Larrier
In terms of how it could impact the race to the top of the Mountain West, the competition to replace Haaziq Daniels might be the single-most important one in the conference. None among Jones, Brittain, or Larrier were able to create a ton of separation, but that may not be a bad thing at this juncture.
Jones and Brittain served as Daniels’s backups in 2022 and both saw the field in limited stints — Jones even scored twice in mop-up duty — while Larrier’s track star speed could see him deployed in a number of ways. This could even play itself out on the field in August, but we’d caution against underestimating them too much.
High ranking: 7th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Andrew Peasley, Jayden Clemons, Evan Svoboda
This ranking seems to be a reaction to years of underperformance. 2022 was no exception in that regard since the Cowboys finished 11th in the Mountain West with a 51.3% team completion rate and ninth with 5.7 yards per attempt. That they also threw more interceptions than touchdown is also problematic, so while it’s important to note Peasley missed time with injury, he didn’t always cover himself in glory when he was on the field, completing 60% of his throws just once in his last eight games.
Long story short, we’ll believe in the Wyoming passing game when we finally see it.
10. New Mexico
High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Dylan Hopkins, DC Tabscott, Devon Dampier, Justin Holaday
Injuries and ineffectiveness made this quarterback situation one of the worst, if not the worst, in all of college football last season, but new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent brought Hopkins with him from UAB, giving the Lobos arguably their best quarterback in a decade. The Blazers’ loss is New Mexico’s gain.
While he has the inside track to the job, Tabscott and Dampier should push Hopkins for the QB1 role. The former didn’t see the field at Appalachian State but is a former three-star recruit while the latter won the Ed Doherty Award, Arizona high school football’s Heisman, last year and flashed his dual-threat capabilities here and there in the spring. Obviously, the hope will be less turnover overall at the position, but on paper the Lobos look much improved here and there is literally nowhere to go but up.
High ranking: 5th | Low ranking: 11th
Projected depth: Shane Illingworth, Brendon Lewis, AJ Bianco
Replacing Carson Strong was always going to be a tough task, but the Wolf Pack’s inability to settle on a QB1 may have undermined their fortunes last year: The team’s completion rate dropped by nearly 15% and they averaged over two fewer yards per attempt while managing just seven passing touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Illingworth, the incumbent this time around, may have been done a disservice when he was saddled with a 9.6% drop rate by his receivers. His 71.2% adjusted completion rate was actually fifth among Mountain West quarterbacks in 2022, though he’ll have to fend off a challenge from Lewis, cast out by the Deion Sanders regime at Colorado after serving as the Buffaloes’ starter for most of 2021. Bianco and incoming recruit Jax Leatherwood give the coaching staff younger options to consider, as well, but it’ll be crucial for someone to win this job with authority in the fall.
High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 12th
Projected depth: Brayden Schager, Joey Yellen, Jake Farrell
It took a while for Schager to claim the starting job for good last season, but there are reasons to think Timmy Chang made the right choice despite some modest numbers. According to Pro Football Focus, only Chevan Cordeiro and Clay Millen dealt with more total pressures and only Haaziq Daniels had a higher drop rate than Schager’s 14%. His 67.6% adjusted completion rate would’ve put him right behind Taylen Green, so a full year in the run-and-shoot could mean big things are ahead.
7. San Diego State
High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 8th
Depth chart: Jalen Mayden, Kyle Crum, Liu Aumavae
Mayden’s ascension to the starting job gave the Aztecs offense a badly-needed shot in the arm last season. He was the first San Diego State quarterback since Ryan Lindley, his new offensive coordinator, to lead the Mountain West in yards per attempt, though improving his decision making should be a point of emphasis headed into 2023. Mayden also threw at least one interception in each of his last six starts and finished the year with a 4.2% INT rate.
Crum and Aumavae also got their feet wet last year, though it was in the worst possible circumstances against very good Utah and Boise State defenses. Overall, there’s room for improvement here and healthy expectations that SDSU will rise to meet them.
High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 10th
Projected depth: Doug Brumfield, Cameron Friel, Jayden Maiava
Unlike a lot of other teams in the Mountain West, the main question facing the Rebels at quarterback is one of health. There’s no doubt that Brumfield is one of the conference’s most exciting playmakers when he’s on the field, but he had a season-ending injury in 2021 and missed two games in 2022. In his absence, UNLV’s offense struggled against two very good opponents, Air Force and Notre Dame, so keeping him on his feet is likely the team’s top priority.
Should the injury bug strike again, though, Friel remains as perhaps the top backup in the conference. The former Mountain West freshman of the year took better care of the football in his limited stints with only one interception in 49 attempts and improved his yards per attempt average.