Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Overall Rankings
After examining each offensive and defensive unit, which Mountain West teams look strongest overall with spring practice in the books?
There’s a clear #1 and some surprises, as well.
Overall Depth Rankings
12 to 10 | 9 to 7 | 6 to 4 | 3 to 1
POSITIONAL DEPTH RANKINGS
Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver/Tight End | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebacker | Cornerback/Safety | Kicker/Punter
Position depth ranking: QB: 8th | RB: 10th | WR/TE: 9th | OL: 11th | DL: 12th | LB: 11th | CB/S: 12th | K/P: 9th
What the ranking means: The Warriors did well to win three games in 2022, but it appears there’s still plenty of work to be done. The experience they benefitted from along the offensive line has evaporated, which could make installing the run-and-shoot on offense a challenge, while a more seasoned defense will need to prove it can hold on to the gains made late last season while shoring up pass-rushing concerns.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: If Hawaii overperformed in a clear “Year Zero” situation under head coach Timmy Chang, why couldn’t they do it again? The quarterback situation is much more stable than it was at this time last year and there are enough interesting pieces elsewhere on offense to think the new system could cause headaches for opponents, after all. If anything, they might threaten to even out the 1-4 record they had in games decided by eight or fewer points.
The biggest question heading into fall: How much more disruptive can the defensive front be after seeing their overall stuff rate fall from 18% (62nd in FBS) in 2021 to 15.2% (100th) last season?
A reason for optimism: While most of the attention will be focused on the passing game, Hawaii could have the most explosive running back anywhere in the Mountain West with Tylan Hines and looks to have a good deal of speed in the backfield at Brayden Schager’s side.
A name worth remembering: DL Ezra Emaivalo
11. New Mexico
Position depth ranking: QB: 10th | RB: 10th | WR/TE: 11th | OL: 12th | DL: 10th | LB: 7th | CB/S: 8th | K/P: 6th
What the ranking means: After last year’s optimism fell through the floor, the Lobos have more to prove in making the case they’ll turn a corner than other teams projected to finish in the bottom half of the Mountain West standings. Quarterback and offensive line are the biggest question marks, but New Mexico is also starting over at safety and must replace arguably their best linebacker, as well.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: Dylan Hopkins’ arrival from UAB gives UNM instant credibility at quarterback, but the team also used the transfer portal to shore up just about everywhere else on offense for new coordinator Bryant Vincent. Rocky Long’s departure for Syracuse stings, of course, but Troy Reffett has his own track record of success and, if injury luck is on their side, the Lobos defense could once again be an overall strength.
The biggest question heading into fall: If Hopkins can be penciled in as QB1, how well can the offense come together around him to help the Lobos avoid being dead last in the country by offensive SP+ and yards per play again?
A reason for optimism: Even in spite of losing Cody Moon to a Mountain West rival, the linebacker unit could be a pretty good one if they can avoid health concerns.
A name worth remembering: LB Dmitri Johnson
Position depth ranking: QB: 9th | RB: 10th | WR/TE: 9th | OL: 11th | DL: 10th | LB: 7th | CB/S: 11th | K/P: 3rd
What the ranking means: After opening last season with a bit of promise, the Wolf Pack took a lot of lumps in Ken Wilson’s first year at the helm and it might take another year before his recruiting efforts and transfer portal shopping start bearing fruit.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: Nevada might have to replace Dom Peterson and a trio of defensive backs, but an interesting young core remains on that side of the ball. The Wolf Pack unearthed some underrated performances from the likes of Drue Watts and Dalevon Campbell in 2022, so why couldn’t they do it again?
The biggest question heading into fall: How long will it take the quarterback competition between Shane Illingworth and Brendon Lewis to sort itself out this time?
A reason for optimism: Between Watts, Naki Mateialona, and Eli’jah Winston, the Wolf Pack are pretty well sorted out at linebacker and could remain reasonably stout against the run as a result.
A name worth remembering: DB Emany Johnson