Now that the all the signings are official and the classes are finalized, it’s time for a countless amount of hype and articles about your favorite team’s recruiting classes. It’s a fun time of year because teams have secured so much talent and coaches, players, and fans dream of each one of them reaching their potential.
It is our aim here at MWCConnection to discuss specifically how much talent and potential is actually entering the conference in the 2018 recruiting class. This will be done through a few different posts, some of which will be team specific and others will be looking more from the standpoint as the conference as a whole. Today is a snapshot of the top talent entering the Mountain West in this class. Here is our version of the top 10 players:
1. WR Khalil Shakir (Boise State)
- An elite talent who can be used in a variety of ways on offense, Shakir should make an immediate impact due to his versatility and pure athleticism. Simply put, he’s the type of player who is a threat anytime the ball is in his hands (receiver, runner, returner). With the Bronco’s many offensive sets and trick plays, he will be a perfect fit.
2. WR JR Justice (SDSU)
- Another versatile, highly skilled athlete, Justice is a local commit for the Aztecs. He should add a new dimension for their traditional offense to provide a huge play-making presence as a pass-catcher to compliment their talented rushers. Looks especially dangerous in the red-zone.
3. WR Nikko Hall (Colorado State)
- Look at Hall’s offer list. Then look again. A massive get for the Rams, Hall can play on both sides of the ball, but figures to play immediately at WR next fall. He pairs great skills with great instincts and seemingly has a knack of getting the ball and making a big plays. He can highpoint the ball with the best of them and should be a focal point in any offense.
4. TE Tyneil Hopper (Boise State)
- The first thing that jumps out about Hopper is he has good speed for someone listed as a TE. Polished as both a route-runner and a blocker, he is the complete package at this position. This combination of skills will make him a great fit in the Bronco offense, where TE is really the key to making things happen with their shifts and motions. He will be another dynamic weapon for Boise State, one that should see the field next year in some capacity.
5. RB Andrew Van Buren (Boise State)
- VanBuren has the speed, size, power, and shiftiness to make him the complete package as a RB. He is a PAC12 level talent with the potential to be excellent at Boise State. They have developed a RB after RB into all-conference players and with VanBuren already displaying the vision, patience, and moves to make big plays, he figures to fit the mold to be another one.
6. Chris Mitchell (Boise State)
- Cornerbacks with length don’t grow on trees, but it’s Mitchell’s athleticism, instincts, and hard-hitting ability that truly make him an elite CB. He doesn’t get by on just talent alone as his film indicates a player with a good football IQ who puts himself in a position to make big plays. Appears to be able to play in a variety of defensive coverages, which will help in the MWC, home of many different offenses.
7. WR Stefan Cobbs (Boise State)
- Cobbs would easily be the best WR or possibly even the best play in a MWC recruiting class most other years. Ranking him 6th almost seems like a crime. He possesses electric speed and is a touchdown machine. His skill set could allow him to play as a deep threat on the outside or in the slot. He’s more than just a track star with good vision for finding the ball and adjusting his body to make catches.
8. DE Kukea Emmsley (Boise State)
- The best passer rusher in the conference and one of the best in the West, Emmsley gets after the QB, plain and simple. He destroys blockers, displaying a strength and speed combination to make him an ideal pass-rush recruit. He also appears to have a high-motor and good instincts to come off blocks when stopping the run.
9. LB Isaak Togia (SJSU)
- A straight-up tackling machine, Togia goes after every opportunity with relentless pursuit. He has tremendous instincts which allow him to be in the middle of every play, often in the backfield. Togia’s calling card is his tremendous ability to stop the run, an area the Spartans can certainly use (especially with Gina leaving), but he can play in coverage a bit. He was also athletic and explosive enough to play running back on offense.
10. WR Jammal Houston (Colorado State)
- Another talent pass-catcher who would be much higher in any other year, Houston is a well-rounded WR. A great deep threat and dangerous in the red-zone, he does a tremendous job high-pointing the ball and winning jump ball matchups. One of his best traits may be his body-control, as he has a knack for staying in bounds or getting a foot in the end zone while still hauling in the catch. The Rams have a knack for recruiting great WRs and Houston is another one.
Update: While Houston has not officially signed with Colorado State, his talent should still be recognized here, so his write-up will stay up. But we also want to recognize another player, so here is #10b
10B) Toa Taua
- At first glance, Taua looks like a classic strong, between the tackles type of runner. Which he is, but he's also much more. He has some nice break-away speed once he gets going, and breaks tackles with easy using a strong stiff-arm. Taua also displays a subtle, but quick one-cut move that’s very effective. In Nevada’s air-raid scheme, it will be interesting for him as a RB, but given that his style won’t require extra blockers, he has the potential to thrive there.
A few things of note here:
- The talent is leaning more towards the offensive side of the ball rather than the defensive sides (7 to 3) but as one could imagine, favorably towards the skill positions, with 8 out of 10 falling into category.
- Specifically, five of the ten are slated to be wide receivers in college. There is only 1 RB in the top ten and no quarterbacks.
- Boise State led the way with an astounding six players in the top ten. However, Colorado State, SDSU, Nevada, and surprisingly SJSU all had players listed or strongly considered. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, Fresno State did not have a player considered despite their successful season.
- All 10 of these players (plus many more in this class), held numerous P5 offers and were top P5 targets.
- The “Big 3” of Shakir, Justice, Hall, would be considered great gets even in the PAC12 and are all talented enough to not only play right away, but contribute heavily. This does not mean all will play as depth chart and other factors could come into play. They are downright steals for their respective teams.
- In most years, the bottom half guys would be more at the top or middle. It seems rare to have the top four in one class, as any of them could be #1 in the conference some years. It speaks to the depth of talent this year. To put it in perspective, Emmsley is a 4 star according to 247 and is 8th in our rankings.
- Let’s take a moment to image the amazing battles that will occur between Shakir, Justice, Cobbs, Houston and Hall, Mitchell, and Bradley.
- Needless to say, this was a tough list at times. 17 names were considered for the 10 spots and in most years, many of those players who didn’t make it would’ve cracked the top 10. That speaks to the depth of talent this year as well as the great job by coaches to secure talent.
- Lastly, many of you may know that I like to also break lists like these down into tiers. Tiers can be helpful to provide a different angle to look at things. If one made an argument to flip some of the spots on this list but kept them within the same tier, I wouldn’t put up much of a debate.
Tier 1: Shakir, Justice, Hall
Tier 2: Hopper, VanBuren, Mitchell
Tier 3: Cobbs, Emmsley
Tier 4: Togia, Houston
Tier 5: All others considered (below)
Also considered (in no order):
S Josiah Bradley (Nevada)
OL Max Barth (SJSU)
TE Nic McTear (SDSU)
RB Toa Taua (Nevada)
OL Kavesz Sherard (Colorado State)
NT Scale Igiehon (Boise State)
DE Jonah Kahahawai-Welch (Hawaii)
Bonus: Here’s a link to some great work by @FunkeBronco, who has compiled a list of the top 50 recruits (per 247 composite ratings) in the MWC this year. He also has some year by year comparisons between MWC and AAC recruiting. It’s impressive and detailed work.
Double Bonus: Here’s the link to the radio station we were featured on today, discussing our article and the players!
Your turn: Who on the list do you agree or disagree with? Who else belongs on this list? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Follow @Mike_SBN for all MWC recruiting news and updates. Jeremy Rodrigues also contributed extensively to this article.