This week, we are taking a bit of a different approach. We have spent the past few weeks breaking down position groups for squads across the Mountain West; this week we are going to look at players and coaches that will have a great season and others that won’t meet expectations.
Washington was poised for a huge season last year. However, injuries kept him out for a large portion of the season. Washington also had to deal with inconsistent quarterback play. I expect Washington to have a breakout season and to be the next great Aztec running back.
Wyoming was hesitant to play Chambers last season. They wanted to maintain his redshirt and utilized the new rule to get him some experience. We have not seen much from Chambers in regards to his passing ability, but we know he has wheels. I expect Wyoming to have a bounceback season, and Chambers will play a major role in their success.
Shakir is the highest rated wide receiver in Boise State history, and he showed glimpses of why he was highly regarded as a true freshman. Shakir suffered an arm injury late last season after making a game winning touchdown catch against Fresno State. Shakir is healthy and looked dynamic in the Spring game. Keep an eye out for him, not only in the passing game, but I also expect him to get a few carries.
The Broncos have quite the history at the STUD position, and Weaver has proven that he is ready to be the next great player at that position. Weaver also showed growth when dropping back to defend the pass. I expect Weaver to break some records this season; he will record double digit sacks and use those numbers to enter the NFL draft early and get picked in the first round.
I am going to get a lot of crap for this pick, and I fully understand why. But, I am just not sold on Jordan Love. Love put up great numbers as a sophomore, but he did it against awful competition and benefited from a system that didn’t require him to make many difficult passes. Utah State’s rapid fire offense in 2018 did not require Love to hold the ball for very long. He better hope that his new offensive line can protect and some unknown receivers emerge. The Aggies have a much tougher schedule in 2019 and have plenty of questions on the offensive side of the ball. With that being said, I don’t think Love will have a “bad” season. I just can’t see him replicating his 2018 season considering the circumstances.
The Bulldogs running game was their biggest struggle last year. One game it would look great (see the Vegas Bowl) and one game it would look awful. There are big expectations entering the 2019 season for Rivers. He will be expected to carry a heavier load with a new quarterback. Can his small frame withstand that kind of load? I don’t think so.
Walker was the best offensive player for the Spartans in 2019. He was solid for a team that struggled to find its identity. I think teams will key in on Walker this season and force other players to beat them. I think we will see a drop off in production this season.
Can Walker step in and replace a three year starter in Tyler Horton? The simple answer is no; most players couldn’t. Walker has proven to be a decent option as a backup, but he has struggled against bigger receivers in red zone situations. The Broncos have been recruiting bigger corners the last few years. Will Walker be a starter this year? Or will he lose his job to a young gun like Chris Mitchell? Mitchell looked solid in the spring and seems ready to contribute this fall.
As the season progressed, teams started to figure McDonald and the Hawaii offense out. I think it will be much of the same in 2019. After a fast start in 2018, McDonald was getting national attention for his mind blowing numbers. This season, he will come back to reality and be a backup by the end of the season.
Last year, I predicted an improved season for the Wolf Pack. This season, I am predicting the opposite. The loss of Ty Gangi at quarterback and McLane Mannix at wide receiver is not garnering the attention that it deserves. Nevada was a different squad when Gangi was injured, they could not effectively move the ball and struggled to put points on the board. I think the Wolf Pack will be staying home this bowl season, but if Norvell can pull a winning season out of this group, it would not surprise me if some Power Five programs come calling.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Stay tuned for next week’s edition, as I break down the best and worst non-conference games for Mountain West teams.