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Peak Perspective: The Mountain West Has a Recruiting Problem

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Mountain West teams need to take a long look in the mirror

NCAA Football: Boise State at San Jose State D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

With signing day behind us and spring football coming soon, I decided to take a look at how the Mountain West has recruited in prior seasons. I was surprised to see how much recruiting in the Mountain West has dipped in recent seasons. You would think schools like San Diego State and Fresno State that are in a talent rich state like California would be able to compete with some Power Five schools. However, that just isn’t the case. After looking at the data from the past four years, I came to two conclusions: Boise State dominates in recruiting with the gap getting wider, and kids are leaving their home states more frequently. Let’s start with some simple facts:

  • Recruiting does not always result in success on the field, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
  • Boise State has led the Mountain West in recruiting every season since they joined the conference.
  • The rest of the conference has been inconsistent. Mike Bobo started off strong at Colorado State, but tailed off in recent seasons.
  • Academics do matter, but remember that Boise State commits have more Ivy League offers than other schools in the Mountain West outside of Air Force.

Now, let’s take a look at some recent recruiting. We are going to look at the top five Mountain West classes of the past four seasons according to 247 Sports. The number next to the school name is the national rank.

2017

1- Boise State (64)

2- Colorado State (73)

3- San Diego State (77)

4- Fresno State (84)

5- Hawaii (86)

2017 was the first sign of significant recruiting issues for the Mountain West. While the numbers appear close on paper, Boise State’s average rating of 83.11 was significantly better than its counterparts. They only had 20 commits, while Colorado State had 27.

2018

1-Boise State (57)

2-San Diego State (79)

3-Nevada (82)

4-Colorado State (86)

5-Fresno State (92)

Boise State continued to recruit better, and the gap got bigger. Boise State landed multiple four-star recruits and had the top Group of Five class. San Diego State stayed consistent and continued to locate those diamonds in the rough. The gap between Boise State and San Diego State was the widest of any conference.

2019

1-Boise State (54)

2-Colorado State (84)

3- Fresno State (87)

4-Utah State (90)

5-San Diego State (91)

Boise State only signed 17 student athletes in this class and still managed to have their best class in history, the top Group of Five class, and the widest gap between conference foes. Boise State signed a four-star quarterback that had multiple SEC offers and four-star linebacker, running back, and safety. The class was well inside the top 50 if you look at average rating. Colorado State continued to recruit solidly, while San Diego State took a significant step back. Utah State utilized a strong season to pull in a respectable class.

2020

1-Boise State (64)

2- UNLV (72)

3- Colorado State (102)

4- Air Force (105)

5- New Mexico (106)

(These rankings are subject to change with signings still happening)

When looking at these numbers, it is important to look at the average rating and how many players signed. UNLV signed 24 to Boise State’s 19. Air Force is also higher because of how many players they signed. San Diego State had a higher average than UNLV. Arroyo deserves special recognition for what he did with this class. UNLV did not sign a single player in December. With that being said, this was a really rough recruiting year outside of Boise and Las Vegas. The Broncos regressed a little this year. They almost always sign highly-rated running backs and quarterbacks, but that was not going to happen with George Holani and Hank Bachmeier shining as true freshmen. They also had a fairly small class, but still managed to land six of the top ten recruits in the conference. I think UNLV is probably here to stay for the next few years; Arroyo has proven he can recruit, and the new stadium is a huge draw. But, if I were a fan of one of the California teams, I would be worried. This year the Mountain West had only two teams in the top 100 and were beaten out by teams in the MAC, Sun Belt, C-USA. This is a major problem that should be getting more attention than it is.

Average National Finish Since 2017

1-Boise State (60)

2- Colorado State (87)

3- San Diego State (88)

4- Fresno State (96)

5- Nevada (98)

6- UNLV (99)

7- Utah State (104)

8- Hawaii (106)

9- San Jose State (109)

10- Wyoming (110)

11- Air Force (111)

12- New Mexico (117)

National Average Without Boise State

2016= 93

2017= 96

2018= 101

2019= 102

2020= 112

Do you notice a trend?

I had known for a while that Boise State had a significant recruiting advantage over the rest of the Mountain West, but after diving into the info a bit more, I was surprised at how wide the chasm is. Boise State has been in the news a lot lately for the television deal. Many opposing fans feel that Boise State does not deserve extra money and feel that their best years are behind them. But, if we look at the records since the 2017 recruiting class has taken the field, Boise State has gone 33-8 with three division titles and two conference titles. The talent from these classes should be reaching their peak in the next two years. If the conference is really looking to be more competitive, they need to look at the fall off in recruiting. Outside of Boise State, the Mountain West has had only one school finish in the top 75 (Colorado State in 2017). The Mountain West should not be getting out-recruited by schools like Liberty, Charlotte, UTSA, and Rice.

It is hard to pinpoint what has led to the downturn in recent seasons, but this isn’t just a Mountain West problem. BYU’s past few classes have been ranked significantly lower. I think that can be attributed to the issues they have had with independence. Several PAC 12 schools are also having recruiting issues. Many California kids are headed east to play football. But, one thing is certain, Boise State continues to recruit at a Power Five level, while the rest of the conference continues to take a step back. So, instead of blaming Boise State for problems in the Mountain West, maybe we should take a long look at recruiting.

Why do you think recruitment has taken a step back? Is this impacting on-field performance of your team?