It’s the time of the year known as Spring Ball. Teams are allowed 15 total practices during this time. Of that total, 8 can have contact or live tackling, and 3 can constitute as scrimmages. Spring practices are an important time to assess which players have improved thus far and which players are ready to be penciled in for more significant roles come the fall. It’s also a time to experiment with different schemes, lineups, or positions. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a time to begin to answer some questions that carry over from last season or are being discussed this off-season. This post will aim to identify one of the biggest questions each team faces this spring.
One-year wonder or multi-year power?
The Falcons were one of the best teams in the Mountain West and really the entire nation last season. Their defense was quite stout, and their offense had no issues moving the ball thanks to excellent options at quarterback and running back. Hammond and Remsberg return, along with some studs on the o-line. The defense, however, lost a good amount of seniors and will need to reload. Likewise, the offense will need to establish depth, especially at quarterback, to keep the momentum going.
Can the young players take the next step?
The Broncos were a team with glaring flaws who overachieved based on pure (but young) talent. If they want to keep winning conference championships and break the recent glass ceiling into the New Year’s Six, then Bachmeier, Holani, Skinner, and others will have to take big steps forward. Also, they will need to replace eight out of nine starters between the two lines. The talent has been there, but now it’s about it translating over to the games.
Can they get their talent to translate to wins?
The Rams had great recruiting classes during the Bobo era. However, it led to average teams or much worse on the field. But now Addazio is in charge and is tasked with getting Colorado State into contention. He has the talent on both sides of the ball, and if he can figure out a way to unlock the potential of the roster and get through to the players, it will make a difference in the win column.
Bounce-back or fall-back?
The Bulldogs were never able to get it going last season. Partly because they didn’t have an answer at quarterback and partly because their defense lost too much of their star-power. Now with a new (and former assistant) coach at the helm, the focus is now on making sure Fresno State doesn’t continue to slide. The biggest factor in this could be their recruiting under Tedford. The development of the coaching staff should not be questioned, but they didn’t light up the recruiting rankings. The answer to that tension will be the answer that determines how they will fare next season.
What will they do on offense?
The Rainbow Warriors won the west thanks to a high-powered passing offense that won more shootouts than they lost. They seemed to be building something sustainable, but now it’s back to questions with Rolovich moving on, and Graham is in. The first and arguably biggest question is what the offense will look like going forward? They are built and have recruited for the run-and-shoot, but that isn’t the background of this coaching staff. How they work out the kinks and growing pains is vital to maintaining their winning ways.
What’s next for the Wolf Pack?
Nevada has now made two straight bowl games under Coach Norvell, which is a vast improvement from where they were before he took over the program. The 2018 season was a surprise improvement, but the 2019 version was one filled with inconsistency and displayed a team that seemed to lack an identity. This spring looks like an important one for the future direction of the program to avoid being stuck in their current six to seven win range.
Can players buy into the culture?
Spring ball marks the first official practices Coach Gonzales can have with his team. While the majority of his recruiting class won’t be on campus yet, this is the prime chance for the new coaching staff to establish and get the current players to buy into the culture they will try to instill. It will be a challenge, especially as some of the older players may feel like they will be passed over or no longer fit the schemes. However, the greater the number of players who guy in, the greater it will benefit them going forward.
San Diego State
Can they get their offense working?
The Aztecs ended up having a solid season, but it was in large thanks to their defense. For the second year in a row, they suffered offensive injuries, especially in the run game. Also, the move to the spread formation didn’t have the passing production it hoped. Now with Hoke in charge, he has publicly stated he wants to have a dynamic passing-game in his offense. The future starts now, and if SDSU can ever find more offense to match their stellar defense, the sky would be the limit.
San Jose State
Will they continue to improve or regress?
The Spartans were one of the more pleasant surprises of the MWC, pulling off an upset or two and competing for a bowl bid. Although they fell short, they were a very competitive team. However, much of their production, especially on offense, came from seniors who have now departed. It would be easy to determine SJSU is due for some regression, particularly without Josh Love at quarterback. On the other hand, they have recruited well the past three years, still have talent at the skill positions, and brought in a transfer QB. This spring will go a long way to determining how they stack up next fall.
What are the realistic expectations for next year?
New facilities. A new stadium. A new young coach. A talented new recruiting class. It’s safe to say excitement around the Rebels is at an all-time high. And no one would argue that the program has lots of potential and is trending in the right direction. However, how much improvement will they make in 2020? There are still many unknowns around quarterback, wide receiver, and much of the defense. Expectations are pretty set a few years from now, but it remains to be seen if next year’s squad is more development-orientated or results-orientated.
What will the team look like without it’s departing stars?
The 2019 Aggies were more of a transition year. They still had the core of their 11-2 team from the previous year, but had new blood scattered around and an entirely new coaching staff with tweaked schemes. The coaching staff and their philosophies are still largely in place, but now Jordan Love, Gerald Bright, Tipa Galea’i, DJ Williams, David Woodward, and even Dominik Eberle are moving on in one way or another. This spring for Utah State is finding the next wave of play-makers as well as how best to utilize the rising talent who steps up.
Can they develop a quarterback?
The Cowboys have boasted one of the better defenses in the conference for a few years now. They also usually feature a solid running game on offense. However, since the departure of Josh Allen to the NFL, they haven’t found a permanent answer at quarterback. This spring, they have two legitimate candidates to win the spot, each with a different skill set. If they can develop one or two of them into a capable and consistent starter, then Wyoming could make a run to the conference championship game.
Your turn: What other questions do you have for these teams? Comment below.