A few weeks ago, I started previewing the top units for each position group in the Mountain West. Last week it was running backs, and the week before it was quarterbacks. This week it will be the top pass catching units in the Mountain West. Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly wide receiver corps.
Depth is the word. Boise State has a ton of depth at the wide receiver position. Khalil Shakir and CT Thomas have proven to be reliable targets in previous seasons, and Octavius Evans is finally healthy and should fill in nicely for John Hightower. Stefan Cobbs, Shea Whiting, Kaleed Whyeem, and Latrell Caples were all highly rated recruits that should provide depth behind Boise State’s veteran wide receivers.
San Jose State
The Spartans return the most productive wide receiver in the Mountain West in Tre Walker. Walker has proven to have great hands and be a threat down the field. San Jose State also brings back another top 15 receiver in Billy Gaither. The only question for the Spartans is whether or not they will have a reliable quarterback to get them the ball.
San Jose State may return the most productive receiver, but Colorado State returns the most talented receiver in Warren Jackson. Jackson has the size and speed to be the next Ram receiver to make an impact in the NFL and will be preseason all conference selection. Colorado State also has the perfect complement to Jackson in Dante Wright. This duo should help to ease in the new quarterback.
I was on the fence about where to place the Wolf Pack receivers. Inconsistency at the quarterback position hurt the production of Nevada receivers. But, I think another year of improvement for quarterback Carson Strong and the return of leading receiver Elijah Cooks should provide a strong foundation for the Nevada passing game.
San Diego State
Like San Jose State, we know that San Diego State has talent at the wide receiver position. The biggest question is,who will get them the ball. Most of the production for the Aztecs in 2019 came in the form of underclassmen. Kobe Smith and Jesse Matthews may not get a lot of publicity, but the young receiver should be one of the better tandems in the West Division.
To be fair, Air Force receivers should be evaluated for their blocking more than their catching abilities. I put the Falcons in the “Bad” category because they have to replace their top receivers in Geraud Sanders and Ben Waters.
In recent years, the Rainbow Warriors have been able to reload at the wide receiver position. They have relied on speedy slot receivers who find gaps and can run after the catch. Replacing Byrd, Ward, and Sharsh will be a tall task. Luckily for Hawaii, they have another year of Jared Smart, but replacing 3,000 yards will not be easy, especially with uncertainty at quarterback and a new coach.
I really expected more from the Bulldogs’ receivers in 2019. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt heading into 2020. I think Kalen DeBoer will give this offense a shot in the arm, and a new quarterback should help the receivers return to the production we are used to seeing from Fresno State.
Former USC grad transfer Randal Grimes is a solid receiver, but there isn’t much depth at the position for the Running Rebels. I left UNLV out of the “Ugly” category, because I think Arroyo’s offense will help the receivers be more productive. But, UNLV has a brutal schedule and will face some great secondaries early in the season. I think it will be tough sledding for their receivers during the first half of the season.
The Cowboys lose nearly all of their top receivers off a unit that struggled mightily through the air. Maybe some new blood and a new quarterback (maybe) will provide a boost for the Cowboy offense. But Josh Allen is not walking through that door. I think Wyoming will continue to rely heavily on their offensive line and running game.
This was nearly an impossible pick to make. I have no idea what the Lobo offense is going to look like with a new coaching staff, but I do know this. It is going to take a few years of recruiting for this offense to resemble a solid Division I team. I expect another rough year for New Mexico in 2020. I also think Danny Gonzales and Co. are going to build a reputation as a run first team.
The Aggies showed how difficult it can be to replace nearly all of your skilled position players, and the future doesn’t exactly look bright with Siaosi Mariner gone. The Aggies are also losing a quarterback that could go in the first round in Jordan Love. I think 2020 could be a rough year for Utah State and their wide receivers.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Stay tuned for next week’s edition when I preview the best tight end groups in the Mountain West.