Last week, we began our preview section with a look at the quarterback situation in the Mountain West. This week, we will be taking a look at what might very well be the deepest position group in the conference - running backs. The Mountain West is loaded with talent, as there are many potential 1,000 yard rushers. But, depth is an issue for many teams. With that being said, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly running back units in the Mountain West.
The Broncos have the deepest running back room in the Mountain West, and it isn’t particularly close. George Holani is coming off of a freshman season where he finished with over 1,000 yards and was not the starter until halfway through the season. Holani has two talented backups in Andrew Van Buren and Robert Mahone. Van Buren and Mahone would start for most teams in the Mountain West.
The Cowboys return the leading rusher in the conference in Xazavian Valladay. Valladay doesn’t necessarily blow you away with his speed, but he is tough between the tackles and difficult to bring down. If Chambers and Williams can stay healthy, that should lessen the load for Valladay. But the Cowboys need to work to build some depth at the running back position.
If there is one thing we can bank on, it is the Air Force rushing attack that will be led by Kaden Remsberg and versatile quarterback Donald Hammond III. The Falcons do have some depth questions after losing Taven Birdow, but Air Force usually reloads at that position.
Charles Williams was one of the best running backs in the Mountain West last season, averaging nearly six yards per carry. Williams will have to carry a heavy load for a squad that has plenty of questions on offense. I think Williams will have another nice season, but will be hard pressed to top his 2019 season with a much tougher schedule in 2020.
I went back and forth with where I wanted to put the Rainbow Warriors. Miles Reed put up some impressive numbers in a pass heavy offense. Ultimately, I think the more traditional approach is what Todd Graham will likely implement. I think Cordeiro’s ability to run will help, and Reed will be a 1,000 yard rusher in 2020. The majority of his production last season came against lesser competition; that will need to improve this fall.
It is hard to determine how the running back position will play out for the Lobos. You have to think that they will be a run heavy team, but they lost their leading rusher in Ahmari Davis. The next player in line isn’t totally clear. True freshman Nathaniel Jones could end up getting the bulk of the carries.
The Bulldog rushing attack was disappointing in 2019. Ronnie Rivers was expected to be one of the top running backs in the conference, but Fresno’s struggles in the passing game kept Rivers from reaching his full potential. Haener should be an upgrade at the quarterback position which should help the running game, but I am not completely sold on the Bulldog running attack.
San Diego State
I never thought I would see the day where the Aztecs would land in the bad category for running the football. The talent is there for an SDSU squad that will probably be the favorite to win the West, but production is the big question mark. The Aztecs did not have a running back with more than 500 yards in 2019. Until they get consistent play from the quarterback position, I think we will see much of the same.
It will be interesting to see how the running back position develops under new coach Steve Addazio. Addazio is known for playing smash mouth football, but the majority of Colorado State’s skilled talent is at wide receiver. I think Addazio will try to force the run, but the Rams’ success will ultimately come down to their ability to throw the football.
A year ago, I thought Toa Taua would be the next great Nevada running back, but he never really found his groove in 2019. One would think that there should be a bit of competition at the running back position for the Wolf Pack this fall.
San Jose State
The Spartans made little effort to establish their running back last season. They will continue to throw the ball a lot in 2020. Teams like San Jose State struggle to recruit quality running backs, because high level recruits want to know that they are going to be utilized.
The Aggies struggled to run the ball in 2019 and lost their top running back in Gerold Bright. Utah State will have a very young football team in 2020, and establishing a reliable running back will be vital to their success. But I don’t see that happening this fall.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Next we will be taking a peek at the wide receiver units.