Spring football has already started for some Mountain West teams, and the rest will start hitting the field in the next few weeks. We are going to spend the next few months previewing each position group and where each team stands. So far, we have looked at quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends; this week we are going to take a look at the offensive lines.
When healthy, this offensive line is almost always one of the most complete units in the conference. 2021 should be no different, and with the talent returning on the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons should be able to control the clock and dictate most of their games.
Like Air Force, the Cowboys are almost always consistent up front and that shouldn’t be any different this fall. The Cowboys will have one of the most productive run games in the conference behind an offensive line that has proven their worth.
Losing Taafa Tuulima isn’t ideal, but the Rainbow Warriors have plenty of depth returning on the offensive line. This unit should be the strength of their offense with guys like Manning, Vanterpool, and Vaipulu returning. They will need to allow fewer sacks this season; over three a game is not ideal.
San Diego State
I thought long and hard about putting the Aztecs in the “Bad” category, but reasoning ultimately won out. They were solid on the ground at 4.5 yards per rush but were more inconsistent than most years. 17 sacks isn’t ideal, but it could be worse. The Aztecs have done well recruiting the offensive line and should be improved this season.
I would argue that allowing 2.5 sacks per game is too much, but 4.7 yards per carry is really solid. Gonzales will need a solid offensive line to be the foundation for building this program. They are trending in the right direction.
The offensive line wasn’t awful last fall, and it is hard to accurately preview this unit with all of the juggling that took place at the quarterback and running back positions. The pieces are there, but they might be a year or two away from being where they need to be.
The Wolf Pack were often boom or bust on the ground in 2020. Their rushing numbers were respectable, but 20 sacks allowed is just too many. This unit isn’t awful, but it’s not great either. If they can improve this fall, watch out for Nevada.
San Jose State
This was probably the most underrated unit on the Spartan squad. They gave Starkell plenty of time to cook, allowing only one sack per game. The running game was on the inconsistent side, but this unit should a strength of the 2021 Spartan squad.
The Rams played the fewest games of any team in the conference, so this may not be a fair ranking. But stats are stats, and they had the lowest yards per rush and allowed three sacks per game. Those numbers don’t favor the style of football that Steve Addazio wants to play.
The Bulldog offensive line really struggled last season, allowing four sacks a game and only 3.4 yards per rush. The rushing numbers are a little distorted because of 200 yards worth of sacks. But the Bulldogs are going to have a ton of talent at running back next year, and the offensive line will need to improve so they can utilize their abilities.
It feels a little criminal to put a unit with four of five starters returning in this category. But, the run game was awful after George Holani went down and Bachmeier took way too many hits. If any unit should benefit from the coaching change, it is this one, but I am at a point where I won’t believe it until I see it.
The Rebels allowed 29 sacks in just 6 games. Last time I checked, that is pretty bad. On top of that, their run game really regressed this season. This unit needs to be their most improved if they are going to take steps in the right direction.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Be sure to check out next week’s edition when we switch to the other side of the trenches and preview the defensive lines.