It’s time for the annual look at each Mountain West team recruiting level compared to the rest of the college football landscape. Here is last year’s post if you want a bit of a refresher. These posts aim to identify how each team recruits by looking at the teams in the same range as each of the twelve Mountain West members. That helps us determine which MWC teams are recruiting above, at, or below their conference affiliation.
Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily describing the quality of play each team has with the quality of players they recruit, as many teams in the Mountain West play above or below their level of recruiting. Instead, this attempts to give a range of comparisons for how each team recruited this past year. Each range is determined by looking at teams within three compositive points above or below their own.
Note: All rankings are taken from 247 sports composite recruiting rankings and accurate as of 2/6/22. Numbers are taken from the 247 composite recruiting rankings.
2022 Ranking: 107th
Closest Comparisons: Tulsa, UConn, Arizona State, Charlotte, Temple
Bottom Line: As has been discussed many times, the Falcons’ recruiting is much different from the rest of the conference being an academy school. They are looking for specific types of players to fit their scheme, and the number of their commits can skew their rankings a bit. Still, this wasn’t one of their better-recruiting cycles. On the other hand, it may not matter. 2021 was a great year for Air Force in terms of recruiting, and many of their top players have already transferred.
2022 Ranking: 60th
Closest Comparisons: Marshall, Cal, Kansas State, Memphis, NC State
Bottom Line: The Broncos again find themselves ranked among Power 5 teams when it comes to recruiting. The ceiling of their class is as high as many teams who play in more prestigious conferences, but the floor of the class is not as strong as what P5 teams are accustomed to securing. Other conference members have made big strides over the years, but the Broncos still set the standard when it comes to recruiting.
2021 Ranking: 86th
Closest Comparisons: Campbell, Central Michigan, USF, Northern Illinois
Bottom Line: The Rams are in some unique company in their comparisons. This is primarily due to building this class in December and doing it by mainly adding transfers. It will be interesting to see how they do going forward. Their rankings won’t end up mattering much if their transfers can contribute immediately and play effectively. The high school talent shouldn’t be slept on either.
2021 Ranking: 74th
Closest Comparisons: Tulane, Coastal Carolina
Bottom Line: The Bulldogs continued their impressive recruiting abilities, with both traditional recruiting and the transfer portal. Their comparisons don’t tell the full story of just how well they have been doing. If this is the new norm for the Bulldogs, top of the conference recruiting pairs with player development, they could have something special brewing.
2021 Ranking: 128th
Closest Comparisons: Florida Atlantic, Troy,
Bottom Line: It isn’t easy to recruit to the Islands, but it’s even more difficult when the program doesn’t seem to be prioritizing it, which was the case under Coach Graham. Due to this, Coach Chang and Hawaii now have to rely on finding transfers while attempting to rebuild the program. For now, they are ranked in proportion to their failed previous strategy, which is near the bottom of the FBS.
2021 Ranking: 118th
Closest Comparisons: Jackson State, Rice, Sam Houston, Middle Tennessee State,
Bottom Line: The Wolf Pack were usually middle of the conference in terms of recruiting and took a few steps back from their usual spot with the coaching change this year. But a December coaching change, having to build most of the class in January, and going transfer heavy will put a program into this position. Looking at their comparisons, this is not the company Nevada wants to keep in recruiting rankings.
2021 Ranking: 97th
Closest Comparisons: Ball State, Old Dominion, Georgia State, Wyoming
Bottom Line: New Mexico has somewhat impressively secured back-to-back top 100 classes. While this isn’t an ideal spot, it’s promising considering their lack of recruiting efforts prior to Coach Gonzales. They do need to keep improving and should be able to, but all things considered, it’s not a bad spot for them.
San Diego State
2021 Ranking: 68th
Closest Comparisons: USC, Virginia, Arkansas State, UTSA, Syracuse
Bottom Line: The Aztecs continue to recruit at a high level under Coach Hoke and find themselves in great company in this year’s comparisons. They are right in the middle of some Power 5 programs, and it is clear they are making a difference and seen in a positive light on the recruiting trail. It also likely means SDSU is a consistent contender when it comes to recruiting the SoCal area.
San Jose State
2021 Ranking: 83rd
Closest Comparisons: SMU, UAB, Appalachian State, East Carolina, Campbell
Bottom Line: San Jose State has made a habit of recruiting better than their record would suggest. After a dip last year, it seems as if they are back on track. They turned one of their best classes this cycle under Coach Brennan, and some of their recruiting comparisons reflect that. Few teams do a better job of finding under-the-radar recruits in California and prioritizing local recruits in the bay area.
2021 Ranking: 101st
Closest Comparisons: Old Dominion, Georgia State, Wyoming, Southern Alabama
Bottom Line: In a bit of a surprise, the Rebel’s recruiting class was much lower ranked than what it has been in the previous two years under Coach Arroyo. It is probably safe to assume that not winning has turned off some recruits. This year they recruited at a lower Group of 5 level after being among the top of the Group of 5 prior to this. It remains to be seen if they can return to that status or not.
2021 Ranking: 76th
Closest Comparisons: Miami (OH), Wake Forest, Southern Miss
Bottom Line: Utah State rebounded very nicely from the state their recruiting was in last year at this time. That should not be a surprise as they were committed to recruiting locally and capitalized on their buzz from both a new coaching staff and winning the Mountain West. They are now firmly at a high group of 5 level for this cycle, and there is enough evidence to be hopeful it is a sign of things to come for the Aggies.
2021 Ranking: 100th
Closest Comparisons: New Mexico, Old Dominion, Georgia State, UNLV, Southern Alabama
Bottom Line: The thing to remember here is Bohl’s teams do more with less, as they consistently outplay their recruiting, which is a tribute to their coaching staff. However, no matter how good player development is, only so much can be done when starting from the 100 spot in the recruiting rankings, and that has been playing out on the field with the Cowboys the past few years.
Let’s summarize and reorder a bit by putting the 12 teams into some groupings. These are groupings that are more or less made up, but they serve the purpose of providing context to each team’s recruiting efforts. Keep in mind there are 129 FBS teams.
Recruits at a lower Power 5 level (in the top 65): Boise State
Recruits at a high Group of 5 level (66-80): San Diego State, Fresno State, Utah State
Recruits at a middle Group of 5 level (80-100): Colorado State, San Jose State, New Mexico, Wyoming
Recruits at a lower Group of 5 level (101-120): UNLV, Air Force, Nevada
Recruits near the bottom of the FBS (120-130): Hawaii
Recruits at an FCS level (131 or below):
In the 2022 cycle, Mountain West teams brought in quite a bit of talent and seemed to keep pace with last year’s efforts. In both 2021 and this year, eight MWC teams crocked the top 100 in the 247 composite rankings. Looking at the bottom of the conference, only one team had a ranking worse than 120, which is an improvement over last year (two teams).
I’ll beat the commenters to the punch. Every year, there are lots of players who outperform their recruiting rankings. And there are highly rated prospects who don’t pan out. There is no denying that. Some teams outperform their rankings annually, achieving winning records despite not landing high on the rankings lists.
On the other hand, players play to their rankings more often than not. And it is certainly better to get better players (by whatever metric coaches use to recruits. It is understood that they don’t just look at recruiting lists). We will likely never know, but the important question to consider is where on the recruiting board are the players they are landing? Are teams getting players from their top few tiers or landing commits at lower points on the board?
For fans of teams who recruit to a specialized scheme or standard (Air Force) or the teams mentioned above who excel in player development, or who just don’t care about recruiting, this post may not carry much weight. At the end of the day, it is still interesting to know how teams measure up both in the conference and across the board. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a college program, and it bodes well for teams to recruit well. Then, of course, they have to develop the skills and the culture to produce winning. Consider this post an emphasis on step one of the process.