Recruiting season is behind us, and spring football is just weeks away. We are going to spend the next couple of months previewing position units in the Mountain West. Please remember that with the extra COVID year, there is some uncertainty on each roster heading into spring football. With that being said, let’s take a look at how each team currently sits on the offensive line.
We know the Falcons are going to be elite on the offensive line, they always are and the success of the triple-option rests on the guys up front. This unit is going to be the best in the Mountain West, probably the surest bet of any position group in the conference.
San Diego State
Like the Falcons, the success of this football program’s offense rests on the big dogs up front. The Aztecs finished last season third in rushing and fourth in sacks allowed. They should be even better in 2022.
We know that Craig Bohl loves his old school football and the big guys up front are his pride and joy. If this team has any hope of going to a bowl in 2022, this unit will need to be just as good or better. The Cowboys finished 2021 second in rushing and third in sacks allowed. They should be able to replicate that success this fall.
This one might be a stretch. The Aggies allowed a lot of sacks last year, but their running game was vastly improved and this unit should continue to develop under the leadership of Blake Anderson.
San Jose State
The Spartans have been plagued with the same issues for years, they can’t run the ball with any consistency. They were ninth in rushing last season, but they were excellent in pass protection, allowing only 21 sacks. If this team is going to be effective with Chevan Cordeiro at quarterback, they have to be able to establish the running game more effectively.
A story as old as time...The Broncos' offensive line prevents the team from being great. Now, we know injuries played a key role in 2021, but Bachmeier got hit a lot and the running game was awful without Holani. The Broncos bring back more than enough experience on the offensive line, but is that actually a good thing? Experience does not always equal quality.
The Fresno State run game was solid most of the year, but with the depth they have at the position, you could argue that they underachieved. The number of sacks allowed was also a bit misleading. Jake Haener is great at getting the ball out quickly, but he took a ton of hits. If you don’t believe me, watch the UCLA and Boise State games. However, if this unit can improve, the Bulldogs should be the favorites in the West.
Danny Gonzales philosophy relies on building an offense that can control the time of possession and the line of scrimmage. The Lobos failed to do that in 2021 and it does not look like it will be much better in 2022. New Mexico has some major issues in the trenches, allowing 34 sacks and finishing only 8th in rushing.
The rushing statistics were a bit misleading in 2021. Colorado State finished fourth in yards per game but averaged less than four yards per carry. They also allowed 34 sacks, a ton for a team that ran the ball as much as they did. Those rushing numbers will likely be worse under new head coach Jay Norvell, but Ram fans better hope the number of sacks allowed improves.
The Rainbow Warrior offensive line was rough last year. Their quarterbacks took a beating last year, being sacked 38 times. However, their rushing attack was surprisingly effective gaining 4.3 yards per rush. This unit is going to need some time to gel after losing so many players and learning a new offensive scheme.
The Wolf Pack rushing attack was one of the worst I have ever seen last season. They averaged only three yards per carry and totaled only 77 rushing yards per game. They also allowed the most sacks in the conference giving up 44. I look at these statistics and it makes me wonder if this coaching staff underachieved last year. Maybe the Wolf Pack will be more effective under new head coach Ken Wilson.
I have seen a lot of chatter that the Rebels could be a potential bowl team in 2022. But after diving into these stats, I am a little skeptical. UNLV finished the 2021 season 11th in the conference in both rushing yards and sacks allowed. Good teams do not get dominated in the trenches. I know they were young at some of those positions, so I expect some growth. But they are going to need significant growth if they hope to go bowling in 2022.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” How do you expect your team to perform in the trenches in 2022? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.