Recruiting season is behind us, and Spring football has already started for some Mountain West programs. We are going to continue 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 defensive line.
San Diego State
The Aztecs already had some solid talent at the linebacker position and now it is even better with the addition of Washington transfer Cooper McDonald. This defense is going to be absolutely stacked heading into the 2022 season and the linebacker position will play a big part in the success of this team.
San Jose State
I am a little weary about this placement. The Spartans took a noticeable dip in the tackling department last season. But the return of All-Mountain West linebacker Kyle Harmon gives me some hope for this position group and the Spartan defense as a whole. The Spartans are back into the role of underdog, a position they are comfortable with.
Honestly, I don’t care who the Falcons put on the field at linebacker. They are going to be fast, disciplined, and reliable tacklers. This team brings back plenty of talent at the linebacker position and should be one of the top units in the Mountain West.
This is probably the best defensive unit that the Rams have at this moment. They are going to rely heavily on Dequan Jackson and Cam’Ron Carter who bring a wealth of experience to the linebacker position. This group will need to be effective in pass coverage if they are going to be contenders in 2022.
I came really close to putting this unit in the “good” category. They made strides last season and they have a linebacker named “Bear.” Anybody with that name should be making an immediate impact. But in all seriousness, the Lobos made strides against the run and I was impressed with their ability to finish tackles when I watched them play in Boise. But this group still has strides to make in pass coverage and getting to the quarterback.
Riley Whimpey is gone and Zeke Noa is returning for his COVID year. Boise State’s biggest struggle on defense last year came at the linebacker position. Is Noa a lock to start? Or will the Broncos be looking for some new blood? Will true freshman Dishawn Misa be ready for the spotlight? The Broncos are plagued with questions at the linebacker position. Hopefully, some clarity will come this spring.
I talked about this last week, but Wyoming had some tackling issues that aren’t typical for this program last season. Now they have to replace the best linebacker in the conference in Chad Muma. Last year, Wyoming was receiving some buzz for the talent they were returning. This year, I would be concerned if I was a Cowboy fan.
Losing Rice and Meitzenheimer is a major blow to this defense. If I was an Aggie fan, this would be the unit I pay the most attention to in spring ball. The reason this crew is not in the “ugly” category considering the production they lose is that I have a lot of faith in this coaching staff and their ability to find talent. They earned that after last season.
The Bulldogs have some nice young talent at the linebacker position, but there just isn’t enough returning production at the linebacker position to make feel like they won’t be a major liability. This might be a position that the Bulldogs address in the transfer portal after spring ball. Replacing Tyson Maeva will not be an easy task.
As I said last week, the Todd Graham situation and Hawaii’s inability to fix that situation in a decent time frame absolutely killed this roster. the impact was felt in a big way at the linebacker position. The departure of Muasau, has left this position group in shambles. Hawaii might have the worst defense in the Mountain West this year.
Like the Rainbow Warriors, it is really hard to gauge what the Wolf Pack roster is going to look like come fall. It is even harder to predict how productive they are going to be. This team is on the search for talent. Finding reliable talent at the linebacker position will go a long way into fixing the issues Nevada will face on the defensive side of the ball.
As of this writing, the Rebels still have not updated their roster. But it is hard to be optimistic about this group. The Rebels' defense was awful last season. They couldn’t get to the quarterback and they were awful at stopping the run. Hopefully, this unit can make strides this fall.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Who has the best linebackers in the league? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.