It’s the time of the year known as Spring Ball. Some teams have already started and are close to wrapping things up. Others are either just beginning or will soon. Teams are allowed 15 total practices during this time. Of that total, eight can have contact or live tackling, and three can constitute as scrimmages. Spring practices are an important time to assess which players have improved thus far and which players are ready to be penciled in for more significant roles come the fall. It’s also a time to experiment with different schemes, lineups, or positions. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a time to begin to answer some questions that carry over from last season or are being discussed this off-season. This post will aim to identify one of the biggest questions each team faces this spring.
For those who are curious, here is last year’s post.
Can the Falcons get over the hump and win the conference championship?
Air Force has been one of the better teams in the conference more often than not in recent years. They turned in another ten-win season and returned the majority of their team going into 2021, especially their offensive production. However, despite being consistently successful, the Falcons have yet to win a Mountain West championship. Figuring out how to improve to the level where they can win the conference should be the focus for the team this spring.
How do the Broncos get back to their winning ways?
Boise State went much of the season not looking like Boise State. Their offense struggled mightily, often stalling in the second half and lacking explosiveness overall. While the Bronco defense got better as the year went on, it wasn’t enough in some games, and the team stumbled their way to a 7-5 season. However, all is not lost, the pieces are still there, and things should improve. But figuring out what went wrong and fixing it has to be the biggest focus of the spring in order to not repeat the 2021 season.
Can the Rams rebuild on the fly?
It is out with the old and in with the new for the Rams. Coach Norvell brought his coaching staff and most of his core players with him when he came from Nevada in hopes to jump-start his tenure with Colorado State. The rest of the roster is attempting to learn an extremely different scheme this off-season. How quickly they adapt to the air-raid offense will dictate how successful the Rams can be as they move into the 2022 campaign.
Can the Bulldogs find a way to maximize the potential of their talented core?
The Bulldogs had one of the most balanced teams last season and return most of that production on both sides of the ball going into next season. Their issue is not talent but instead finding the best ways to allow their talent to succeed. Fresno State should be a top team in the conference once again but will need to spend their offseason making some minor adjustments. For starters, eliminating turnovers would make a noticeable difference. If the coaching staff can unlock the team’s potential, they should be firing on all cylinders next year.
Can the Rainbow Warriors field a team that won’t embarrass themselves?
The Rainbow Warriors have been a peculiar team the past two seasons and now are one with a gutted roster. The program seems to be back on the right track, with a coach and staff who understand the Hawaiian culture and are committed to building locally. But they do have to build, and it won’t be easy, as Hawaii faces more challenges than the average program. After the plethora of players who transferred out, the team will be a major unknown, and the level of talent will be a question mark. However, the offense should be a lot of fun to watch.
Can the Wolf Pack take steps towards rebuilding?
Similarly, Nevada goes from an established, veteran team to a young unknown one. Coach Wilson was able to hit the transfer portal, but the roster will need time to gel, and spring practices are the ideal time to do that. Seemingly every upperclassman who saw the field last season has moved on, leaving a team full of inexperience. Expectations are low for the new staff, which is not a bad thing considering the circumstances. Using the spring to establish an identity would go a long way towards rebuilding the Wolf Pack program.
What does the next step look like for the Lobos?
It is the same question as last year because New Mexico was not able to answer it. They are establishing a culture and forming an identity under Coach Gonzales. They are winning a few games and overall playing competitively. However, where do they go from here? The Lobos need to figure out how to take the next step forward in building the program. Part of that is likely committing to an option-based running attack, something they implemented mid-season and now can fully put into place with an entire off-season. Time will tell if it will be enough to move the program forward.
San Diego State
Can the Aztecs figure out the passing game?
This should most likely be the Aztec’s most pressing question until further notice. It has been their Achilles heel for far too long and arguably held the team back last season from achieving even greater success. They have the defense, the special teams, and the running game to compete against pretty much anyone. However, their offense stalls more often than not without a passing game. San Diego State likely won’t be able to count on game-changing special teams next season to flip the field and need to provide a steady passing presence.
San Jose State
Can the Spartans find a way to regain their edge?
The Spartans are only a season removed from being conference champions but struggled mightily on offense last season, even before their starting quarterback got injured. They were no longer able to take the conference by surprise, and overall they lacked explosiveness. However, the cupboard is not completely bare, and it would not be difficult for San Jose State to bounce back into a bowl team next year. They do need to regain their edge and figure out how to catch teams off-guard once again. If they can do that, the talent and schemes will be even more effective.
Can the Rebels make a bowl game?
After a winless first campaign, UNLV found the win column twice last year and played a number of competitive games, even if they resulted in losses. Year three of a coaching staff is normally where a program shows a jump forward and also runs short on excuses. The Rebels have the potential to take a big step forward in 2022, although there are still many questions marks. Shoring up the gaps and weaknesses on the team should and will be the priority during spring ball, and it will all lead up to the goal of winning enough games to be eligible for a bowl for the first time since the 2013 season.
How can the Aggies stay at the top of the conference?
Utah State was the surprise team of 2021, riding their success all the way to a conference championship and LA Bowl win. However, ask San Jose State how tough it is to sustain success once the surprise wears off. The Aggies return some of their core players from last season but have to prove they reload and replace some key pieces on both sides of the ball. The statistics allude to regression, and emphasizing combating that and continuing to surprise teams will likely be the focus this spring.
Will the Cowboys be able to figure out their offense?
The Cowboys made changes to their offensive staff and schemes last season, which came with a decent amount of hype. It appeared to amount to nothing, as the offense struggled more often than not and went completely absent in the middle of the season. Their run-game remains solid, and that should continue, but their lack of a passing threat allowed defenses to treat them as one-dimensional. This spring, it is back to the drawing board. With new quarterbacks completing to start, they will need to prove once again they can show some sense of a passing game.
Your turn: What other questions do you have for these teams? Comment below.