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 in the secondary.
The Broncos played a ton of different players in the secondary last year thanks to a myriad of injuries. Somehow, it continued to be the strength of the defense. The Broncos bring back every player that contributed last year and they should be even better in 2022. JL Skinner and Tyreque Jones are likely NFL draft picks.
The Cowboy secondary should be really good this fall. They were one of the top units last season, allowing less than 200 yards per game through the air last season. There is some room for growth in the turnover department, as they only intercepted 10 passes last fall.
San Diego State
The Aztecs were the opposite of the Cowboys. They led the conference in interceptions last season while allowing the most yards through the air. I take that with a grain of salt. The Aztecs emphasize stopping the run, often putting seven in the box. Teams are going to get yards against them, but San Diego State capitalizes on it by creating more turnovers.
As this preview series continues to show, this defense is going to be really good in 2022. The Falcons finished second in the conference allowing less than 200 yards per game and they bring back plenty of talent in the secondary. There is some room for growth in the turnover department, as Air Force managed only eight interceptions this past season.
The passing defense for the Bulldogs was really inconsistent last season. They finished in the middle of the pack in passing statistics allowing 222 yards per game through the air and intercepting eleven passes. I’m concerned about this unit, though; they struggled against good quarterbacks. But it wouldn’t shock me if Jeff Tedford cleans up some of those issues.
The Rams limited the number of yards allowed through the air (211 per game), but their turnover numbers were awful. Colorado State forced only six interceptions. It is hard to win games when you have those kinds of numbers. The new coaching staff may help with this, but this isn’t exactly a strength of Jay Norvell teams.
The secondary was probably the weakest part of the Utah State defense last season. They allowed 230 yards passing per game and struggled to tackle in space. This was evident in their loss to Boise State. It seemed like this unit improved as the season progressed, and there is plenty of potential heading into the 2022 season. But they did not face a lot of great passing teams late in the season. They will need to clean up some of the puzzling performances they had like the game against Wyoming.
The yards allowed were a respectable 220 per game, but the lack of turnovers forced created a major issue. The Lobos forced only nine interceptions this past season, and for a team that is lacking in the talent department, they need to make up for it by being opportunistic. If the Lobos are going to improve in the win column, they need to force more turnovers this fall.
Thanks to Jay Norvell’s exit and the mass exodus of Wolf Pack players, the secondary is also looking a little thin heading into Fall camp. This unit was average last season, finishing in the middle of the pack in most passing statistics. It is really hard to gauge where this team stands with so many new faces joining the team.
San Jose State
It was like watching the 2019 Spartans all over again. They made mediocre quarterbacks look great. San Jose State managed only six interceptions in 2021 and gave up an average of nearly 240 yards passing. This unit has some young talent, but there is a lot of growth that needs to occur if they are going to have a championship defense.
Last season, the Rebels managed only nine interceptions and allowed nearly 240 yards per game through the air. There are some expectations for this team heading into 2022, and I would imagine that Marcus Arroyo and his staff will be on the hot seat if they can sort through some of these issues. The secondary will be a unit to watch this spring. Are they showing growth? Or will they continue to be exposed?
The Rainbow Warriors had far and away the worst pass defense in the Mountain West this season. They allowed 290 passing yards per game, and teams threwew it against them early and often. There were some benefits to this with Hawaii finishing second in interceptions. I think Timmy Chang needs to strike gold in the coaching department if these numbers are going to improve.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Who has the best secondary in the league? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.