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 defensive line.
San Diego State
Easily the best defensive line in the Mountain West last season. They surrendered only 2.7 yards per rush and tied with Nevada for the lead in sacks. This unit loses some talent, but for the most part, they remain intact and should once again be dominant.
They are the most undersized unit in the conference and somehow they always exceed expectations. In 2021, the Falcons finished the season second in the Mountain West against the run and fourth in sacks. This unit should be just as good, if not better, in 2022.
It was the tale of two halves for the Broncos. The defensive line struggled against the run and was inconsistent in getting pressure on the quarterback early in the season. During the second half of the season, those numbers improved drastically. The Broncos also made some nice additions to this unit from the transfer portal.
Similar to Boise State, this unit was somewhat inconsistent in 2021. They were third in the conference against the rush, surrendering only 3.6 yards per carry and sixth in sacks. However, there were some games where they looked completely outmatched. I expect this unit to take a step forward under the leadership of Jeff Tedford.
This is not the Rocky Long defense that we are used to seeing. They were decent against the run, allowing 3.7 yards per carry. But teams had all day to throw the ball against them. With Danny Gonzales entering his third year as head coach, it is time for him to prove that his team is making strides, and it starts with the defensive line.
San Jose State
Coming off the success of the 2020 season, I thought the Spartans would have one of the top defensive lines in the conference. I was wrong. While they were solid against the run, they struggled to get pressure against the quarterback. Cade Hall took a step back in 2021 with only four sacks.
Losing Scott Patchan is a significant hit for this defensive line. Patchan was the best player on the Colorado State defense, he is an elite pass rusher that cannot be easily replaced. The Rams finished the 2021 season third in the conference in sacks, and I don’t see them replicating that success without Patchan. The Rams struggled against the run last year allowing 4.1 yards per carry.
With the massive exodus of transfers, it is really hard to be high on any position for the Rainbow Warriors. The defensive line is no different. I know he is technically a linebacker but Muasau would often line up like a lineman and was a force in the pass rush. Losing him to UCLA is a major hit for Hawaii.
The Aggies were somewhat effective getting to the quarterback in 2021, forcing 32 sacks. However, their run defense really struggled, allowing 4.4 yards per carry. If this team is going to repeat as conference champions, this unit will need to take a step in the right direction.
It is really hard to predict what this team will do in 2022. Their roster was decimated when Norvell took the job at Colorado State. They had an elite pass rush last season with 41 sacks. But they had an awful run defense, finishing last in the conference while allowing 4.7 yards per carry.
I have to be honest; when I looked at Wyoming’s defensive statistics, I was shocked. They allowed 4.6 yards per carry. I would never expect that from a Craig Bohl team. And that is only part of the problem; they were eleventh in the conference in sacks. Appalling numbers for a school that is normally dominant up front. I would think this unit will be a major focus for Craig Bohl and his staff during Spring ball.
I mentioned last week that UNLV is getting some buzz as a potential bowl team entering the 2022 season, but when you look at their numbers in the trenches, it is hard to be optimistic. The Rebels allowed 4.5 yards per carry and finished last in the conference in sacks. The only way this team improves is if they can figure out how to improve their production in the trenches.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Who has the best defensive line in the league? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.