Bowl season has concluded and basketball season is in full swing, but we still have plenty of football to talk about. For the next few months, we will be taking a look back at the 2022 season and reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of each team. With that being said, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of the running back position in the Mountain West.
It is no surprise that Air Force was the top rushing offense in the Mountain West. When you run the triple option, managing the game with an effective rushing attack is your identity. It doesn’t hurt that Air Force had the offensive player of the year in Brad Roberts. Will the Air Force rushing attack take a step back with Roberts and Daniels gone?
It took a few games, but the Broncos found their identity with a bruising rushing attack. George Holani and Ashton Jeanty may have been the best tandem at season’s end, and quarterback Taylen Green added a new dimension to the running game. The Broncos averaged nearly 200 yards per game on the ground, only behind Air Force.
Running the ball is what Craig Bohl and the Cowboys do. The Cowboys averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and Titus Swen had another dynamic season. With Swen off to the NFL, it will be interesting to see where the Cowboys turn at the running back position. They were decimated by injuries late in the season.
The Rebels had a well-balanced offense when they were healthy. Running back Aidan Robbins had one of the best seasons of any running back in the Mountain West. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Robbins is now at BYU and there are major questions about the running back position heading into 2023.
As I was diving into the numbers, I have to be honest, this one surprised me. The Rainbow Warriors finished fourth in yards per carry averaging 4.4 yards per attempt. It was a surprisingly effective component of an offense that struggled to move the ball most of the year. If Timmy Chang can effectively incorporate the Air Raid offense and the rushing attack can maintain this level of production, the Rainbow Warriors could be a surprise team in 2023.
The Aggies were near the top of the league in rushing attempts but don’t have the yards per carry and touchdowns to back up the 550 attempts they had over the course of the season. The injury to Logan Bonner made the Aggies one-dimensional, and teams keyed in on stopping the run.
San Diego State
Four yards per carry isn’t awful, but for a team that takes pride in running the ball, it was a frustrating season for the Aztecs. Perhaps the most puzzling statistic is that the Aztecs managed only eleven rushing touchdowns. Only Colorado state had fewer.
I went back and forth on where the Bulldog rushing attack should land. They were effective at finishing drives (28 rushing touchdowns), but the yards per carry (4.0) were a bit underwhelming. The Bulldogs were supposed to be very deep at running back but relied mostly on Mims.
The Rams had a historically awful season running the ball. They were last in nearly every statistical category. Colorado State had only four rushing touchdowns. I looked through rushing statistics for previous seasons, I think you could make an argument that this was the worst rushing offense in Mountain West history.
San Jose State
The Spartans have never been a great rushing offense under Brennan, that trend continued in 2022. The Spartans managed only 3.3 yards per carry and less than 100 yards per game. Cordeiro is the type of quarterback that can shine if he has the rushing attack to back him up. The Spartans will need to improve in this area heading into 2023.
Heading into the season, we discussed the importance of Nevada’s rushing attack. If this team was going to win games, they had to find success running the ball. But their success on the ground was limited. The Wolf Pack managed only 3.3 yards per carry.
The Lobos need to have a Wyoming/San Diego State approach to running the ball if they were going to be successful. But the running game was atrocious, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. Addressing the running back position and the offensive line will be a priority for the Lobos this offseason.
The Mountain West was stacked at the running back position in 2022. Which team has the best crop of running backs heading into 2023? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.