Now that all the signings are official and the classes are finalized, it’s time for a countless amount of hype and articles about your favorite team’s recruiting classes. It’s a fun time of year because teams have secured so much talent, and coaches, players, and fans dream of each one of them reaching their potential.
Our aim here at MWCConnection is to discuss how much talent and potential are entering the conference in this recruiting class. This will be accomplished through numerous different posts this month. Some of these posts will be team-specific, and others will be looking more from the standpoint of the conference as a whole. Today is a snapshot of the top talent entering the Mountain West in this class. Here is our version of the top 10 recruits this cycle.
How did we come up with this list, you ask? Good question!
Jeremy, Zach, and myself (Mike) put our heads together and spent a few hours spread out over a week or two to arrive at the ten recruits we listed below. It’s important to remember there is no perfect formula for recruiting, but we considered a few different things. Of course, we leaned on 247 recruiting and the rankings they provided. This helped to narrow our focus substantially. Then, we watched highlight films, considered offer lists, and discussed our cases for players. Other factors, such as position or level of competition also used to an extent, mainly coming into play in “tie-breaker” scenarios. What you see below is the result of that process.
It is important to keep in mind this isn’t a prediction on who will make the most significant impact or end up the best players in four years. Instead, it is a statement of who are the best recruits entering the Mountain West as freshmen. Recruiting rankings should never be mistaken as an exact science, as each year, some highly-rated players don’t live up to their rating, and players entirely off the radar end up making a big impact. However, the rankings end up getting it right more often than not.
With that being said, here are the top 10 recruits in the 2023 recruiting class.
1. RB Jambres Dubar (Boise State)
Jambres is rated one of the best running backs in the country in this class. He displays great acceleration through holes and shows another level of speed once he’s in the open field. Dubar breaks through arm tackles with no problem and keeps his legs moving, carrying defenders for extra yards. As a receiver, he does a good job looking the ball into his hands and is dangerous once he gets into the open field. Jambres is a star in the making and should play right away.
2. RB Damian Henderson (Colorado State)
Damian is arguably the top offensive player in this class for Colorado State. He is extremely difficult to tackle due to his ability to stay balanced after getting hit and the angles he takes to elude defenders. Henderson is strong due to his size and possesses great vision, which allows him to find openings in the defense for big gains. He is also fast, reaching top speed quickly, and capable of turning every touch into an explosive play. Damian appears to be a special talent who has the potential to make an impact next season.
3. OL Jonah Rodriguez (San Diego State)
Jonah is one of, if not the top offensive lineman entering the Mountain West. He is quick off the snap and fierce on the attack as he makes his blocks. Rodriguez moves into position well thanks to sound footwork, and his strength and agility neutralizes defenders trying to get past him. He regularly gets into the second level for additional blocks, and is even athletic enough to play defense. Jonah is skilled enough to play any position on the o-line and should anchor the unit for the Aztecs.
4. OL Taliafi Taala (Utah State)
Taliafi is a tremendous o-line prospect in this class. He has mammoth size but is athletic enough to move around to make his blocks. Taala does a great job staying low to use his whole body and he maintains leverage to gain the advantage against defenders. He has sound footwork and takes good angles to prevent defenders from getting by him. Taliafi is a future left tackle and he should occupy that position for most of his college career.
5. QB Javance Tupou’ate-Johnson (San Diego State)
Javance is an extremely talented quarterback heading to San Diego State. He is the complete package at QB, capable of explosive plays with his legs as well as his arm. Tupouata-Johnson has a cannon for an arm and throws all on the field with accuracy, noticeably on deep balls. He is a slippery runner and can either extend plays in the pocket or tuck it and run for big gains. Javance would benefit from redshirting to keep developing but is the clear quarterback of the future for the Aztecs.
6. QB CJ Tiller (Boise State)
CJ is a talented quarterback who caught the attention of many his senior year. He is very mobile and able to escape the pocket and evade defenders with ease. Tiller has a strong arm and completed passes with accuracy, especially on the run. He has nice touch even when he doesn’t step into throws and has no issue throwing deep balls. CJ will likely have time to develop in college and has the potential to get even better going forward.
7. DB Chase Davis (Utah State)
Chase is one of the most talented recruits in this entire class. He has great instincts on the field and has a knack for coming up with the ball, thanks to his time as a receiver on offense. Davis has a long frame and his height allows him to neutral the size of receivers, which gives him an edge on jump balls. He is versatile enough to play safety, corner, or in the slot with his speed and size convo. Chase could see the field as soon as next year due to his talent.
8. DE Brady Nassar (San Diego State)
Brady enters the fold as one of the top edge players in this Mountain West class. He is prolific at getting the quarterback by any means necessary, backing blockers down with his strength and getting by them with his quick change of direction. Nassar isn’t one-dimensional, he is also stout against the run since he is always in a position to make a tackle and he wraps up well. He is an aggressive, high-motor player who appears to simply outhustle others on the field to make a play. Brady looks talented enough to play right away in some capacity and figures to put up some nice numbers when he takes the field.
9. DB Marcus Ratcliffe (San Diego State)
Marcus is another extremely talented player entering this class. He is a well-rounded defensive back, capable of coming down with a big interception in coverage and also laying hard hits in the open field. Ratcliffe does a great job reacting to plays as they develop from his spot in the secondary and shows good technique tackling in space. He is fast, but also moves well laterally to elude blockers in order to get to the ball. Marcus has the ability to play right away at one of the safety positions.
10. DB Ty Benefield (Boise State)
Ty is a talented defensive back coming to play for the Broncos. He sees plays develop as he sits back in coverage and flocks to the play with his long strides. Benefield is a fierce tackler, getting his hold body into hits and using good leverage. He is adept in the run or the pass, but is at his best sitting in coverage and making plays on the ball. Ty has a natural skill set for a free safety, and it won’t be long before he displays that at the college level.
Recruits also considered: DL Vaka Hansen (San Jose State), RB Justin Marshall (Colorado State), WR Lavon Brown (Colorado State), DB Franklyn Johnson (Boise State), DB Nick Hawthorne (Boise State), DE Kennedy McDowell (Colorado State), DE Caleb Otlewski (San Diego State), DB Jonah Lewis (Nevada), DB Justin Johnson (Fresno State), DL Lucas Conti (UNLV)
As many of you may know by now, I like to also break lists like these down into tiers. Tiers can be helpful in providing a different angle to look at things. If one made an argument for flipping some of the spots on this list but kept them within the same tier, I wouldn’t put up much of a debate.
Tier 1: Dubar, Henderson
Tier 2: Rodriguez, Taala
Tier 3: Tupou’ate-Johnson, Tiller, Davis
Tier 4: Nassar, Ratcliffe, Benefield, Hansen, Marshall, Brown
Tier 5: Johnson, Hawthorne, McDowell, Otlewski
Tier 6: Lewis, Johnson, Conti
- This list includes recruits from five different schools, with Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, and Utah State securing nearly all the top talent in the conference this year. The Aztecs topped the list with four recruits, and the Broncos were right behind them with three. The Rams, and Aggies rounded things out to complete the top ten. However, the Bulldogs, and Wolf Pack had players in our “also considered” list, along with additional players from the Broncos, Rams, Aztecs, and Spartans.
- Vaka Hansen just missed cracking the top ten, being edged out by Benefield by the slimmest of margins.
- It is always a bit difficult to evaluate offensive linemen and this year was no exception. Rodriguez and Taala were clearly big-time talents at their position, but where they matched up against others on this list was hard to determine. Ultimately, it was decided they were two of the best players in this class, regardless of their position, so they rounded out the top four.
- This list is a more balanced this year, with six offensive players and four defensive recruits. Looking at positions, the list contains three defensive backs, two running backs, two offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, and one defensive end.
- As shown in the tier rankings, there is a clear top two, top four, and top seven. That part of the list came together pretty easily.
- Then, there were more difficult decisions for the last three spots, with six players in the same tier. Also, with another seven players being considered for the list, it demonstrates there is a good deal of talent entering the conference in the 2023 cycle.
- Vaka Hansen just missed cracking the top ten, being edged out by Benefield by the slimmest of margins.
Your turn: Do you agree or disagree with the players on this list? Who else belongs on this list? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Coming Tomorrow: The 2023 Mountain West All-Recruit Teams. We will roll out our first team and second teams featuring the top high school signees in this class.
Follow @Mike_SBN for all MWC recruiting news and updates. Jeremy Rodrigues and Zach Ballard also contributed extensively to this article.