For the past few months we have been previewing different position groups for each team in the Mountain West. Last week, we looked at the linebackers. This week, we will turn our attention to the last line of defense. Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of each secondary in the Mountain West heading into the 2023 season.
The Falcons may not have the star power like other teams in the secondary, but this team returns a lot of players off of a defense that only allowed 159 passing yards per game in 2022. Keep an eye on Trey Taylor and Jayden Goodwin; they could be the best safety tandem in the conference.
As bad as the Colorado State rush defense was in 2022, their pass defense was good enough to keep them in games. Henry Blackburn, Chigozie Anusiem, and Jack Howell help to make up one of the best secondaries in the conference. I think this unit, along with an improved offense, will help the Rams contend for a bowl game in 2023.
This unit may have some growing pains after losing Evan Williams to the transfer portal, but having a game changing cornerback like Cam Lockridge will go a long way to help the Bulldogs repeat as conference champions. It will be interesting to see if Morice Norris can become a reliable corner alongside Lockridge. Norris is flying under the radar, but I think he has the potential to be an all-conference player in the secondary.
It feels a little weird to have the team that finished second in past defense in this category, and Boise State has done a good job of filling in holes in the secondary in past seasons. But replacing NFL caliber players like JL Skinner and Tyreque Jones is not an easy task. The Broncos do have a fair amount of experience in the secondary. But injuries are a major concern, and the lack of production from this group is a bit concerning. Keep an eye on Jaylen Clark; I expect him to have a breakout season at corner for the Broncos.
The front seven of the Wyoming defense is solid, but there are some major concerns in the secondary. The Cowboys finished eighth in the conference in pass defense last season and lack the elite defensive back that this team has had when they had great defenses. I am confident that Craig Bohl and his staff will prioritize this unit and they will improve from their 2022 numbers, but this unit is far from a strength for this team.
Ike Larsen is a legitimate NFL prospect at safety ,and Micah Anyanwy is a capable corner. But, there are some concerns in the rest of the secondary. The Aggies finished sixth in the conference in pass defense last season. They will need to build more depth in the secondary if they want to take the next step as a defense.
San Jose State
Pass defense was the weakness of this football team in 2022, but there are some reasons to feel optimistic heading into 2023. Tre Jenkins is a very talented safety and there are some corners on the roster with nice size that could help this unit take steps in the right direction. However, if I were a Spartans fan, this would be the postion group that I am most concerned about.
San Diego State
Similar to Boise State, it feels a little weird putting the Aztecs in this category. This team has consistently had one of the best secondaries in the nation, and it’s hard seeing this group have a down season. With that being said, there just isn’t the elite corner that this team usually has and finishing seventh in pass defense last season is a cause for concern.
The Rainbow Warriors have one of the best corners in the conference in Cam Stone. But the fall off after Stone is pretty steep. Finding a reliable second corner will be an emphasis for this team as they prepare for fall camp. Hawaii had one of the worst pass defenses in the conference last season, but they do have some talented defensive backs that can help to turn this defense around.
The Lobos’ pass defense was surprisingly solid last season finishing fifth in the conference. I do think this unit has a solid base, but a deeper look into last season’s numbers causes some concern. Opposing quarterbacks completed more than 60% of their passes, and they were among the bottom of the conference in yards per passing attempt. There is also the fact that the Lobos don’t have a true lock down corner. The defense is going to play a key role in determining where this program heads.
The secondary is a major concern for the Rebels. This unit does not have a star that they can rely on to lock down the opposing team’s number one receiver. It will be interesting to see if the new coaching staff can help this unit improve after finishing eleventh in the conference in pass defense last season.
Losing Bentlee Sanders is a major hit to the Nevada secondary. How this unit will look in 2023 is a bit of a mystery, but there is no doubt that there will be some growing pains. The secondary struggled quite a bit last fall; it will be interesting to see if this group can make strides this year.
Which team has the top secondary in the Mountain West? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.