Fall camp will start in less than a month for Mountain West teams. With it will bring news and updates, especially excitement about new up-and-coming players. So this week’s question is: who are the potential offensive breakout player(s) on your team?
Mike: I’m looking at Wyoming this week. The player expected to be a star for the Cowboys is transfer running back Harrison Waylee. However, given that he played a ton last season for NIU and put up 900 and 5 TDs, it could be argued he has already broken out. Instead, I’m going to suggest that backup running back Dawaiian McNeely, is actually the best breakout candidate. He played sparingly in two seasons before getting 63 carries in 2022. McNeely showed he was up for the task with 356 yards and a score. I could see his rushing yards nearly doubling and getting somewhere around half a dozen touchdowns in 2023.
Zach: For Boise State, Ashton Jeanty is the easy answer. But I don’t think he really qualifies as a breakout star. I’m going to go with wide receiver Eric McAllister. We started to see flashes of his potential later in the season as he became a reliable backup. McAllister finished the 2022 season with 259 yards on only 11 catches. The Broncos have a wealth of riches at the wide receiver position, Austin Bolt and Zamondre Merriweather are also potential breakout candidates for the Bronco offense.
Matt: With how much experience was lost from the wide receiver room after 2022, I think that it’s time for the tight ends to really shine. Tre Watson has done great in limited use so far in Fresno, and I think that this season is his time to truly establish himself. Keene will need a reliable option, and Watson will operate as that as the offense continues to reloaded and gain needed experience in 2023. After two years beset by injury, this might also be Jonathan Arcenaux’s time to show why he was a highly recruited player out of high school.
Jack: The obvious choice here is quarterback Clay Millen. After transferring from Nevada to follow Jay Norvell, he was solid in his first year as a starter. He led the country in completion rate, and his connection with fellow former Wolfpack Tory Horton was apparent, and transfer additions RB Kobe Johnson (NDSU), WR Dylan Goffney (SMU), and TE Dallin Holker (BYU) will give Millen even more weapons. With an improved OLine, and another year of development, the Rams QB could be a breakout star if they have a storybook run.
Dom: For Nevada, there’s no better place to look than quarterback. Colorado transfer Brendon Lewis appears to be the favorite to win that starting job for Nevada, and for good reason. Lewis was last a starter in 2021, completing 58 percent of his passes for 1,540 yards, 12 touchdowns (10 passing, two rushing), three interceptions and a 118.8 passer rating. His dual-threat abilities gives the Nevada QB room a spark it hasn’t seen in a long time. I also like running back Sean Dollars, who transferred from Oregon. He showed good explosiveness in his time with the Ducks, rushing for 316 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and 18 catches for 144 yards. That ability to catch out of the backfield is going to make him extremely valuable in Nevada’s offense this season. Dollars will not only break out, but I believe he’ll be the first Nevada rusher since 2016 to rush for 1,000 yards.