Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Running Back Rankings

Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Running Back Rankings

Which Mountain West teams are in the best shape at running back following the end of spring football practices?

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Ground and pound is still the name of the game across the conference.


OverallQuarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver/Tight End | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebacker | Cornerback/Safety | Kicker/Punter

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Note: Italics denote projected starters.

12. Nevada

High ranking: 6th | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Sean Dollars, Wesley Kommer, Ashton Hayes, Cross Patton

The Wolf Pack aren’t starting over after the graduations of both Toa Taua and Devonte Lee, but the new era at running back begins with a lot of unknowns. Kommer made his one carry at Nevada’s Battle Born Showdown count, cashing in with a 60-yard touchdown run, though transfers Dollars and Hayes saw the lion’s share of the work. The former averaged 5.5 yards per carry and caught 16-of-18 targets in spot duty at Oregon last season while the latter has experience as a kick returner.


10 (tie). Hawaii

High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Tylan Hines, Nasjzaé Bryant-Lelei, Jordan Johnson

Lest you think that running backs won’t be important in Timmy Chang’s run-and-shoot attack, remember that Miles Reed ran for over 900 yards when the Warriors won the West division with that offense back in 2019. That makes Hines, who finished with a 84.6 overall PFF grade surpassed by only Boise State’s George Holani and Ashton Jeanty among running backs in the conference, a very intriguing breakout candidate after he averaged 7.64 yards per carry as Dedrick Parson’s backup in 2022.


Behind him, Bryant-Lelei and Johnson figure to build off of their own contributions from last year: The former managed to force 16 missed tackles on only 56 carries while the latter posted 5.75 YPC in a small sample size. How much Hawaii progresses in 2023 could depend a lot on how effectively this group provides a crucial counter to what will be a pass-heavy offense.

10 (tie). New Mexico

High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Andrew Henry, Christian Washington, Sherod White, Dorian Lewis, Zach Vigil

The Lobos have had a different player lead the team in rushing for the last five years. One way or another, 2023 will extend that streak to six with Nate Jones’s retirement from football, but the good news is this unit has some intriguing options that could step up and surprise.


Washington has already done so to some degree, a bright spot in a rough 2022 who served as Jones’s primary backup and made waves as a kickoff return specialist. White’s playing time was somewhat limited after an extended run in non-conference play, but Henry and Vigil may be the real X-factors here: Henry led Louisiana-Monroe in rushing back in 2021 and yards per carry last season while Vigil is a former New Mexico high school player of the year.


High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Jordan Younge-Humphrey, Andrew Wimmer, Courtney Reese

Aidan Robbins bolted to BYU through the transfer portal first, but he wasn’t the only Rebels running back to do so: Spencer Briggs, Samuel Green, Jayvaun Wilson, and Gary Quarles have all exited in recent weeks, too. The three names you see here are the only running backs listed on the current roster, which makes shopping for a new face or two in the portal almost a certainty.


In the meantime, things may not be quite as dire as it seems at first glance. Reese has never been a full-time starter, but he’s averaged 5.9 yards per carry in four seasons at UNLV while Wimmer led the unit in rushing during the team’s April spring game and Young-Humphrey demonstrated toughness in scoring twice against Notre Dame last year.

On top of that, the Rebels have already started shoring up their ranks here by landing William & Mary’s Donavyn Lester from the transfer portal. It’s still not ideal, but it could be a lot worse.

8. Colorado State

High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Avery Morrow (?), Kobe Johnson, Keegan Holles, Vann Scheid


This ranking assumes that Morrow will be involved in some capacity, though that isn’t a guarantee: The Coloradoan’s Kevin Lytle notes that he’s still suspended indefinitely after being arrested back in January, so while reinforcements like North Dakota State transfer Johnson are on the way, it’s a murky situation that, on paper right now, limits their ceiling in this exercise.

7. Utah State

High ranking: 6th | Low ranking: 10th

Projected depth: Robert Briggs, Davon Booth, Cooper Jones, Jordan Wilmore

This is one of the few groups of Aggies not to be carved up by graduations and the transfer portal, so while Calvin Tyler Jr. leaves big shoes to fill, the new committee could be a solid one. Briggs was a pleasant surprise as a true freshman backing up Tyler Jr., but Booth generated a bit of buzz throughout the spring while Briggs was sidelined by injury and could be a juco steal after rushing for nearly 1,500 yards at California’s Cerritos College in 2022. The bet right now is those two take the lead and play a big role in Utah State’s fortunes this fall.


6. Fresno State

High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 10th

Projected depth: Malik Sherrod, Elijah Gilliam, Damien Moore, Johnathan Arceneaux

After sending both Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims to the NFL, the Bulldogs now face the task of turning the page with some part-time players who enter 2023 with bigger roles on the horizon. Don’t underestimate Sherrod, though, who ran for ten or more yards on one of every eight carries last year and, like Mims, had zero fumbles on 80 total rushing attempts.

Gilliam provides a useful counterpart as a 215-pound bruiser, though it remains to be seen what the rest of the committee could look like. Moore spent three years at Cal and has a good deal of in-game experience to draw from while Arcenaux is a former three-star recruit.



Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Quarterback Rankings

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Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Defensive Line Rankings

5. San Jose State

High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 10th

Projected depth: Kairee Robinson, Quali Conley, Jakob Galloway

The Spartans would have fared better here had Isaiah Ifanse not bounced back into the transfer portal after committing back in January, but Robinson should still get plenty of help this fall after handling 83% of the team’s running back carries in 2022. That’s because Conley is a former 1,000-yard rusher who posted the second-best PFF grade (82.5) among WAC running backs last season at Utah Tech and Galloway could be the second coming of Tyler Nevens. It’s possible SJSU could dip back into the transfer portal for further depth, but this trio may be better than you think.


4. San Diego State

High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 7th

Depth chart: Kenan Christon, Cam Davis, Jaylon Armstead, Lucky Sutton

The Aztecs’ running game hasn’t been quite as potent over the past few years as it was during the heyday of Rashaad Penny and Donnel Pumphrey, but this group is now one of the most experienced in the Mountain West headed in 2023. Christon clearly has some explosiveness despite averaging only 3.68 yards per carry last year while Armstead nearly doubled his YPC average from 2021 to 6.01, leaving Davis and Sutton as the real wild cards. This could be a boom-or-bust group or one that leads SDSU to another championship game.

3. Wyoming

High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 9th

Projected depth: Dawaiian McNeely, DQ James, Harrison Waylee, Caleb Driskill (FB)

This unit just keeps on trucking. Despite losing the likes of Xazavian Valladay, Titus Swen, Jordon Vaughn, and Joey Braasch over the last couple seasons, the Cowboys can still boast of three runners who could make a major impact in 2023.

For starters, McNeely has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his first three years at Wyoming while James forced 15 missed tackles on just 40 carries in his first extended action last year. Waylee, meanwhile, led Northern Illinois in rushing yards during two of the last three seasons and was second among MAC running backs in 2022 with 3.74 yards per carry after contact. He’ll fit right in with the Pokes and, if everyone stays healthy, this could be one of the best units anywhere in the Mountain West.

2. Air Force

High ranking in group: 1st | Low ranking in group: 5th

Projected depth: John Lee Eldridge (TB/FB[?]), Owen Burk (FB), Sione Angilau, Aiden Calvert, Jet Harris

Losing Brad Roberts and Haaziq Daniels means that the Falcons will have to replace a combined 483 carries and 2,423 rushing yards, but you’d be wise not to underestimate this group too much because, well, the program tends to replace 1,000-yard running backs like you and I might restock a refrigerator.

Eldridge proved himself a big play waiting to happen in 2022, when he ran for ten or more yards on 26 of his 99 carries and averaged 7.74 yards per attempt, and there’s an inkling that he may be the one to replace Roberts at the newly minted “superback” position. Regardless of where he plays, all of the other players in this group were able to at least get their feet wet last season with a handful of carries and, with an experienced offensive line in front of them, should be in the conversation as the best rushing attack in the country this fall.

1. Boise State

High ranking: 1st | Low ranking: 2nd

Projected depth: George Holani, Ashton Jeanty, Tyler Crowe, Kaden Dudley

If you’re looking for a unit that has a case as the best one overall in the Mountain West, Holani and Jeanty could make that case by themselves. They’re two of the three running backs returning in 2023 who were among the top ten in rushing yards last year (CSU’s Morrow is the third) and, according to Pro Football Focus, also happen to be the top two highest-graded players at the position back this fall.

Additionally, Crowe has proven a solid producer when Holani and/or Jeanty need breathers, while Dudley could play a bigger role if the Broncos can continue to put themselves in a position to salt away leads. If this team has a big year, this group will likely be a big reason why.

More Mountain West Football!

Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Quarterback Rankings

Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Defensive Back Rankings

Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Defensive Line Rankings


Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire