Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Wide Receiver/Tight End Rankings

Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Wide Receiver/Tight End Rankings

Which Mountain West teams have pass catchers with something to prove at the end of spring practice?

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Lots of unknowns make for surprising results.


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Note: Italics denote projected starters.

12. Wyoming

High ranking: 8th | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Alex Brown, Wyatt Wieland, Treyton Welch (TE), John Michael Gyllenborg, Jaylen Sargent, Ryan Marquez, Isaac Sell, Will Pelissier

Generally speaking, things didn’t go well when Wyoming tried to pass the ball last season and while some of that falls on the quarterback situation, the Cowboys pass catchers didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory. Welch has an argument as the top tight end in the Mountain West headed into 2023, but four different Cowboy wide receivers (Brown, Wieland, Pelissier, and Marquez) had a drop rate above 10% in 2022.


That could explain why newer contributors like Gyllenborg and Sell got a lot of playing time throughout the spring, with the latter emerging as a bright spot in the team’s spring game. There’s no doubt about the reality that this entire group has a lot to prove if Wyoming wants to finally make good on its dark horse credentials.

11. New Mexico

High ranking: 5th | Low ranking: 11th

Projected depth: D.J. Washington, Jeremiah Hixon, Caleb Medford, Magnus Geers (TE), Duece Jones, Luke Wysong, Andrew Erickson, Elijah Queen, Everett Hunter, Ryan Davis

The Lobos passing game struggled badly throughout 2022, but Danny Gonzales hit the transfer portal hard to remake this group for new offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent, pulling in athletes from Alabama State (Hixon), TCU (Washington and Medford), Temple (Geers), and UAB (Davis). Wysong returns after leading the team in receptions while Jones didn’t drop a single target in a limited sample, so if the quarterback situation is more stable this time around, this blank slate could accomplish some big things.


10. Air Force

High ranking in group: 2nd | Low ranking in group: 12th

Projected depth: Dane Kinamon, Brandon Engel, Caleb Rillos (TE), Wyatt Wilson, Tre Roberson, Cade Harris

Judging the Falcons’ pass catchers by normal standards is always tricky, though it may not surprise you to learn that the top three blockers among wide receivers and tight ends all came from Air Force. Losing Kyle Patterson leaves a big hole though a full season from Kinamon, who was slowed by injuries in 2022, will definitely make up for that.

The bigger question is who will emerge as the offense’s necessary big-play threat with both David Cormier and Amari Terry both gone. This would seem to be where newer contributors like Roberson and Harris could make the biggest difference, though don’t be shocked if a cadet not listed here is one who ultimately steps up.


9. Hawaii

High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 12th

Projected depth: Jonah Panoke, Jalen Walthall, Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala, Nick Cenacle, Koali Nishigaya, Steven McBride

The Warriors outperformed expectations by winning three games in 2022 and this experienced group could be key to doing so again. Three of the four most-targeted players from last year are gone, but Panoke, Walthall, and Mokiao-Atimalala all started multiple games last year and, with the run-and-shoot on its way back, there should be plenty of targets to go around.

Will they have more reliable hands, though? Drops were a major issue for just about everyone in 2022: Ten different Hawaii players had at least ten targets last season and nine of them had a drop rate above 10%.


8. San Diego State

High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 12th

Depth chart: Mekhi Shaw, Phillippe Wesley II, Josh Nicholson, Mark Redman (TE), Cameron Harpole, Brionne Penny, Raphael Williams Jr.

It might sound strange to say, but the Aztecs will need to find a way to replace their top two receivers, Jesse Matthews and Tyrell Shavers, after they both benefited from the team’s quarterback switch last midseason. The good news, however, is that Shaw returns after a strong November (16 catches, 216 yards, three touchdowns in four games) to lead a new contingent.

Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune noted that tight ends could play a bigger role in Ryan Lindley’s offense, a bit of good news for the sure-handed Redman (one drop in 45 targets) and Harpole. Penny has flashed an ability to stretch the field, but the real wild card here is Williams Jr., the Western Carolina transfer who spent most of the last two years as a slot receiver and caught 120 passes in that time. If this unit can hold onto last season’s late gains, SDSU could have its most dangerous passing game in over a decade.


7. Nevada

High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 11th

Projected depth: Jamaal Bell, Dalevon Campbell, Spencer Curtis, Cooper Shults (TE), Keleki Latu, Gerick Robinson, Carlos Sandy

The raw numbers from 2022 don’t really stand out in this group, but all four of the projected starters got their feet wet in Derek Sage’s offensive system and, if the quarterback situation can stabilize at all, could be much improved as a result.

Bell had a mildly disappointing season after a promising 2021 Quick Lane Bowl performance, posting a 15.2% drop rate, though he did average 5.1 yards after the catch per reception while playing out of the slot 90% of the time. Campbell did his best work in the stretch run (20 catches, 14.5 YPC in last four games) and may be a breakout candidate while transfers like Latu and Robinson will hope to provide useful depth.



High ranking: 3rd | Low ranking: 11th

Projected depth: Ricky White, Jeff Weimer, Senika McKie, Shelton Zeon III (TE), Jordan Jakes, Jacob De Jesus, Kaleo Ballungay

While replacing the Williamses, Kyle and Nick, will certainly be a challenge for new coordinator Brennan Marion, the Rebels still return a ton of experience here and, given better health at quarterback, could return to the form they displayed last September.

That could mean big things for White, who cooled down after a hot start but led the team in receptions and receiving yards, and Weimer, who missed time with a midseason injury but was plenty busy as the team’s primary slot receiver when on the field (team-high 3.7 receptions per game). De Jesus, a transfer from the junior college ranks, might be worth keeping an eye on after a big spring game, as well. This unit has the goods to make good on a breakthrough if things go their way.



Mountain West Football: 2023 Post-Spring Practice Overall Rankings

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5. Utah State

High ranking: 4th | Low ranking: 8th

Projected depth: Terrell Vaughn, Micah Davis, Colby Bowman, Josh Sterzer (TE), Broc Lane, Otto Tia, Kyle van Leeuwen

This ranking might come as a surprise given that the Aggies must replace three of their top four targeted receivers from 2022, but the mix of better health among veterans, emergent youngsters and key transfers puts Utah State in a much better situation than you might expect.


Vaughn is probably the best slot receiver in the Mountain West heading into 2023 and he’ll be joined by Davis, who averaged 22.1 yards per catch for Air Force two years ago, Stanford transfer Bowman, and van Leeuwen, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Elsewhere, the hope is that the 6-foot-4 Tia can step into Justin McGriff’s role while Sterzer and Lane help the tight end position re-emerge as a viable threat. There’s a chance USU dips into the transfer portal for one more player, but whoever is under center won’t have an excuse not to play well.

4. Fresno State

High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 9th

Projected depth: Erik Brooks, Artis Cole, Tim Grear Jr., Tre Watson (TE), Mac Dalena, Jake Boust, Emoryie Edwards, Antoine Sullivan

This ranking may also raise some eyebrows since the Bulldogs will need to replace five of 2022’s top six targets, but it may be a sign that Jeff Tedford has earned the benefit of the doubt. At a minimum, Brooks gives the revamped offense a reliable player in the slot and Watson, who missed the second half of last season with injury, could be in line for more action with a clean bill of health.

A lot will rest on the trio of junior college transfers — Cole, Grear Jr., and Sullivan — that the team brought in earlier this year, something which is still a work in progress. That might explain why the team recently went out and landed Boston College transfer Jaelen Gill, too, though the Red Wave has plenty of reason to remain optimistic that things will get figured out.

3. San Jose State

High ranking: 2nd | Low ranking: 10th

Projected depth: Justin Lockhart, Charles Ross, Malikhi Miller, Dominck Mazotti (TE), Sam Olson, Skyler Loving-Black, Nick Nash, Isaac Jernagin

Despite losing Elijah Cooks to the NFL ranks and a trio of others to the transfer portal, the Spartans remain in relatively good shape here and will count on previous depth pieces taking on larger roles.

Lockhart played an effective second fiddle to Cooks and caught 11 contested catches in 2022, the most of any Mountain West player back for this fall. Ross missed a chunk of the season with injury but flashed what he could do in an early three-game stretch (14 catches, 14.6 YPC), but the real key to success might be what the tight end trio of Mazotti, Olson, and Loving-Black can do: None played in more than eight games, though Mazotti finished second on the team with three touchdown catches.

2. Colorado State

High ranking: 1st | Low ranking: 10th

Projected depth: Tory Horton, Justus Ross-Simmons, Louis Brown, Dallin Holker (TE), Mekhi Fox, Jordan Williams

The Rams offense worked in fits and starts last year, but the duo of Horton and Ross-Simmons put on a show when the passing game clicked: The former averaged 2.77 yards per route run and led the Mountain West with 21 catches of 20-plus yards while the latter paced the conference with 8.0 yards per catch after reception and forced 11 missed tackles on just targets. Together, they could be the second coming of Michael Gallup and Preston Williams.

Depth could be a concern here, though the Rams just brought in SMU transfer Dylan Goffney to help remedy that. It also remains to be seen whether they can get more out of the tight end position than they got from Tanner Arkin in 2022, but there’s no doubt that last year’s upheaval put this year’s Rams in a much improved position.

1. Boise State

High ranking: 1st | Low ranking: 3rd

Projected depth: Stefan Cobbs, Latrell Caples, Eric McAlister, Riley Smith (TE), Billy Bowens, Austin Bolt, Prince Strachan

Davis Koetter is the only departure of note from this unit, which makes their standing here an unsurprising one. With a mix of veterans like Cobbs, Caples, and Smith and up-and-comers like McAlister, Taylen Green will have plenty of weapons at his disposal.

The main intrigue here might be further down the depth chart: Bolt generated buzz in fall camp last year before a September injury erased his 2022 season while Strachan, a true freshman, did the same throughout spring practice. Don’t forget: The Broncos led the Mountain West in 30-plus yard receptions a year ago and could easily do the same once again.

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 Wide Receiver/Tight End Rankings


Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire