Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Quarterback Rankings

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Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Quarterback Rankings

Which Mountain West football teams are in the best shape under center after spring practice season?

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The game’s most important position is in flux across the conference.

12. New Mexico

Projected depth: CJ Montes, Isaiah Chavez, Myles Kendrick

It got ugly for the Lobos once Terry Wilson was knocked out by injury midseason, but Chavez has shown a capacity to surprise over the past two years while Montes was thrust into a nigh unwinnable situation against Colorado State’s lethal pass rush and should be at least a little better than he showed that day with more experience under his belt. They’ll get a chance to grow with the rest of the rest of the offense after last year’s trials by fire, but it may be a while before we know whether anyone has separated themselves from the pack.

11. Nevada

Projected depth: Nate Cox, Jake Barlage, Drew Scolari

Shane Illingworth should compete for the starting job when he joins the Wolf Pack later this year, so the job for now will probably fall to Cox, who stepped in for Carson Strong at the Quick Lane Bowl last December. That game probably wasn’t emblematic of how capable Cox is, but with the program turning over a new leaf or three under new head coach Ken Wilson, the competition to replace Strong permanently could be opened up to options like Barlage and Scolari who haven’t yet seen the field.

Note: Drew Scolari retired shortly before this article was posted, according to Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray.

10. Hawaii

Projected depth: Brayden Schager, Cammon Cooper, Jake Farrell, Armani Edden

New head coach Timmy Chang has given the Warriors program a much-needed shot in the arm and enters his first spring with an intriguing quarterback competition on his hands. On the one hand, Schager had some early struggles as a starter when Chevan Cordeiro missed time with injury but improved week after week. Cammon Cooper, on the other hand, learned about the run-and-shoot under Nick Rolovich at Washington State, transferred to Hawaii when Todd Graham was still the head coach, and stuck around for the chance to be QB1.

At the team’s spring game, though, Schager seemed to put a little distance between he and Cooper in the competition. It’s far from over, of course, but whoever wins the job will have plenty to prove.

9. Wyoming

Projected depth: Andrew Peasley, Evan Svoboda, Jayden Clemons

With Levi Williams and Sean Chambers out the door, Craig Bohl’s “help wanted” initiative means that the quarterback room this spring will look a little different. The question: Will any of the new arrivals be an improvement for a passing attack that has completed 56% of its throws just once in the last six years?

Gavin Beerup, who had been the lone holdover from last year’s depth chart, is now playing wide receiver. Peasley is the option with the most previous in-game experience, but he currently owns a 53.8% career completion rate (though his yards per attempt did improve from 5.7 in 2020 to 8.1 in 2021). Svoboda, while possessing the prototype size and arm that Bohl values, is unproven for the moment at the FBS level. This group has the capacity to surprise, but then Cowboys fans have probably heard that before and are now simply waiting to see it.

8. Colorado State

Projected depth: Clay Millen, Giles Pooler, Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi

Jay Norvell got to inherit a quarterback who’d seen the field a fair amount, Ty Gangi, when he took over for Brian Polian at Nevada back in 2017, but his situation in Fort Collins this spring is different. Millen was recruited by the Wolf Pack as one of the program’s highest-rated high school prospects ever, and while he has familiarity with what Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme want to do on offense, the coaching staff made it clear that the presumed inside track doesn’t guarantee anything.

The good news for Rams fans? Millen received rave reviews throughout the spring, which takes the sting out of losing Evans Olaes, who played in three games for the Rams in 2021, to the transfer portal. His continued progress throughout the fall as the leader of an extremely young group will be one of the more fascinating narrative threads to follow across the conference.

7. San Diego State

Projected depth: Braxton Burmeister, Will Haskell, Marshall Eucker

Just when it seemed that the Aztecs had hit upon something to solve their long-standing passing game woes — they threw for over 300 yards in the Frisco Bowl win over UTSA, after all — both Lucas Johnson and Jordon Brookshire hit the transfer portal.

The good news is that San Diego State also dabbled in the quarterback pool, landing former Virginia Tech starter Burmeister to compete with the redshirt freshman Haskell while moving Jalen Mayden, who saw the field late in the championship game loss to Utah State, to the defensive backfield. The former seems to have solidified his hold on the starting job, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, so if he can play efficiently as Johnson and Brookshire were down the stretch in 2021, the concerns about this offense going backwards could quickly prove overblown.

6. Air Force

Projected depth: Haaziq Daniels, Zac Larrier, Ben Brittain, Jake Smith

Daniels probably doesn’t get enough credit as one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the Mountain West, so hopefully it’s clear that the Falcons’ standing here has more to do with those competing to be his backup in Warren Bryan’s stead, as none of them have much live game experience. Considering the toll that a Falcons quarterback can take every week, earning the QB2 spot is a potentially significant role for the winner.

More!

Nevada Football: Three Things We Learned From Wolf Pack Spring Football

Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Offensive Line Rankings

Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Specialist Rankings

5. San Jose State

Projected depth: Chevan Cordeiro, Nick Nash, Natano Woods

Nick Starkel was never quite right last year after suffering a September arm injury, but what made matters worse was that Nick Nash struggled in his prolonged stint as the Spartans’ starter. As a result, the offense never really got on track after exploding onto the scene in 2020, so head coach Brent Brennan went and made one of the most surprising moves of the early transfer portal season to rectify that.

Cordeiro’s arrival in San Jose came on the heels of Hawaii’s mass exodus of talent, the primary symptom of the saga surrounding the since-fired Todd Graham, but the Warriors’ loss is definitely the Spartans’ gain if he can build rapport with veterans like Elijah Cooks, Isaiah Hamilton and Justin Lockhart. And while Nash will surely get a second crack at competing for the QB1 role, the Spartans may also have the luxury of going back to utilizing him as a changeup.

4. UNLV

Depth chart: Cameron Friel OR Doug Brumfield, Harrison Bailey

Last year’s quarterback shuffle surely brought Marcus Arroyo a lot of headaches, but the Rebels did unearth the conference’s freshman of the year in the process so it couldn’t have been all bad. As a team, UNLV was more turnover-prone than you’d like with a 4.2% interception rate that was the highest in the Mountain West, but Friel set a new program record for single-season completion percentage, Brumfield looked like one of the conference’s most dangerous running quarterbacks in his brief time at the helm, and Bailey held his own as a true freshman starter for Tennessee late in 2020.

The trick for Arroyo and company now will be to identify which among those three deserves the inside track as QB1, especially since Brumfield briefly flirted with the transfer portal just weeks ago, but the potential for all of them is there and the pressure to get it right is immense.

3. Boise State

Projected depth: Hank Bachmeier, Taylen Green, Sam Vidlak

Bachmeier still has a strong case as the best quarterback in the Mountain West when healthy, but he wasn’t for a big chunk of last season and now that Jack Sears has moved on, the future could be thrust upon the boys in blue if they can’t keep “Hurricane Hank” on his feet this fall. Green has looked like a quarterback with all of the necessary tools when given a chance to shine on the practice field, but he’s very clearly Plan B for this year. Vidlak, meanwhile, has just three career pass attempts to his name. That pair’s ceiling Bachmeier is probably higher than depth elsewhere in the conference — such is the benefit of recruiting well year after year — but the best-case scenario is the Broncos won’t have to find out for sure until 2022.

2. Fresno State

Projected depth: Jake Haener, Jaylen Henderson, Logan Fife

You could probably flip the Broncos and Bulldogs here without much fuss, though Haener had the better overall 2021 despite a couple of clunkers. What both teams have in common are future prospects, Henderson in this case, about whom the fanbase is excited but who have not yet seen more than glimpses of live action to date. Assuming everything goes to plan in 2022, the Red Wave may not get much more than some garbage time looks from their depth here… and that isn’t a bad thing.

1. Utah State

Projected depth: Logan Bonner, Cooper Legas, Levi Williams

Other teams in the conference still have high-end talents at QB1, but the defending Mountain West champions are sitting pretty for now by virtue of having the best of both worlds: Unlike the teams behind them, the Aggies have a top-flight starter for now and they’ve seen more than a glimpse of their future.

Legas, of course, had a solid performance off the bench in December’s Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl while the addition of Williams from division rival Wyoming gives them another option who has starting experience and flashed big-time tools at times.

More Mountain West Football!

Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Quarterback Rankings

Nevada Football: Three Things We Learned From Wolf Pack Spring Football

Mountain West Football: Post-Spring Practice Offensive Line Rankings

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