Signing Day needs: Mountain West
Got talent? Here is a breakdown of where your favorite college football team stands going into National Signing Day on Wednesday, according to CollegeFootballNews.com (Rankings based on CFN’s preseason team rankings within the conference):
1. Boise State (12-1)
What’s needed now: The Broncos could use a few defensive linemen, or else next year will have to focus mostly on the front four. Quarterback has been addressed over the last few classes, and receivers are in place. Linebacker might turn out to be the strength with a little bit of time, while the stars of the class will be for the secondary.
Team concerns: Defensive line. Considering all four starters are gone and a few good backups are also bolting, there might be some push at the last second to see if some recruits can provide a little bit of help. Of course, all eyes will be on Joe Southwick and Grant Hedrick to see if either one can come close to being another Kellen Moore. Running back D.J. Harper is getting another year, and he has to prove he can handle Doug Martin’s workload.
2. Nevada (7-6)
What’s needed now: The program didn’t capitalize off the big 2010 season with last year’s class, but it came up with a boatload of running backs, meaning head coach Chris Ault can look elsewhere. He’ll get quarterbacks for 2015 with the 2009 class providing several options in development. Cody Fajardo appears to be the franchise for the next few seasons. The defensive back seven could use more options for down the line, but several young players will be a part of the 2012 season.
Team concerns: Defensive line. There doesn’t appear to be any panic in this recruiting class, with so many prospects coming in a few seasons ago, but the Wolf Pack has to replace three starters and a few good backups on the line. A No. 1 target has to emerge with Rishard Matthews gone.
3. San Diego State (8-6)
What’s needed now: After years of loading up with skill players, the Aztecs need to do more for the defensive side. Linebackers appear to be set for the next few years, but the line will get more players even though there’s a young group ready to do more in the 3-4. Head coach Rocky Long likes big offensive linemen, and he’s bringing in some great-looking tackles; this could turn out to be the best group of blockers in the Mountain West.
Team concerns: Quarterback and running back. That’s what last year’s recruiting class was for with Long loading up with a ton of players and several options to throw into the mix, but it’s still too early to find another Ryan Lindley or Ronnie Hillman. The defensive line needs players from this class to be a part of the battle for jobs right away with all three starters along with both outside linebackers gone.
4. Air Force (7-6)
What’s needed now: The Falcons have to try to improve a defense that struggled way too often, and it’s time for the 2009 recruiting class of good defensive players to come up big. This year’s class is full of athletic lineman who’ll move around between linebacker and the front line starting in 2014. As always, the players are coming in who can run the attack with some talented, speedy running backs who can contribute early.
Team concerns: Tim Jefferson. The school’s all-time winningest quarterback might not have been a typical option runner, but he was a smart, tough leader who ran the offense extremely well. Also gone is backup Connor Dietz, leaving the door open for one of last year’s top recruits, Kent Rollins, among several other options, to complete with Tucker Tipton.
5. Fresno State (4-9)
What’s needed now: New head coach Tim DeRuyter is speed recruiting, trying to put something together in a short time. The receiving corps got some help in 2010, but more talent and more firepower is needed for 2014 and beyond. DeRuyter’s first job will be to improve the defense, but that’s for the 2013 class. For now, he’s just trying to salvage something out of the short time.
Team concerns: Defensive tackle. The linebacking corps is loaded with prospects from a terrific 2009 class, so DeRuyter should come up with a good rotation. Now he has to hope that Tyeler Davison and Donavaughn Pritchett are ready to roll at defensive tackle. There’s no Logan Harrell, but there’s plenty of size. Andrew Gustafson has to show early on this offseason that he’s ready to step in for Bryce Harris at left tackle.
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6. Wyoming (8-5)
What’s needed now: Just how much is the needle pointing up? With QB Brett Smith in place for the next few seasons, it’s about putting in the pieces around him. The 2010 class of receives should be maturing, but the Cowboys need more running back prospects with Alvester Alexander taking off early for the NFL. Beefing up the secondary is a must.
Team concerns: Offensive tackle. Both Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins are gone, as is center Brandon Self. UW will getyoung really fast, and the depth still needs developing. Defensive end is a mega-concern with Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton done, and next year’s projected end pair doesn’t have much in the way of bulk. This is a very young team in several areas across the board, so even after last year’s success, patience will be vital.
7. Hawaii (6-7)
What’s needed now: It might sound crazy for Hawaii, but it needs quarterbacks. David Graves will have the job all to himself for now, but new head coach Norm Chow has to find a few good backups to fight for the gig. The offensive line has to be addressed, and Chow will want to make better use of the tight ends, meaning he has to go get them.
Team concerns: The passing game needs to go back to being the Hawaii passing game, and that could happen with a more experienced receiving corps returning. The linebacking corps loses two key starters in Aaron Brown and Corey Paredes, and three starters are done on the line, but the 2010 class did a good job of bringing in prospects for the front with Moses Samie and Marcus Malepeai about to become major factors.
8. Colorado State (3-9)
What’s needed now: New head coach Jim McElwain didn’t get any time to work after helping lead Alabama to the national title. The last few Ram recruiting classes have been strong, and they’re going to have to make due for a while with this class not likely to be anything special. The linebacking corps will get one star to work around with Deonte Wortham coming in from Dallas, but overall it’s going to be a mad scramble to piece something together.
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Team concerns: Quarterback. With Pete Thomas transferring to NC State, the Rams lose their franchise quarterback who was supposed to be hitting his stride right now. Garrett Grayson was one of last year’s good recruits, and he has to grow up in a real hurry or McElwain will have some work to do all offseason. The O line needs the most instant help with three starters gone.
9. UNLV (2-11)
What’s needed now: Head coach Bobby Hauck has done a good job on the recruiting trail over his first few seasons, but it hasn’t shown on the field. He wants his team to be far more physical on both sides, but he’s not doing too much for the offensive line with the defense expected to get more talent coming off a few deep classes of defenders.
Team concerns: Receiver. Young in several areas last year, this will be a more experienced team on both sides of the ball. However, Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson leave gaping holes in the receiving corps. After going hard after defensive backs for a few years, the efforts have to pay off for the program with three starters and two good reserves done in the secondary.
10. New Mexico (1-11)
What’s needed now: Former head man Mike Locksley was supposed to be a big-time recruiter, and while he came up with a nice player here and there, he didn’t get the job done and the shelves are hardly stocked. Bob Davie believes in tough defense, but he also wants to come up with the building blocks up front to give an even bigger boost to a line that got plenty of prospects last year.
Team concerns: Defensive line. Davie will spend most of his time reworking and rebuilding a line that was among the nation’s most miserable under Locksley. Two starters are gone, but it’ll be a veteran front that has to be night-and-day better for any sort of instant turnaround. Solidifying the guard situation is also a must after losing both starters.