February 10, 2011

WAC spring primer: Season of change

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The WAC opens its first season without Boise State and its last with Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii with its share of questions - beyond the question of just who will be left in the WAC in 2012, that is.

No team is clearly poised to take over the WAC after the departure of the Broncos, even after Nevada and Hawaii shared the league title with Boise State a year ago.

Hawaii is the only team in the WAC that enters the spring without questions at quarterback - but the Warriors return only three starters on offense.

Here's a look at how the quarterback positions and other issues could shake out during the spring in the WAC.

Practice begins: March 16
Spring game: April 9
Buzz: A decade after David Carr starred at Fresno State, another Carr will be taking snaps for the Bulldogs. After redshirting last season, sophomore Derek Carr, David's brother, is expected to be the starter this season. The WAC's second-leading rusher, Robbie Rouse, is back, but there will be a lot of new starters elsewhere on the offense. The Bulldogs have been stocking up on receivers, so they will hope they can absorb the early departure of Jamel Hamler to the NFL.
Practice begins: March 9
Spring game: April 15
Buzz: QB Bryant Moniz is back after passing for 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. That's the good news on offense. The bad news: Moniz is one of only three returning starters on that side of the ball. Royce Pollard, the team's third-leading receiver at 901 yards, is back, and the Warriors are hoping junior college transfer Darius Bright will become a top target. Defensively, rebuilding the secondary will be the top priority; coaches also need to develop some depth at end.
Practice begins: March 24
Spring game: April 22
Buzz: The Vandals are another WAC team with major losses on offense, beginning with the departure of four-year starting QB Nathan Enderle. Senior Brian Reader, who redshirted one year at Arkansas before landing at Idaho, is the presumptive starter. He started twice in place of Enderle in 2009, including a five-interception game against Boise State. Outside of that game, he has thrown 10 career TD passes and only two interceptions. Arizona State transfer Ryan Bass will look to revive one of the nation's worst rushing attacks.
Practice begins: March 10
Spring game: April 2
Buzz: The Bulldogs are high on incoming freshman QB Nick Isham, but he doesn't arrive until fall. For now, Colby Cameron and Tarik Hakmi, who started a combined four times last season, will compete for the job. While standout WR Phillip Livas is gone, Louisiana Tech will have two former SEC receivers returning from injury in Tim Molton (LSU transfer) and Ahmad Paige (Tennessee). The defense ranked 116th nationally, but it returns its leader in tackles (Jay Dudley), sacks and tackles for loss (Matt Broha) and interceptions (Chad Boyd).
Practice begins: March 24
Spring game: April 16
Buzz: No team in the WAC loses more impact players than Nevada, which must replace QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, TE Virgil Green and DE Dontay Moch. Running back is in good hands with Mark Lampford and Mike Ball, who both have 100-yard games in their careers. Nevada is also looking forward to adding freshman Kendall Brock. Junior QB Tyler Lantrip won't run like Kaepernick, but he has a solid tandem of receivers in Brandon Wimberley and Rishard Matthews. Redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo may be the quarterback of the future, so his development will be worth watching during the spring. Nevada needs two new starting defensive ends.
Practice begins: April 2
Spring game: April 30 (tentative)
Buzz: Senior Matt Christian was the better quarterback last season, but sophomore Andrew Manley is poised to be the full-time starter at some point. Whoever plays quarterback will play behind four returning starters on the line. New Mexico State needs a major upgrade just about everywhere else. The Aggies had the worst defense in the defensively challenged WAC - and loses a first-team all-conference cornerback in Davon House.
Practice begins: April 5
Spring game: April 30
Buzz: The Spartans had an awful 2010, but at least Mike MacIntyre started to put his stamp on the program. LBs Keith Smith and Vince Buhagiar and WRs Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones had productive freshman seasons. The Spartans must replace veteran QB Jordan La Secla. San Jose State must find a way to run the ball better, and it also must become more physical against the run.
Practice begins: March 28
Spring game: April 23
Final practice: April 29
Buzz: Utah State must find a replacement for three-year starting QB Diondre Borel, likely among players who weren't on the roster last season. Adam Kennedy, a 6-5, 210-pound junior college transfer, will get the first shot at the job in the spring before freshman Chuckie Keeton arrives in the summer. Beyond quarterback, the offense returns mostly intact, and RB Robert Turbin, who rushed for 1,296 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, is back from injury. The secondary has to be rebuilt, and coaches also need to find some players at defensive tackle.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.


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