March 6, 2008

WAC Spring Preview

SPRING BREAKDOWNS BY CONFERENCE:
ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC | MAC | C-USA | Sun Belt | Mountain West | WAC

The WAC has provided BCS "interlopers" each of the past two seasons with Boise State in 2006 and Hawaii in '07 and Fresno State could be that team this fall.

Fresno only has a few holes to fill this spring. That's not the case for Boise and Hawaii.

Here's a look at the WAC going into spring drills.

SPRING DATES
Boise State: March 10-April 11
Fresno State : March 28-April 19
Hawaii : March 31-April 26
Idaho: March 25-April 18
Louisiana Tech: March 15-April 12
Nevada: Feb. 29-March 22
New Mexico State: April 2-April 28
San Jose State : March 7-April 13
Utah State: March 19-April 11

NEW COACHES

Hawaii's Greg McMackin: June Jones is gone, and defensive coordinator Greg McMackin was promoted to replace him. McMackin supporters said it was important for him to get the job for continuity's sake, and he said the Warriors will run the same offense. Still, sometimes it seemed as if Jones' forceful personality was the best thing the program had going for it. With him gone, you wonder if the Warriors will founder again.

BIGGEST POSITION BATTLES THIS SPRING

Boise State: The Broncos need to find a new quarterback, with Bush Hamdan, Nick Lomax and Mike Coughlin the contenders. Still, unless the Broncos can find four new starters for their offensive line, the quarterback is going to be running for his life. Nate Potter and Matt Slater look as if they will get first shot at the tackle spots.

Fresno State: The Bulldogs are looking for two new starters on their defensive line one at tackle and one at end. Sophomores Cornell Banks and Mark Roberts are the guys to look at in the middle. Senior Michael Stuart who began his career at USC and sophomores Kenny Borg and Chris Carter are in the mix at end.

Hawaii: Oh, my, the Warriors lost their quarterback and their top four receivers. They signed five junior college wide receivers, but none will go through spring ball. That gives holdovers Malcolm Lane, Greg Salas, Aaron Bain and Michael Washington a chance to nail down roles. Tyler Graunke was the No. 2 quarterback last season and played well when pressed into action. Hawaii also signed two junior college quarterbacks, but neither will enroll until the summer.

Idaho: The Vandals have eight starters returning on defense, but they do need two new starting linebackers. One of those missing will be tackle machine David Vobora. Sophomores Joseph Dickson and Adam Shamion look to be first in line for the vacant jobs.

Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs need two new starting defensive ends. Junior college transfer Kwame Jordan the only JC recruit for the Bulldogs this year and holdovers Wes Day and Randy Grigsby will vie for the starting slots. The Bulldogs also need to find a new starting quarterback. Michael Mosley, last season's backup, Auburn transfer Steve Ensminger and sophomore Ross Jenkins look to be the top candidates.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack need three new starters in the secondary, with the only returning starter being strong safety Uche Anyanwu. Jonathan Amaya, who played corner and free safety last season, should start somewhere. Sophomore Ken Viser had his moments as a backup corner last season and also will be in the mix. Nevada signed two defensive backs from junior colleges, but neither arrives until the summer.

New Mexico State: The only returning starter on the defensive line is end Rhyan Anderson, a touted prep player from Wisconsin who began his career at Miami. New coordinator Joe Lee Dunn runs a 3-3-5 set. Two junior college defensive linemen enrolled early Jonathan Davis and Chris Romero and they'll battle holdovers E.J. Cannon, Sioeli Fakalata, Oren Long and Kawika Shook.

San Jose State: The Spartans need a new quarterback, and it's expected that Cal transfer Kyle Reed wins the job. Sophomore Jordan La Secla and junior Myles Eden are the other contenders.

Utah State: The Aggies are looking for a new quarterback. Jase McCormick and Sean Setzer are the top holdover candidates. McCormick, who turns 25 during the season, is a junior who signed with Utah State after returning from a Mormon mission. Diondre Borel, who signed with Utah State as a quarterback in 2007 but played wide receiver last fall, also will get a shot in the spring.

FIVE PLAYERS WHO SHOULD EMERGE THIS SPRING

Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater: He has NFL size (6-5/220) and now needs to prove he has an NFL arm and NFL savvy. He's a senior heading into his third season as the starter. Brandstater will be working with a new offensive coordinator in Doug Nussmeier, who had been quarterback coach with the St. Louis Rams.

Nevada LB Dontay Moch: Moch, a sophomore backed up star linebacker Ezra Butler last season. This season, the job should be Moch's. He showed some big-play flashes in reserve and must show some consistency this spring. He was an Arizona state sprint champion in the 200 meters in high school.

Louisiana Tech DT D'Anthony Smith: Smith, a junior, is ready to take the step from solid player to all-league player. He's a squatty guy (6-2/288) with a good first step and he should wreak havoc in the middle of the line. He also should stand out because of his uniform number: He wears No. 5.

Boise State CB Brandyn Thompson: Starting CB Orlando Scandrick left early for the NFL, and Thompson who played a lot as a true freshman last season looks as if he'll step into Scandrick's vacated spot. Thompson was one of five true freshmen to play for Boise last season.

Hawaii DT Keala Watson: He's expected to take over Michael Lafaele's leadership role on the line and on the defense as a whole. Watson, a senior, is a good run-stuffer who has some big-play potential.

FIVE IMPACT NEWCOMERS THIS SPRING

Utah State DT Casey Davis: The Aggies have a defensive tackle spot open, and Davis a junior college transfer who already is enrolled will have a shot at the job. Davis had 23 tackles for loss last season at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah.

Louisiana Tech DE Kwame Jordan: There are two open end spots, and Jordan a JC transfer who already has enrolled could fill one. He had an incredible 17.5 sacks last season at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College.

Idaho S Virdell Larkins: He began his career at Cal after a celebrated prep career in Oakland, left for junior college, then signed with Idaho. Larkins, whose cousin is Buffalo Bills RB Marshawn Lynch, already is on campus and should help what was a porous defense last season. "He can run and hit," Vandals coach Robb Akey said. "He has a chance to come in here this spring and make something happen."

San Jose State QB Kyle Reed: Reed is a transfer from California who was a four-star recruit out of Oakland's McClymonds High in 2005. It'll be a surprise if he doesn't win the vacant Spartans quarterback job. He left Cal last summer after being beaten out by Kevin Riley for the backup job.

New Mexico State OT Joe Suder: The Aggies need two new starting tackles, and Suder is penciled in as one of the new guys. He has great size (6-6/330) and was a first-team all-region selection at Arizona Western JC. He already is enrolled and will go through spring ball.

SPRING BREAKDOWNS BY CONFERENCE:
ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC | MAC | C-USA | Sun Belt | Mountain West | WAC

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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