Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

How much were Caragher's early teams "built for the WAC?"

San Jose State Head Coach Ron Caragher recently said the results of his first three seasons were partly due to being a program that was "built for the WAC." Does he have a point or not?

San Jose State coach Ron Caragher had an interesting explanation for the results of his first three seasons, in which he went 15-22 cumulatively. Caragher told the San Francisco Chronicle, “When San Jose State decided to move up into the Mountain West Conference from the [Western Athletic] Conference, the bar was definitely raised. The athletes we had in the program were built for the WAC.”

Caragher’s first season at San Jose State was also San Jose State’s first season in the Mountain West Conference. Inheriting a team with over half of its starters returning from a bowl-winning, top-25 11-2 season in 2012, Caragher led San Jose State to a 6-6 record in 2013 that included close losses to San Diego State and Navy. The team fell to 3-9 in 2014 before improving to 6-7 in 2015 with a victory in the inaugural Cure Bowl.

For fans who feel that Caragher is yet again making excuses after his controversial “were we favored?” quote from a post-game press conference last year, it is important to consider context of San Jose State’s conference transition. In the early 2010s, numerous Division I football programs changed conferences in what became known as a period of realignment. Specifically for the WAC, perennial conference champion Boise State announced in June 2010 it would move to the Mountain West effective in the 2011-12 school year. Months later, Fresno State and Nevada announced plans to move to the Mountain West in 2012-13. These departures ultimately led the WAC to stop sponsoring football after 2012.

http://www.scout.com/college/san-jose-state/story/1707123-know-your-foe-...

San Jose State, meanwhile, was in limbo. Administrators struggled to win the approval of the MW leadership. As Jon Wilner chronicled regarding the MW and San Jose State men’s basketball, “Two of the Mountain West’s most influential schools, UNLV and New Mexico, were concerned the Spartans’ ghastly power rating would undermine the strength of the conference.” Ultimately, San Jose State got its invitation in May 2012.

With the uncertainty of San Jose State’s football future, who knows what recruiters would have told prospects in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 recruiting classes, all of whose signing days fell on February? Thus, evaluating how many starters from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 classes received MW offers will show how truthful Caragher’s “built for the WAC” statement is. Sources for each season’s returning starters are from the “fast facts” sections of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 media guides. Information about recruiting comes from Scout.com data.

2013 returning starters

Legend: † Recruited for seasons after the WAC dropped football; †† Also received offers from Power Five (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC) schools.

Name

Position

Scout star rating

WAC offers

MW offers

Noel Grigsby

WR

2

  1. San Jose State

  2. Hawaii

  3. New Mexico State

None

Jabari Carr

WR

3

San Jose State

None

Ryan Jones

OG

2

San Jose State

None

Reuben Hasani

C

N/A

San Jose State

None

Nicholas Kaspar

OG

2

San Jose State

None

Jon Meyer

OG

2

San Jose State

None

David Fales

QB

2

San Jose State

Note: Fales previously attended Nevada on scholarship, then transferred to a junior college. San Jose State was his only offer out of JUCO.

None

Travis Raciti

DT

2

San Jose State

None

Anthony Larceval

DT

2

San Jose State

None

Keith Smith

LB

2

  1. San Jose State

  2. Nevada

  1. Air Force

  2. Utah

Vince Buhagiar

LB

2

San Jose State

UNLV

††

Derek Muaava

LB

2

San Jose State

Utah

Bene Benwikere

CB

3

San Jose State

  1. New Mexico

  2. San Diego State

  3. UNLV

††

Harrison Waid

P

2

San Jose State

None

Austin Lopez

K

2

San Jose State

None

Of the 15 returning starters named in the 2013 media guide, only four received offers from Mountain West schools while being recruited, and they were all defensive players.

2014 returning starters

Name

Position

Scout star rating

WAC offers

MW offers

Tyler Winston

WR

3

None†

  1. San Jose State

  2. Boise State

  3. Colorado State

  4. Fresno State

  5. Nevada

††

Wes Schweitzer

OT

2

  1. San Jose State

  2. Hawaii

  3. Idaho

  4. Utah State

  1. Air Force

  2. New Mexico

David Peterson

C

2

  1. San Jose State

  2. Nevada

San Diego State

Billy Freeman

TE

2

San Jose State

None

Isaiah Irving

DE

N/A

None

None

Tony Popovich

DE

2

San Jose State

None

Travis Raciti

DT

2

San Jose State

None

Nate Falo

DT

2

San Jose State

None

Sean Bacon

DE

2

San Jose State

None ††

Christian Tago

LB

3

San Jose State

San Diego State

Dasheon Frierson

CB

N/A

None

None

Jimmy Pruitt

CB

2

San Jose State

Colorado State

Forrest Hightower

CB

2

San Jose State

Wyoming ††

Simon Connette

S

2

San Jose State

None

Austin Lopez

K

2

San Jose State

None

Of the 15 returning starters named in the 2014 media guide, six received offers from Mountain West schools. One of those six, Tyler Winston, was signed in 2013, the year after the WAC’s final season of football. Three returning starters had offers from Power Five schools out of high school.

2015 returning starters

Name

Position

Scout star rating

WAC offers

MW offers

Tyler Winston

WR

3

N/A†

  1. San Jose State

  2. Boise State

  3. Colorado State

  4. Fresno State

  5. Nevada

††

Wes Schweitzer

OT

2

  1. San Jose State

  2. Hawaii

  3. Idaho

  4. Utah State

  1. Air Force

  2. New Mexico

Jeremiah Kolone

OG

2

N/A†

San Jose State

Nate Velichko

OG

2

N/A†

San Jose State

Evan Sarver

OT

2

San Jose State

  1. Air Force

  2. Fresno State

††

Joe Gray

QB

2

San Jose State

None

††

Tyler Ervin

RB

2

  1. San Jose State

  2. Idaho

None

Hansell Wilson

WR

N/A

None

None

Cedric Lousi

DE

2

San Jose State

None

Tony Popovich

DE

2

San Jose State

None

Christian Tago

LB

3

San Jose State

San Diego State

Cleveland Wallace III

CB

3

San Jose State

Boise State

††

Jimmy Pruitt

CB

2

San Jose State

Colorado State

Maurice McKnight

CB

3

N/A†

  1. San Jose State

  2. San Diego State

Austin Lopez

K

2

San Jose State

None

Michael Carrizosa

P

N/A

N/A†

None

Of the 16 returning starters named in the 2015 media guide, eight received offers from Mountain West schools, and five were recruited for seasons after the WAC dropped football. Four received offers from Power Five schools, including Wallace, who transferred to San Jose State from Washington in 2014.

What about schedules?

Another approach to seeing if Caragher’s earlier teams were “built for the WAC” would be to compare wins and losses against Mountain West and similar competition in the Caragher era compared to the 2012 season, San Jose State’s last season in the WAC.

As stated earlier, the 2013 (6-6) team returned nearly half of the starters from the 2012 (11-2) team. The 2012 season had five non-conference regular season games, of which San Jose State had a 4-1 record. Of the four wins:

http://www.scout.com/college/san-jose-state/story/1706032-video-sjsu-qb-...

- Two were against Mountain West teams, a 40-20 home win over Colorado State, who finished 4-8, and a 38-34 road win over San Diego State, the eventual MW co-champion.

- One was a 45-13 win over an FCS team, UC Davis.

- Another was a 20-14 home win over FBS independent BYU, who finished the season 8-5. BYU’s final season in the MW was in 2010.

The one non-conference loss was a 20-17 road loss at Stanford, who was then ranked #21 and eventually finished the season winning the Rose Bowl and ranked #7. Again, these results were with players signed before San Jose State was formally invited to the MW.

The following season, Caragher’s “built for the WAC” team finished 5-3 in MW play, including an upset at home against a then-undefeated #16 Fresno State. The following season, losing David Fales and many of the starters from 2012 and 2013, the team fell to 2-6 in MW play, with six of the 15 returning starters having received offers from MW schools. In 2015, with half of the 16 returning starters having received offers from MW schools, San Jose State improved to 4-4 in conference.

The verdict

It is true that a majority of Caragher’s returning starters in 2013 and 2014 were more likely to receive WAC offers than from the MW. Often, San Jose State was the only school known to offer them a scholarship. However, the results that these “built for the WAC” players delivered depended on coaching. Under Mike MacIntyre in 2012, San Jose State was a touchdown away from upsetting Stanford, beat the eventual MW co-champion, and beat a BYU team that still had several players from its final season in the MW. Under Caragher, while San Jose State has gone 11-13 in the MW, three of four non-conference wins were against FCS schools, with the one FBS win being in the 2015 Cure Bowl over Georgia State in the opponent’s third season at the FBS level.

Some may say that San Jose State’s 11-2 season was padded with easy wins. However, that team beat quality competition more often than easy competition. Of the 10 wins over FBS teams, six were over teams with winning records and four against teams with losing records. In the Caragher era, there have been just three wins over FBS teams with winning records: in 2013 over Fresno State, 2014 over UNLV, and 2015 over New Mexico.

Furthermore, the best mid-majors can challenge even the best in the Power Five, with the right coaching. There are already examples of that this year, when an unranked Appalachian State visited #9 Tennessee on opening weekend and led in regulation before losing 20-13 in overtime, and when FCS Nicholls State gave #9 Georgia a scare the following week before Georgia escaped with a 26-24 win. That same week as the Nicholls State-Georgia game, #2 Clemson beat Troy by just 30-24. Now that Caragher has more of the talent he believes can compete in the Mountain West, it is time for him to stop the excuses and start owning up to his results.

 


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