Football: How Does The WAC Stack Up?

How do the Spartans rate in the WAC now that sping ball has completed? Is Boise State still the dominant team in the conference? Who is a threat to the Broncos? Inside Sparta analyzes the teams - who returns, who needs to be replaced, and more - provides a post-spring ranking for the WAC.

No. 1
Boise State Broncos
2008 Record: 12-1
Returning Starters: 12 (6 offense, 6 defense)
Key returnees: QB Kellen Moore, RB Jeremy Avery, DE Ryan Winterswyk, CB Kyle Wilson, S Jeron Johnson., LB Derrell Acrey
Spring star: OL Michael Ames. Ames, a 21 year old walk-on freshman that hasn't played football since 2004 has impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and intelligence. A two year Mormon mission has kept him away from football until this year.
Spring recap: Despite the loss of Ian Johnson, Jeremy Childs, and Vinnie Peretta, there is still more than enough talent on this team to repeat as WAC champs. The opening game against Oregon could set the tone for another challenge to busting the BCS. The November 27th meeting with Nevada could decide the WAC crown.


No. 2
Nevada Wolf Pack
2008 Record: 7-6 (5-3 WAC)
Returning Starters: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
Key returnees: QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, DL Kevin Basped, OL Mike Gallett, DL Dontay Moch, P Brad Langley, DB Jonathon Amaya
Spring star: WR Brandon Wimberly. A former member of the scout team, Wimberly, at 6-foot-3, has impressed the coaches with not only his size and strength, but also his ball skills and physicality. So much so, he earned the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
Spring recap: The Wolf Pack boasts three 1000 yard rushers on the roster. With five nationally televised games, including the opener at Notre Dame, a strong season could put Nevada on the college football map. Having both Hawaii and Fresno State come to Reno is huge.


No. 3
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
2008 Record: 8-5 (5-3 WAC)
Returning Starters: 16 (9 offense, 7 defense)
Key returnees: RB Daniel Porter, DL D'Anthony Smith, DB Antonio Baker, OL Rob McGill, WR Phillip Livas, QB Ross Jenkins
Spring star: WR Cruz Williams. Originally a signee at Arkansas, the 6-foot-3, 195 lb Williams led all receivers in the Bulldogs annual spring game (5 catches, 109 yards), which included a 68 yard touchdown. He wowed coaches and teammates throughout the spring with spectacular plays.
Spring recap: The 2008 Bulldogs were 11 points away from winning their last 8 games. In 2009, with RB Daniel Porter and WR Phillip "Saturday Night" Livas, they just may have the best offense in the WAC. Outside of the  non-conference trips to Auburn and LSU, the schedule is very favorable.


No. 4
Fresno State Bulldogs
2008 Record: 7-6 (4-4 WAC)
Returning Starters: 16 (7 offense, 9 defense)
Key returnees: OL Andrew Jackson, LB Chris Carter, LB Ben Jacobs, DB Moses Harris, TB Ryan Mathews, WR Seyi Ajirotutu, LB Nico Herron
Spring star: QB Ryan Colburn. Colburn's emergence as the front runner at quarterback after the spring game was just what the doctor ordered. If Colburn, a junior, does not come through, Coach Pat Hill will be forced to hand the offense over to one of two freshmen. Colburn completed three long passes in the game, including a 62 yard touchdown connection with Michael Harris
Spring recap: With 9 returning starters, 2009 will be all about the defense. On offense, the Bulldogs need Ryan Colburn to come through. Fresno State has Boise State at home early, but the game is wedged between trips to Wisconsin and Cincinnati. Is Pat Hill really on the hot seat?    


No. 5
San Jose State Spartans
2008 Record: 6-6 (4-4 WAC)
Returning Starters: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
Key returnees: QB Kyle Reed, DE Carl Ihenacho, LB Duke Ihenacho, WR Kevin Jurovich, LB Justin Cole, OL Aliao Eliapo, LB Travis Jones
Spring star: PK Tyler Cope. Perhaps having a kicker as your team's spring star is not a good sign. But, in this case, the arrival of Cope has been a pleasant surprise. He should bring consistency to the kicking game, which the team has lacked for the past couple of seasons.
Spring recap: Word out of San Jose is the offense, which struggled mightily all of 2008, is coming together under the tutelage of new coach Terry Malley. The defense, while perhaps not a strong as 2008, should still be formidable. A very tough out of conference schedule might keep the Spartans teetering on bowl eligibility.


No. 6
Hawaii Warriors
2008 Record: 7-7 (5-3 WAC)
Returning Starters:  9 (7 offense, 2 defense)
Key returnees: OL John Estes, QB Greg Alexander; DL John Fonoti; LB Brashton Satele,  WR Greg Salas, WR Malcom Lane
Spring star: WR Malcom Lane. Plagued by both strep throat and pink eye immediately following the 2008 season, Lane emerged as a force to be reckoned throughout the spring, which included a 70 yard touchdown reception in the spring game.
Spring recap: The defense, which carried the 2008 team, has been decimated by graduation. The offense, once a stable of playmakers, lacks established stars at the skill positions. Still, there's enough talent for a decent season. After the tune-up game against Central Arkansas, the Warriors uncharacteristically play four of the next five games on the road to open the season. The last time Hawaii played three road games in the month of September was 1957.


No. 7
Idaho Vandals
2008 Record: 2-10 (1-7 WAC)
Returning Starters:  16 (7 offense, 9 defense)
Key returnees: OL Mike Iupati, QB Nathan Enderle, RB Deonte Jackson, SS Shiloh Keo, FS Virdell Larkins, CB Isaac Butts, KR Kama Bailey
Spring star: QB Nathan Enderle.  A 6-foot-5 junior, Enderle outshined fellow quarterback Brian Reader in the Vandals spring game; enough to hold the No. 1 spot heading into the summer.
Spring recap: In his third season at Idaho, Head Coach Robb Akey should finally start to see the results of what has been a slow rebuilding process. There is talent at running back, on the defense, and in the return game. Missing from the schedule is a body bag road trip to a juggernaut, with the trip to Boise State being the most daunting of the year.


No. 8
Utah State Aggies
2008 Record: 3-9 (3-5 WAC)
Returning Starters:  17 (10 offense, 7 defense)
Key returnees: QB Diondre Borel, SS James Brindley, LB Paul Igboeli, RB Robert Turbin, CB Kejon Murphy, P/PK Peter Caldwell, LB Jake Hutton
Spring star: S Cache Morgan. Having not only a great name, the freshman Morgan (no relation) led all tacklers in the Aggies' spring game with 10 stops.
Spring recap: The Aggies have the highest number of returning offensive starters in the WAC, but that could all be for naught if talented QB Diondre Borel does not play with consistency. New Head Coach Gary Anderson should field a decent defense. If the offense comes through, this team could surprise. The non-conference schedule is absolutely brutal, with road trips to Utah, Texas A&M, and BYU.


No. 9
New Mexico State Aggies
2008 Record: 3-9 (1-7 WAC)
Returning Starters:  14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
Key returnees: WR Marcus Anderson, DB Davon House, LB Nick Paden, OL Chuck Taylor, LB Jason Scott, PK/P Kyle Hughes
Spring star: TE Kyle Nelson. The tight end position returns to the Aggies offense, after a hiatus under former coach Hal Mumme. The 6-foot-4, 232 lb Nelson caught five balls in the Aggies annual spring game.
Spring recap: After an optimistic 3-2 start in 2008, the Hal Mummy era crashed and burned with a seven game losing streak. New Head Coach DeWayne Walker has his work cut out for him. Offensive line and linebacker are the strengths of a team that lacks talent at the skill positions. A Halloween visit to play at Ohio State could truly be a horror show.



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Mike Morgan is Senior Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Mike with any questions, comments, or tips at mike@insidesparta.com


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