Bottom Of The WAC
Friday - September 02, 2005
This is the second of a twopart lead in to the football season.
Our Western Athletic Conference season preview continues with a look at the bottom five teams in the conference.
It is sometimes said that the strength of a conference is determined by the prowess of the weaker members. That is not good news for WAC fans, since the three newest members, New Mexico State, Utah State and Idaho are all erstwhile members of the Sun Belt, which is the least of the Division 1-A conferences. As the following evaluations demonstrate, I have little confidence that the new kids on the block will serve as anything but grist for the mill. Remember, our top four selections were Boise State, Fresno State, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii. Here are the rest:
5) San Jose State. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, there was talk of shutting down the football program. Then they hired Dick Tomey and everybody’s excited. The Spartans will be better, not hard considering they were 2-9 last year. Tomey is known for defense. He’s got eight starters back including Kinji Green at DT. The back seven can run, and this group will hold its own. The offense needs to overcome both erratic play and Tomey’s conservative tendencies. QB Adam Trafralis needs to improve on 45 percent completion percentage, but receivers Rufus Skillern and James Jones have size and speed and RB Lamar Ferguson is an elusive runner. Think they’re looking forward to the Hawaii game?
6) Nevada. Head coach Chris Ault is old school. Football is fire and brimstone and the party is over. QB Jeff Rowe is big and strong-armed. The receivers are more than adequate and RB B.J. Mitchell is serviceable. The O Line is a huge question. Defensively, it’s good news and bad news. The good news is eight starters are back. The bad news is they weren’t very good last year. If the Wolfpack gets swept in its nonconference games, could be a long year in the high country.
7) New Mexico State. The Aggies were 5-6 in the Sun Belt, but have a new head coach in offensive wunderkind Hal Mumme. They will open things up with three wideouts over 6 feet tall, and a big-armed juco QB named Royal Gill. Expect fireworks in the passing game. On defense, they have a rebuilding job up front and are only adequate in the back end. The conference schedule doesn’t help either, with La Tech, Hawaii, Boise State and San Jose State all on the road.
8) Idaho. The Vandals were 3 – 9 last year and are stepping up in the competition. They feature the smallest facility in the league with the Kibbie dome (16,000 capacity) and have to recruit against Boise St. QB Michael Harrington is a talent, RB Jayson Bird can play, and WRs Wendell Octave and Desmond Belton will help. Defensively, LB Cole Snyder is the real deal, but he needs help. Hey, who wouldn’t want to go to school in Moscow, the “dry pea and lentil capital of the world?”
9) Utah State. The Aggies were 3-8 and may not do as well this year. New coach Brent Guy doesn’t have much talent or tradition — the Aggies have been in two bowl games in the past 44 years. WR Kevin Robinson is a bright spot on offense, DE John Chick is solid on defense. This program is at least three years away, and patience is a virtue in Logan.
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