2011 WAC Preview - Team-By-Team Lookaheads
NMSU C Sioeli Fakalata
NMSU C Sioeli Fakalata
Posted Aug 9, 2011

Preview 2011 - CFN WAC Team-By-Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish

Preview 2011

WAC Team By Team

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- 2011 Fresno State Preview | 2011 Hawaii Preview 
- 2011 Idaho Preview | 2011 Louisiana Tech Preview
- 2011 Nevada Preview | 2011 New Mexico State Preview
- 2011 San Jose State Preview | 2011 Utah State Preview
- 2011 WAC Preview | 2011 WAC Unit Rankings
- 2011 WAC Schedules & Picks | 2011 WAC Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-WAC Team & Top 30 Players 
- 2011 WAC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 WAC Preview

WAC Predicted Finish

1. Nevada

Offense: The offense went from being quirky and productive under head coach Chris Ault and offensive coordinator Cameron Norcross, to something truly special. With Ault handling the passing game and Norcross dealing with the ground attack, the Wolf Pack finished fourth in the nation in total offense and eighth in scoring. Now the attack has to replace QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Vai Taua, TE Virgil Green, and all-star OG John Bender, along with two other starters. The line should be solid with three returning starters, while the running game should continue to be nasty with Mike Ball, Lampford Mark, and others ready to form a dangerous rotation. The air attack should be even stronger with QB Tyler Lantrip a strong, accurate passing prospect, and with Rishard Matthews one of the WAC's best receivers, there could be more happening through the air even with the loss of Brandon Wimberly, who suffered a gunshot wound this offseason and whose football career is in jeopardy.

Defense: All the attention was paid to the great offense and the big-time numbers the attack put up, but the defense did its part, too, finishing third in the WAC in yards allowed and 31st in the nation in scoring D. The Wolf Pack tried really, really hard to improve the defense over the years, and last year it finally happened with everything starting to come together. The potential is there for the defense to be the best in the league, helped by a strong back seven and a veteran secondary that should be all over the field, but a pass rush needs to develop. It all starts up front, but losing Dontay Moch off the end will be a problem, and Ryan Coulson will be missed on the other side. The tackles should be a strength, and they'll need to get into the backfield on a regular basis.

2. Fresno State

Offense: The offense was a disappointment, averaging just 371 yards per game, but the running game was decent and there was enough pop to the passing game to get the offense vertical from time to time. It's rebuilding time at several spots, but there might be an upgrade in the overall effectiveness. If Derek Carr can live up to the hype, or come close, the Bulldogs have a franchise-maker at quarterback for the next few years. The backfield should be terrific if everyone can stay healthy, and the receiving corps might turn out to be stronger even with the loss of leading target Jamel Hamler. The line, though, is a huge question mark after failing to keep the quarterback upright throughout last year and not doing enough for the ground game against the better teams.

Defense: After a complete and utter disaster of a 2009 season, the defense got far better in a hurry and it was all because of the pass rush. The Bulldogs finished 59th in the nation in total defense, but gave up way too many yards and points in chunks while not doing nearly enough to take the ball away with a mere five recovered fumbles and eight picked off passes. There's tremendous speed and athleticism all across the board, and there are a few superior talents like DT Logan Harrell and safety Phillip Thomas, but more big plays are a must and finding a productive pass rusher to replace Chris Carter will be tough. The linebackers can fly, the secondary is ultra-athletic, and the line should be able to get into the backfield. Now all the athleticism has to translate into more production.

3. Hawaii

Offense: Former star quarterback Nick Rolovich took over the offense and joined forces with legendary run ‘n' shoot guru Mouse Davis to make the offense blow up. Hawaii led the nation in passing, was sixth in total offense, and produced a 1,199-yard, 18-touchdown season on the ground from RB Alex Green. The line has to find four new starters, Green is gone, and three of the top four receivers need to be replaced, but QB Bryant Moniz returns after throwing for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns, and the shelves are stocked with several decent receivers waiting to break out. Finding a new starting running back will be a problem and the line will struggle in pass protection, especially early on, but the attack will keep on cranking out big numbers. It'll be a stunner if this isn't one of the nation's top three passing offenses.

Defense: After finishing second in the WAC in total defense and third in scoring defense, Hawaii's D could be even stronger even with several new starters coming in. The defense was ultra-aggressive before, and it was a whole lot of fun, and it should be even more entertaining this year with the linebackers expected to be turned loose even more and the defensive front full of players who can get into the backfield from all four spots. Corey Paredes and Aaron Brown form one of the WAC's best linebacking tandems, and the tackles should be solid with the return of Vaughn Meatoga and Kaniela Tuipulotu. The secondary is full of great athletes, but there are plenty of question marks with JUCO transfers and untested prospects needing to shine right away.

4. Louisiana Tech

Offense: The Bulldog offense finished 49th in the nation, but it didn't exactly do what it was supposed to. Everyone was expecting the Air Raid attack with passes flying around all over the yard, but the offense averaged a pedestrian 219 yards per game and was 88th in the nation in passing efficiency. The ground game, led by former Tennessee transfer Lennon Creer, was strong and carried the team over the second half of the season, and it'll do it again behind a big line that needs a slew of JUCO transfers to play big roles right away. The receiving corps doesn't have a ton of explosion, but it's full of veterans and should be solid. The key will be the play of the quarterbacks, with Colby Cameron a better fit for the job than Ross Jenkins, who was okay, but not great. There will still be balance, but the passing attack will start to look a bit more like the coaching staff would like.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler switched to a 4-2-5 look in 2010 in order to get more quickness on the field, but college football's fifth-worst D will now spend most of its time with three linebackers. Part of the reason is to try to shake things up after finishing 117th in the nation against the pass, and part of the reason is to play to the team's strength. The linebackers are terrific with Adrien Cole and Jay Dudley both on their way to all-star seasons, while there's good depth and several options to play around with. The secondary has experience and a few nice players to build around in safety Chad Boyd and corner Ryan Williams, but the production has to be far, far better. The line will be fine with time, but the young tackles have to form a strong rotation right away. The ends, led by Matt Broha, are excellent.

5. Idaho

Offense: The offense bombed away last season finishing tenth in the nation in passing, but it came at the expense of a running game that did next to nothing. Gone is QB Nathan Enderle and almost all the top receivers, but Brian Reader is a veteran who's able to step in an push the ball all over the field. The backfield is full of quick backs who could crank out big yards if given room to move, but the line has to be far better. Both starting tackles return, and they have to improve in pass protection to give Reader time to work. The tight ends will be great in the passing attack, but a few key wide receives have to emerge right away to take the pressure off Preston Davis.

Defense: After years of the defense struggling to do something right, anything right, last year there were some rays of hope. Finishing 95th in the nation in yards allowed is hardly anything to get excited about, but it was a step forward. Now with eight starters returning, the expectations are higher. The run defense continued to struggle, but the pass rush finally showed up in the Robb Akey era. Defensive coordinator Mark Criner has some terrific pieces to work around with everyone by safety Shiloh Keo returning to the back seven, and tackle Michael Cosgrove leading a decent-looking line. A pure pass rusher needs to emerge to replace Aaron Lavarias, but the athletic linebackers will help the cause.

6. San Jose State

Offense: The coaching staff wanted to change things up and simplify the attack in the first year at the helm after the attack finished 115th in the nation in 2009, but didn't do much better finishing 101st last year and failing to score more than 18 points in the first eight games. Once the schedule eased up, the production started to come. The offensive line that was supposed to be better last year really should improve with all the returning experience, and now Brandon Rutley and David Freeman need more room to move. The receiving corps will be a major plus, and it needs to shine with the quarterback situation in flux. Four players will be battling for the starting gig up until the opener.

Defense: After getting killed by major injuries, there's no excuse for the D to be miserable for yet another year. Head coach Mike McIntyre is a defensive coach by nature, and now he has a team loaded with good veterans and enough athleticism and talent to start producing far more on a regular basis. The key will be stopping the run after the line got beaten up and battered throughout last year, but Travis Johnson is one of the WAC's best pass rushers to work around. The linebacking corps has two terrific true sophomores in Keith Smith and Vince Buhagiar to clean up the messes, and it'll help to get back Pompey Festejo and Kyler O'Neal from injury. The biggest lift should come from the return of All-WAC star safety Duke Ihenacho, who missed most of last year with a foot injury. The secondary is now loaded with veterans and promising players, but like everywhere else on the D, the production has to come.

7. Utah State

Offense: Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin's offense exploded in 2009, but it was hit-or-miss last year with injuries to several key players a problem. On the plus side, star RB Robert Turbin is back after hurting his knee, and top receivers Matt Austin and Stanley Morrison return after missing almost all of last year with a knee and toe, respectively, and now the team has playmakers again. The line, if a few key JUCO transfers can shine right away, should be productive and athletic, and it should be able to open up the holes needed for Turbin and the speedy running backs to fly through. The key will be the play of a new starting quarterback in place of Diondre Borel, and while that might be a work in progress, the passing game can't help but be better after finishing last season among the nation's least efficient.

Defense: It's been a rough first few seasons for the Aggie defense, and now head coach Gary Andersen will take over the coordinator duties while Bill Busch will deal with the special teams and defensive backs. The strength is in the linebacking corps where Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher should challenge for all-star honors and should combined for well over 200 tackles. They'll get the chances to make plays with a smallish front three needing to do far, far more to be productive. The key to the defense, and maybe the season, could be JUCO transfer Evan Huahulu, a 6-2, 351-pound rock for the nose. He has to be great, the rest of the front seven has to get into the backfield, and the quick secondary has to get more of a break.

8. New Mexico State 

Offense: Offensive coordinator Doug Martin will try to generate production out of an attack that couldn't come up with production on a consistent basis and couldn't generate points. When the best day cranked out 29 points, and the attack came up with fewer than 20 points seven times, there's a problem. There's hope, though, for a bit of an improvement with nine starters returning led by a not-that-bad line. Enough big starters are back up front to get the ground game working, but the offense has GOT to get something out of a passing game that finished 117th in the nation in efficiency. Quarterbacks Andrew Manley and Matt Christian are decent, but the receiving corps has to unearth a few playmakers right away. The backfield tandem of Robert Clay and JUCO transfer Germi Morrison has good potential.

Defense: Alright, head man, it's time to show your stuff. DeWayne Walker made his reputation on defense, and this is the year he has to prove his skills with more than enough returning experience, and decent enough depth, to hope for a big improvement. Even with the loss of top player, CB Davon House, the secondary is deep and talented with Donyae Coleman and Jonte Green two strong tacklers. With linebackers Boyblue Aoelua and B.J. Adolpho back, the team's top four tacklers are in place. Now the back seven has to do less, meaning the front four has to start to produce. 119th in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, the line needs to get into the backfield, and the run defense has to be far stronger. It's going to take a rotation up front to make that happen.
- 2011 WAC Preview | 2011 WAC Unit Rankings
- 2011 WAC Schedules & Picks | 2011 WAC Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-WAC Team & Top 30 Players 
- 2011 WAC Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 WAC Preview