2006 WAC Spring Analysis
2007 Preseason Lookaheads - WAC
Spring Practice Begins: March 12 Game: April 13
The early spring buzz ... Head coach Chris Petersen will be
locked up. At least given a bit more money and love to make sure he
sticks around a little while longer. After doing what Dirk Koetter and
Dan Hawkins couldn't and getting the program over the national hump,
Petersen's contract will be around the $1 million a year range. That's
still tip money for the elite of the elite head coaches, but it's still
a nice bump.
The big spring question is ... What does the program do for
an encore? Winning lots of games isn't a new thing for Boise State, and
being the WAC champion is old hat. Having national respect is a whole
new ball game. Now everyone will be expecting miracles and great play
calls from Petersen when games get tough, but now everyone will be
gunning for the Broncos that much harder. Remember, Hawaii, Wyoming,
Idaho and San Jose State all had BSU in trouble, but couldn't close the
deal. This year's team is far less experienced and not nearly as good
The most important position to watch is ... Linebacker. Lost
in all the fireworks and great offensive plays was a rock-solid defense
that, arguably, was the Boise State's best ever. The secondary, in time
will be fine and the front four rotates enough players to be decent, but
the linebackers might be another story losing heart-and-soul man in the middle Korey Hall.
Spring attitude... Don't change a thing. With 86 wins in the
last eight years, an average of 10.75 per campaign, there's no reason to
mess with the formula even with the newfound national status. As long as
the team keeps executing as always and keeps believing it's the little
program that could, it'll be fine. Win the WAC championship is the first
priority, and let everything fall into place from there.
(starting in April)
The early spring buzz ... There should be a little bit of
messing around with the coaching staff with former FSU quarterback Jeff
Grady becoming the new quarterback coach. With offensive coordinator
Steve Hagen gone, the offense still has to find the right guy to come in
and give the attack an identity that was missing last year.
The big spring question is ... Is Tom Brandstater going to play up
to his talent level? Even considering the tremendous history of Fresno
State quarterbacks, Brandstater might have the best all-around
collection of skills and measurables. He's 6-5, 220 pounds, has a
tremendous arm and can move. However, he wasn't even close to consistent
throughout last season and had way too many problems with interceptions
considering the offense was focused around Dwayne Wright and the ground
game. He has to show this spring that he's improved enough, and has the
mental toughness, to be a difference maker.
The most important position to watch is ... Running back.
Dwayne Wright was everything to the offense, and now he's gone early to
the NFL after rushing for 1,462 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lonyae Miller
and Anthony Harding, freshmen last year, have the potential to form a
dangerous 1-2 tandem to take the heat off the passing game.
Spring attitude... Get the attitude back. Was 2006 an
indication or an aberration? Talk about hitting the skids. Starting with
the near miss against USC in 2005's 50-42 classic, Fresno State
lost 11 of 12 games before beating the dregs of the WAC (New Mexico
State, Idaho and Louisiana Tech). The team always has more talent than
anyone else in the league but hasn't gotten the job done under Pat Hill.
Boise State walks what Fresno State talks.
The early spring buzz ... Who wants to play the Warriors? Making
the trip to Honolulu was always a fun game to book for teams who'd
likely have to battle for a bowl game. It was like a bowl played in the
regular season, but more often than not, the sun, the bikinis and the
vacation ruined the trip. Now, rumors of Michigan playing Hawaii are
dead after the Wolverines backed (re: wussed) out to face Appalachian
The big spring question is ... Can Jerry Glanville squeeze
just enough out of the defense to come up with the one or two stops
needed to win most games? The offense will throw up 450 passing yards
and 50 points on most afternoons, but the defense is just as likely to
give up 451 yards and 51 points to the better offenses unless the
experienced secondary plays far better. Finding some new ends who can
get into the backfield is a must.
The most important position to watch is ... Running back.
Colt Brennan will fling it around all over the place, but the offense
needs someone to step in and replace the underrated Nate Ilaoa. The
254-pound back was a load to stop when he had a head of steam, and was a
terror when he got the ball on the move in the passing game. He was
second on the team in total offense and third in receiving.
Spring attitude... Get to the BCS. The one slightly difficult
non-conference game, at the moment, should be Washington, and that's
being played in Aloha. The official WAC schedule hasn't come out yet,
but Boise State and Fresno State will likely have to come to Hawaii.
With this offense, and just enough experience on defense to not be truly
miserable, Hawaii has to shoot for one of the big five games.
Begins: March 31 Game: April 27
The early spring buzz ... How burned has Idaho been by the
defection of head coaches over the last two years? It should say
something that one of the highlights of Robb Akey's $1.2 million deal
over five years is a $1 million buyout clause. He's Idaho's guy for the
foreseeable future; he won't be able to afford to jet.
The big spring question is ... What kind of coach will Akey
be? Can you say enthusiasm? Known for his jumps and leaps on the
sidelines as the defensive coordinator at Washington State, he's
expected to add the fun and excitement to the team. This isn't going to
be a stodgy, old school team. Think Washington State with even more pep,
and with one of the WAC's better defenses.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback.
Idaho has to find an identity early on when it comes to moving the ball,
and without Steven Wichman, either Brian Nooy has to show he can be the
one to improve one of the nation's worst attacks, or the team will have
to go with the unknown. Akey didn't recruit a quarterback hoping for
redshirt freshmen Nathan Enderle and Jon Torbin, or sophomore Chris
Joseph, to be in the starting mix.
Spring attitude... Stability. Akey will be around for a
while, the defense is loaded with veterans, and the running game, led by
Jayson Bird, Brian Flowers and Rolly Lumbala, has the potential to be
great. After finishing last year on a five-game losing streak, and
getting worse as the season went on, the team has to work to improve
each and every week in off-season practice to be ready to hit the ground
running against (yikes!) USC.
Spring Practice Begins: March 26 Game: April 21
The early spring buzz ... All about Derek Dooley and his coaching
staff. After years of being the overlooked, above-average WAC team, the
program hit the wall under Jack Bicknell III. Dooley hasn't had any time
to breathe with recruiting, hiring a coaching staff, and getting
everything in place to change things completely around. The staff went
heavy on the JUCO transfers, especially on defense, so don't look for
any talk of playing for the future.
The big spring question is ... How much will things change
under Dooley? Completely. Offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo and
defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler are going to do things their way
meaning the offense and defense will be different than anything seen
over the last few years, but expect the first few weeks of the
off-season, and spring ball, to be spent just getting acquainted with
the players and getting everyone in the right position.
The most important position to watch is ... All the positions
on defense. When you finish dead last in America in total defense (483
yard per game) and scoring D (41.69 per game), all the positions are up
fro grabs. Fortunately for Spangler, he has plenty of options with all
but five players from the two-deep defense returning. No one's going to
stop the top offenses in the WAC, but Tech has to be far, far better.
Spring attitude... Take a deep breath and try to get back on
track. Last year might have been a disaster, but Tech went 7-4 the year
before and should be solid if all the veterans play up to their
experience. The new coaching staff is going to need time, and every
practice, to change things around after the team lost its final four
games of 2006 by a combined score of 187 to 67. .
Spring Practice Begins: March 27 Spring Scrimmage: April
The early spring buzz ... The Wolf Pack has all its pieces in
place with the hiring of Jim House for the defensive line and Charlie
Camp for the linebackers. While the two hires might not put the Pack
over the top ahead of Boise State and Hawaii, the coaching staff is at
least set going into spring ball. With several major replacements needed
in the roster, every moment the coaches have to work this spring will be
The big spring question is ... Did the ship sail? The WAC is better
overall than two years ago when Nevada pulled off a stunner and won a
piece of the title. With QB Jeff Rowe gone, along with solid back Robert
Hubbard and enough key players here and there to hurt, this might be a
perennial bowl team, but no more. The "Pistol" offense wasn't special
when all the pieces were in place, and now work has to be done to keep
up with the league's better squads. In other words, the program needs a
few wrinkles to be a champion.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Nick
Graziano is the likely starter with Colin Kaepernick to get every chance
to take over for Rowe. Decent quarterback recruits were scared off by
the thought of competing with the quarterbacks in place, and now there's
little in the way of depth.
Spring attitude... The system works. Yeah, Nevada lost five
games last year, but none were anything to be ashamed of losing to the
teams it was supposed to, and beating the ones it should've. This might
not be a WAC championship type of team, but that doesn't mean it can't
go back to a bowl and be a major player in the race. A few right breaks
here and there, and a sensational year from Chris Ault and the coaching
staff, and this could be the league's biggest surprise.
The early spring buzz ... There's a little bit of talk about the
recruiting class. Not that it's good or bad, but because there aren't
any players from New Mexico on it. Hal Mumme wasn't able to get the
seven in-state players he and his staff went after, but his class might
be the best the program has come up with in years.
The big spring question is ... Was last year the building
block to a juggernaut of an offense, or did it just beat up on a lot of
weak defenses? Probably a little bit of both, but with Chase Holbrook
and most of his top receivers back, highlighted by the 5-8, 155-pound
Chris Williams, the Aggies should battle Hawaii stride-for-stride for
the nation's lead in total and passing offense. A big more consistency,
and far better ball security, might mean the school's first bowl game
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive end.
The Aggies play a mixed defense usually sticking with a 3-4, but they
don't generate nearly enough pressure into the backfield with the
outside linebackers. The good-sized front three gave up too many rushing
yards and never got to the quarterback. If nothing else, an inability to
hit the passer on a regular basis in the WAC equals death.
Spring attitude... It's year three and time for the
turnaround to be nearly complete. While the Aggies won't win the WAC,
they're loaded with experience, have major producers on offense who know
exactly what they're doing, and will be involved in shootout after
shootout. Improving by two games to 6-6 is a must.
Spring Practice Begins: March 9 Game: April 14
The early spring buzz ... San Jose State is now a living, breathing
football program. After a fantastic season complete with a bowl win and
nine victories, Dick Tomey was able to win more than his share of
battles in the recruiting wars. Now the program has gone from being
nearly non-existent and extinct, to one of the WAC's powers thanks to
two good recruiting classes that filled needs and improved the overall
talent level in a big way.
The big spring question is ... Was it a fluke? Probably not.
The Spartans played good defense under Tomey with only an occasional
meltdown forcing a ton of turnovers and allowing an average of just 13
points over the final three games. The offense ran surprisingly well
with a nasty ground game and efficient passing attack. The formula
should work again with some overall program stability and a team loaded
The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver.
The top three receivers are gone meaning there might be even more of an
emphasis on the running game until the newcomers get their feet wet.
David Richmond is a next-level type of JUCO transfer who should
instantly be the number one target, but QB Adam Tafralis needs more
Spring attitude... Expect to win. Everyone will still take
the Spartans lightly, especially non-conference foes Arizona State and
Kansas State, but as last year proved, as long as the offense is
efficient and the defense forces big plays at the right time, SJSU can
play with anyone on its schedule. It had Boise State beaten before
blowing it late and let Washington off the hook in the season opener.
Expect this to be yet another of the WAC's annoying teams that no
coaching staff wants to prepare for.
Spring Practice Begins: March 21 Game: April 13
The early spring buzz ... Everyone seems way too excited about a
kicker. Utah State was one of the worst teams in America last year and
could use an infusion of talent just about everywhere. So where did it
get the most help this recruiting season? Kicker. Top recruit Peter
Caldwell was a must-get after Aggie kickers hit two of five field goals,
but the team needs extra points, not field goals.
The big spring question is ... Will the team be competitive?
The Aggies had a nice three-game stretch in the middle of 2006 beating
Fresno State and losing to San Jose State and Louisiana Tech by a
touchdown each. In the other nine games they lost by a combined score of
381 to 68, or an average of 42.3 to 7.6 per game. Everyone
understands that the team needed rebuilding and was extremely young, but
some progress has to be made in year three under Brent Guy.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Is
Riley Nelson the guy? He played well at times as a true freshman, but
didn't throw a touchdown pass over the final four games and saw his
accuracy fall off the map. Veteran Leon Jackson simply wasn't the
answer. If there's not night-and-day better production under center,
Utah State will be destined for the WAC basement.
Spring attitude... Utah State has to find one thing it can do
well. After finishing near the bottom in the nation in almost every
major category, everything needs a big improvement. However, if the
Aggies can find some niche, like having a few go-to offensive plays that
actually work, or come up with some sort of funky defensive scheme to be
pulled out when needed to get to the quarterback, they have to find it