2008 Early WAC Lookaheads
Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater
Fresno State QB Tom Brandstater
Posted Feb 17, 2008

Here's an early look-ahead at each WAC team with what needs working on and why to be excited and grouchy.

2008 WAC Early Lookaheads

Boise State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Idaho | Louisiana Tech
Nevada | New Mexico St | San Jose State | Utah State

2007 Pages
2007 WAC Season | 2007 WAC Early Lookbacks & Recaps
Boise State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Idaho | Louisiana Tech
Nevada | New Mexico St | San Jose State | Utah State

Boise State
Why to get excited: The Broncos should be better while the most of the WAC is taking a step back. As long as the quarterback situation is settled early, BSU has the skill players to improve on the nation's fourth best scoring attack with RB Ian Johnson a legitimate Heisman candidate. The defense has been underappreciated over the years, and with most of the back seven returning, it should be the best in the WAC yet again.
Why to be grouchy: The lines take a hit losing three starters off the defensive side and four off the offense, including All-Everything tackle Ryan Clady. You don't get better by losing a safety like Marty Tadman, who'll be missed even more considering the loss of all-star DE Nick Schlekeway and tackles Ian Smart and Sione Tavake up front.
The number one thing to work on is: There's still that matter of the starting quarterback with Bush Hamdan, Nick Lomax, Mike Coughlin and Kellen Moore all battling for the gig. The receiving corps is there, and Johnson will make things easier for everyone, but with the line needing work, the No. 1 passer might also have to be among the most mobile.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Ryan Clady
Biggest defensive loss: S Marty Tadman
Best returning offensive player: RB Ian Johnson, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: CB Kyle Wilson, Jr.

Fresno State
Why to get excited: If this isn't Pat Hill's best team, it's a close second with eight starters back on offense and seven on defense from a team that closed strong winning three in a row including victories over Kansas State and Georgia Tech. The offense just started to hit its stride over the second half of the year, and now with QB Tom Brandstater, his main receivers, and RBs Ryan Mathews and Lonyae Miller returning, the attack should be devastating.
Why to be grouchy: This is Fresno State, so the non-conference schedule is going to be nasty. Wisconsin is coming to The Valley, but the Bulldogs have to go on the road to face UCLA, Kansas State, and Toledo's big-time offense. While a slew of talent returns on both side of the ball, both kickers have to be replaced. LB Marcus Riley and DE Tyler Clutts will be missed.
The number one thing to work on is: Forcing more mistakes. The offense wasn't bad at hanging on to the ball with 22 turnovers, a relatively average mark, but the defense didn't do enough to take it away forcing a mere 13 turnovers. Offensively, Brandstater was effective in the balanced offense, and this year he has to work on being able to push the ball deeper and being able to come up with bigger plays.
Biggest offensive loss: C Ryan Wendell
Biggest defensive loss: DE Tyler Clutts
Best returning offensive player: TE Bear Pascoe, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Ben Jacobs, Soph.

Why to get excited: No, the offense isn't going to be as potent without June Jones, Colt Brennan, and all the star receivers, but it's not like it's going to go into the tank. The O line gets three starters back including both tackles, and Tyler Graunke, if he ends up winning the job, has experience in the system and should be able to wing it around and keep the passing game going. New head coach Greg McMackin isn't letting the program set the expectations low, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... the expectations should be low. 2007 was an all-timer of a season, and now seven starters are gone off the offense and seven are gone from the D. This is a program in transition, and while it's planning on challenging for the WAC title again with an us-against-the-world attitude, the firepower simply isn't there to get by both Fresno State and Boise State.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting a bit more balance. No, the Warriors aren't going to stop throwing it, but with a wholesale change in the receiving corps, and a new starting quarterback coming in to replace Brennan, the running game needs to start doing more. Mario Cox is back after being suspended all of last year, leading rusher Kealoha Pilares, David Farmer, Leon Wright -Jackson, Daniel Libre, and JUCO transfer Jake Heun will all battle for playing time
Biggest offensive loss: QB Colt Brennan
Biggest defensive loss: DT Michael Lafaele
Best returning offensive player: C John Estes, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Solomon Elimimian

Why to get excited: Last season might have been lousy, with the Vandals failing to beat an FBS team, but it's not like the team's effort wasn't there. Call it a potential stepping stone to a solid 2008 with all 11 starters returning on offense and eight coming back on D. Head coach Robb Akey needed a year to figure out what he was doing, and now he and his staff should be much stronger.
Why to be grouchy: Can anyone on defense actually play? Akey was supposed to improve the defense, but it gave up points in bunches and almost never came up with a stop needed to give the offense a break. No, there aren't many starters gone, but the D lost its best players, LB David Vobora and CB Stanley Franks.
The number one thing to work on is: Passing efficiency. Nathan Enderle took over the quarterback job early on, and while he has good size, a strong arm, and the skills to potentially be solid, he was awful at times. The Vandal running attack should be good with Deonte Jackson a budding star to build around, but if Enderle isn't sharper, the offense will continue to be mediocre. Defensively, the Vandals have to figure out how to generate a pass rush or the secondary will get picked apart yet again.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Brian Flowers
Biggest defensive loss: LB David Vobora
Best returning offensive player: RB Deonte Jackson, Soph.
Best returning defensive player:
SS Shiloh Keo, Jr.

Louisiana Tech
Why to get excited: This was a better team than it got credit for with a decent 5-7 first season under head coach Derek Dooley, and now everything's there to get bowl eligible. Eight starters return to what was a young offense, with three freshmen thrown to the wolves late in the year on the line, while five decent starters are back on defense. There's immediate help from the JUCO ranks to help fill in the holes.
Why to be grouchy: There are major changes needed to be made on the defense front. If JUCO transfer Kwame Jordan isn't as good as advertised, generating pressure could be a problem with three starters gone off the defense line, and linebackers Mark Dillard, Anthony Crosby and Tony Moss gone. Three starters are back on the offensive line, but both starting tackles need to be replaced.
The number one thing to work on is: Finding a quarterback. Zac Champion wasn't anything special, but he was experienced and serviceable. Now there should be an interesting battle between backup Michael Mosley, Ross Jenkins, and Steve Ensminger, who transfers over from Auburn and might be the strongest options. Bomber Andrew Calantone, who transferred from New Mexico State, won't be eligible until next year.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Tyler Miller
Biggest defensive loss: DT Josh Muse
Best returning offensive player: RB Patrick Jackson, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS Antonio Baker, Jr.

Why to get excited: While there will be a battle for the starting quarterback job, Colin Kaepernick proved to be a dangerous weapon who'll keep opposing WAC defensive coordinators up at night. Seven other starters return to the offense, while five starters are back on D. Luke Lippencott leads the WAC's best rushing offense with four starters up front to work behind.
Why to be grouchy: Those six starters lost off the defense are going to hurt, especially LB Ezra Butler and DT Matt Hines. The team should be good, but it's probably no better than third behind Fresno State and Boise State going into the season, and non-conference dates with Texas Tech and at Missouri aren't going to help the record. Three starters are gone off the secondary, and the battles with the Red Raiders and Tigers are in early September.
The number one thing to work on is: Everything about the punting game. Punter Zachary Whited is gone, but it's not like the Wolf Pack did much in field position netting a mere 32 yards per kick. The return game was mediocre averaging a WAC worst 7.15 yards pre try. Defensively, the more the revamped secondary can do, the better the chance to finish in the WAC's top three. You can't win in the WAC if you struggle against efficient quarterbacks.
Biggest offensive loss: TE Adam Bishop
Biggest defensive loss: LB Ezra Butler
Best returning offensive player: RB Luke Lippincott, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Kevin Basped, Soph.

New Mexico State
Why to get excited: Time to gear it all up again. QB Chase Holbrook is back after a slightly disappointing season, the receiving corps is loaded again, and there's more than enough running backs to potentially add a bit more diversity to the attack. The secondary might not have been good last year, but at least three starters return to hope for a little bit of improvement.
Why to be grouchy: The defense needs a lot of work, and it'll have to improve with a whole slew of new starters. Four starters are gone off the defensive front seven, including a group of backups. It's year three in the Hal Mumme era, and while there was a good overall leap in production last season, there was still a 4-9 record and a five-game losing streak to close things out. Only two wins came against FBS teams.
The number one thing to work on is: Improving the turnover margin. There actually weren't that many turnovers, giving it away 29 times, but the defense did next to nothing to turn games around with a mere 14 takeaways. Part of the problem was a secondary that was simply trying to keep its head above water, and part of the problem was a defensive front that didn't get into the backfield nearly enough. There was too much reading and reacting and not enough attacking.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Mike Martinez
Biggest defensive loss: LB Dante Floyd
Best returning offensive player: QB Chase Holbrook, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS Derrick Richardson, Sr.

San Jose State
Why to get excited: Head coach Dick Tomey is still around, despite a few rumblings that he might jump to Hawaii. The team took a bit of a step back after a breakout 2006 campaign, but it wasn't a bad season going 5-7 with two wins in the final three games. Now, enough talent returns on both sides of the ball to shoot for a second bowl game in three seasons with seven starters back on defense and seven on offense.
Why to be grouchy: There's still a lot of question marks. Can the offense start scoring on a more consistent basis with a new starting quarterback and several young runners? How will the linebacking corps be able to replace Matt Castelo and Demetrius Jones? The secondary might have come up with a big coup in getting former Oregon State Beaver Coye Francies, but it'll still hurt to lose top corner Dwight Lowery.
The number one thing to work on is: And the quarterback will be ... ? Adam Tafralis grew into the job over his long tenure, and now the hope is for former Cal Bear Kyle Reed to be ready to shine early on. If not, it might be Jordan LaSecla, who turned into the No. 2 option as last year went on. Improving the nation's worst punting game, which netted a mere 30.33 yards per kick, would be nice.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Adam Tafralis
Biggest defensive loss: LB Matt Castelo
Best returning offensive player: WR Kevin Jurovich, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DT Jarron Gilbert, Sr.

Utah State
Why to get excited: Head coach Brent Guy came up with a few ready-made bodies in the recruiting class to beef up the lines. Even so, after a slew of injuries kicked in, that meant some green players had to see time, and now it should pay off with a veteran team returning. Ten starters are back on defense and six return on offense, so if the program is ever going to turn a corner, coming off a two-game winning streak to end last year, this has to be the season.
Why to be grouchy: Can the team actually play? Yeah, there were two wins at the end of the year, but those came against New Mexico State and Idaho after starting out the season 0-10. The team's biggest weapon, Kevin Robinson, is gone, so don't expect the Aggies to be second in the nation in punt returns and fourth in kickoff returns again.
The number one thing to work on is: Finding some firepower. Generating some defensive pressure is a must after coming up with a mere 12 sacks and 59 tackles for loss, but the program won't turn around until the offense can start keeping up with the better WAC offenses. Averaging 278 yards and 20.6 points per game isn't going to get it done against most league teams unless the defense comes up with a gem, like it did at the end of the year against NMSU and Idaho. The O has to find something it can hang its hat on.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Kevin Robinson
Biggest defensive loss: DT Frank Maile
Best returning offensive player: RB Derrvin Speight, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: LB Jake Hutton, Sr.