WAC spring recap

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Lee Marks* (1,032 yds)
Passing: Jared Zabransky* (2,927 yds)
Receiving: T.J. Acree (947 yds)
Tackles: Andy Avalos (86)
Sacks: Korey Hall* (4)
Interceptions: Gerald Alexander* (5)

Spring Answers: Zabransky looked good as always, but the real story of the spring might have been the group he was zinging it to. The graduation of Acree and Lawrence Bady was once a cause for concern, but that was before Jerard Rabb and Cole Clasen showed up. The 6-foot-2 Rabb arrives from JC and provides a height advantage not seen in Boise in a long time. The 5-8 Clasen arrives from Oregon State and is cut out of the Acree mold, except he's faster and maybe even stronger. And here's two returnees you shouldn't forget about: the reliable Drisan James at WR and the dangerous (if healthy) Derek Schouman at tight end. ... An offense generally doesn't rank second in the country in scoring (49 ppg) without a solid O-line. Well, the coaching staff feels the group is even stronger this year. Senior Daryn Colledge is a legitimate All-America candidate at tackle. ... While depth on the defensive line is still a concern, look out for tackle Alex Guerrero this fall. He's got breakout year written all over him. ... The Broncos have a 25-game winning streak on the home blue turf and have won 26 in a row against the WAC. Fresno State is loaded, but the Broncos are still the top dog until someone proves otherwise. And this team doesn't look like it's ready to relinquish anything.

Fall Questions: Who will fill the starting center spot vacated by Klayton Adams? The two finalists, Joe Weigand and JC transfer Jadon Dailey, are both juniors and weigh almost exactly the same. ... More importantly perhaps, who will fill the starting linebacker spot vacated by Avalos? He was not only the team's leader in tackles for the last three years, but the team's leader, period. It'll be tough to replace someone who fit into the Bronco system so well for so long. For now, it's up to either a career backup (senior Chris Barrios) or a Canadian native without much experience (sophomore Josh Bean). ... There's also an open cornerback spot available. It's wide-open, but the leading candidates are sophomore Rashaun Scott and junior Quinton Jones. The latter is the fastest player on the team, but needs more experience in the secondary after moving over from running back. As a whole, the secondary could stand to shut down a passing attack every so often. Sure, the Broncos can score, but giving up 254 yards through the air is living on the edge. ... Boise's last mystery spot is place-kicker. After losing the reliable Tyler Jones, it'll be up to either redshirt freshman Jameson Davis or starting punter Kyle Stringer, neither of whom turned in a very good spring.

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Bryson Sumlin* (1,130 yds)
Passing: Paul Pinegar* (2,099 yds)
Receiving: Joe Fernandez* (546 yds)
Tackles: Dwayne Andrews* (66)
Sacks: Garrett McIntyre* (7)
Interceptions: Marcus McCauley*, James Sanders and Richard Marshall* (3 each)

Spring Answers: The offense's only question was answered rather easily. First-round draft pick Logan Mankins left a spot open at left tackle, but that was quickly filled when right guard Dartangon Shack simply slid over to where he was a second-team All-WAC performer in 2003. By the way, he tamed both UCLA's Dave Ball and Oklahoma's Dan Cody that year. ... The offense is experienced and explosive — there's no other way around it. During the team's 6-0 finish to the '04 season, the Bulldogs averaged a whopping 53 points a game. Flash forward to the spring: Pinegar looks better than ever and the weapons around him are absurd. Wendell Mathis was 5 yards away from joining Sumlin in the 1,000-yard club last fall, but some in Fresno swear neither one is the team's best tailback. Remember how good Dwayne Wright was before last year's knee injury? He, Sumlin and Mathis have combined for more than 4,000 yards. Even converted CB Clifton Smith was electrifying this spring. ... Speaking of electric, the light bulb finally came on for WR Paul Williams. Man, did it ever. Big, fast and athletic, the long-armed junior was called a "freak" by coach Pat Hill, who said Williams turned in as fine a spring as anyone he's ever coached at Fresno.

Fall Questions: The run defense was a strongpoint last year and the D-line was just about the only area that took some hits from graduation, losing three starters in the process. The departure of both ends leaves some depth issues and might force McIntyre back outside, not something the Bulldogs would like to see happen. Can players such as Tyler Clutts and Marlon Brisco step in at end and keep McIntyre a force inside? ... The competition to replace Sanders at free safety remains neck and neck. Vincent Mays, mainly a special teams contributor, might have the slight edge over Awan Diles, a two-year starter who lost his cornerback job last season. ... Expectations are high in the Valley and they should be. Virtually everyone returns from a team that closed with a six-game winning streak and ended the season in the Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade. With all that said, it still comes down to whether FSU can get over the monster that is Boise State. Like just about everyone else in the conference, the Bulldogs own a four-game losing streak against the Broncos. If Fresno is as talented as it looks, it has no excuses for letting the Boise streak continue past Nov. 12.

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 4, Defense: 5, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Michael Brewster (722 yds)
Passing: Timmy Chang (4,258 yds)
Receiving: Chad Owens (1,290 yds)
Tackles: Leonard Peters* (120)
Sacks: Melila Purcell* (6)
Interceptions: Abraham Elimimian (5)

Spring Answers: Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh left for Oregon State, but four of his five starters remain in Honolulu. For an offense torn apart by graduation, the line will have to serve as the anchor of the rebuilding job. Brandon Eaton looked more than capable after moving from tackle to guard in order to replace Uriah Moenoa. And the coaches know the versatile freshman All-American Samson Satele can play any position where he's needed. ... Stepping into a decimated receiving corps, true freshman Davone Bess arrived early from Oakland and was impressive enough to at least offer one sign of hope. Bess is a solid route runner with good hands. ... He's got a lot of work ahead of him as defensive coordinator, but Jerry Glanville hopped on board with old friend June Jones and that can't possibly be a bad thing. Besides the obvious defensive knowledge he brings from years of experience in the NFL, Glanville also provides instant credibility — and his players seemed to buy in to it this spring. Maybe the quirky Glanville is just the spark this unit has needed for so many years.

Fall Questions: Where to begin? Replacing a quarterback who broke numerous NCAA career passing records is never fun. Five QBs entered camp vying for the job and not one of them has any relevant experience. The race is likely down to senior Jeffrey Rhode and freshmen Tyler Graunke and Inoke Funaki. The eventual winner is anyone's guess. ... Four starters were lost at receiver. Ross Dickerson and Jason Ferguson are the only two left with any meaningful game experience, and they combined for just 17 catches in a pass-happy attack last season. ... The skill position massacre continues at running back, where the top two guys are history. Sharing the load is now the responsibility of Bryan Maneafaiga and converted slot back Nate Ilaoa, who together totaled one game appearance last year. ... Graduation didn't just pick on the offense. Replacements have to be found for two defensive tackles, two linebackers and the team's interceptions leader. And this for a unit that was already last in the country in rush defense (253 ypg) and second-to-last in total defense (488 ypg). ... What a year to open with the back-to-back national champs, eh?

2004 overall record:
Conference record:
2-5 (Sun Belt)

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Jayson Bird* (887 yds)
Passing: Michael Harrington* (2,222 yds)
Receiving: Bobby Bernal-Wood (938 yds)
Tackles: Cole Snyder* (136)
Sacks: Brandon Kania (6)
Interceptions: Simeon Stewart and J.R. Ruffin (3 each)

Spring Answers: Bernal-Wood, who finished third in the NCAA with an average of eight catches per game last year, will not be easy to replace. The staff was encouraged, though, by the impressive spring play of junior college transfers Matt Askew and Daniel Smith. Tracy Ford, who took a gray shirt last season, will also help out. ... It looks like a few position changes will pay off for the beleaguered Idaho defense. Marcis Fennell moves from the O-line to the D-line and will be joined by former linebackers Ben Alexander and Brandon Ogletree. In the meantime, senior Mike Anderson will move back to his original spot at linebacker after starting all 12 games at defensive end last season. ... Even with the new additions, the defensive line is still thin. However, the team was thrilled to get back Andrew Stobart. After breaking his back in an auto accident a year and a half ago, Stobart was told he would never play football again. With a pair of 9-inch rods in his back, Stobart came out this spring and proved them wrong. He will contribute immediately.

Fall Questions: Who will direct the offense? Michael Harrington, Joey's brother, is the incumbent starter and was pretty solid last fall. However, the Vandals did add JC transfer Steven Wichman in the offseason and he's gunning for the top job. Wichman wasn't helped by three INTs in the spring game, but this one is still too close to call. Regardless of the decision, the coaching staff said the position is infinitely better off than it was at this time last year. ... Can the defense get any better? UI finished last in the Sun Belt in both scoring defense and total defense and now it moves on to a conference that piles up the points at an even greater rate. ... If the defense is to turn it around, the dire situation at cornerback has to be solved. Only four corners were even listed on the spring roster and none of them blew anybody away. The junior college players coming in will have to contribute from day one. ... For the first time in 10 years, the Idaho coaching staff remained completely intact during the offseason. Think about that — 10 straight years of fluctuation. Finally stable, can the Vandals translate this newfound continuity into more success?

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 4, Kicker/punter: 2

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Ryan Moats (1,774 yds)
Passing: Matt Kubik* (1,818 yds)
Receiving: Tramissian Davis (527 yds)
Tackles: Byron Santiago* (82)
Sacks: Jemelle Cage (7.5)
Interceptions: Corey Brazil (3)

Spring Answers: Moats was one of those special talents Tech seems to pipe out every once in awhile. He will no doubt be missed. With that said, the LT coaches swear the team is in good shape at running back. Mark Dillard ran for more than 100 yards in just about every one of Tech's scrimmages, including 170 in the finale. Against the immovable Auburn defense last season, Fredd Franklin rushed for 75 yards on just 13 carries. And while one never knows what to make of high school stats, incoming freshman Patrick Johnson rushed for more than 3,000 yards and found the end zone a stunning 58 times his senior season. ... At a position that took a bit of a hit, Johnathan Holland looks like he could be ready to step into a go-to role. The track athlete has blazing quickness. ... Turns out this walk-on was a keeper. A former member of the scout team, Tramon Williams earned a starting cornerback spot last fall and is now one of the best defensive backs in the league. He's a true cover corner with excellent technique. You don't see that much anymore.

Fall Questions: When starting QB Donald Allen went down a month into the season, Kubik stepped in and was decent. With that pair, though, the passing game was just too inconsistent. With Moats gone, that has to change. The two battled it out this spring and absolutely nothing was decided. With coach Jack Bicknell's jumping on the bandwagon and sprinkling some Utah spread-option into the offense, the quarterback battle in August becomes even more important. ... Both offensive tackles spots were vacated and the one on the right side is especially troublesome. The projected starter, sophomore Ryan Considine, has performed spot duty in two career games. ... The Bulldogs look fine at linebacker, but there's numerous question marks both in front of and behind that group. The entire defensive line and three of the four secondary spots need replacements. The corner position opposite Williams is almost barren. Unless a lot of answers come streaming in during fall drills, this defense is in danger of being steamrolled more often than not. Check out who it gets to play first.

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Chance Kretschmer (813 yds)
Passing: Jeff Rowe* (2,633 yds)
Receiving: Nichiren Flowers* (1,126 yds)
Tackles: Jeremy Engstrom* (97)
Sacks: Charles Wilson* (5)
Interceptions: Nick Hawkthrone* (5)

Spring Answers: Kretschmer was a great back, but it looks like the Wolf Pack might actually be better off at that position. The staff is content with splitting the carries, because both senior B.J. Mitchell and juco transfer Robert Hubbard looked explosive in the spring. This could be a lethal combo. ... Nevada decided to open up its offense a bit by implementing a modified-shotgun style. The coaches want Rowe to take his game to another level this fall, so they catered this to better suit his strongpoints. The junior QB said he loves the change — and he played like it this spring. ... The new look on offense will allow the team to utilize more two-tight ends sets. Look for them to utilize that option quite often. Starter Anthony Pudewell and reserves Adam Bishop and Travis Branzell are nice weapons. ... The Pack also changed their defense to better suit personnel. Depth is an issue on the line, so the D is changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4. One apparent benefactor is converted end J.J. Milan, who looks like he could be a stud at outside linebacker in the fall.

Fall Questions: After losing both guards and a tackle, the offensive line is not deep or experienced. It's an area where redshirt freshmen and JC transfers will need to contribute right away. ... Can the defense turn it around? It was at times horrid last season, giving up 48 points or more in five of the team's final eight games. Defensive improvement was an emphasis in recruiting and some speed was added in the secondary. While graduation didn't help the cause by taking away two of the unit's top three tacklers (LB Shaun Tagatauli and S Keone Kauo), nearly everyone else is back and progress needs to be made. ... Special teams is a major concern. The Pack lost four-year starter Damon Fine at kicker and his replacement is either an unproven redshirt freshman or one of a host of walk-ons. As for the return game, Nevada hasn't been effective there in years. It's about time a difference maker was found in that area.

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Muammar Ali* (561 yds)
Passing: Buck Pierce (2,253 yds)
Receiving: Tim Tolbert* (420 yds)
Tackles: Jimmy Cottrell* (99)
Sacks: Aubrey Dorisme (5)
Interceptions: Matt Griebel*, Dustin Sober* and Shukree Shabazz* (2 each)

Spring Answers: The Aggies believe they have the receivers it takes to run new coach Hal Mumme's hyperactive, pass-happy offense. Tolbert and Brandon Allen were the starters last year and both are back. The best prospect of them all, though, was a backup QB in 2004. Paul Dombrowski saw plenty of action at receiver last season, but now it's his full-time position and he could put up huge numbers. He's got speed and is just too strong to be taken down easily. For the offense to do well, Mumme said, Dombrowski has to be on the field. ... When Kentucky was lighting up the scoreboard under Mumme, the tight end traditionally caught a lot of passes. Even without that scheme, Andrew Mooney was a second-team freshman All-American last season. One can only imagine what he could do now. ... Look for big things out of the linebacking corps as well. Cottrell is already a standout and the new 3-4 alignment of coordinator Woody Widenhofer should benefit outside guys such as Sober. It won't hurt that the group's position coach is longtime NFL defensive coordinator Herb Paterra.

Fall Questions: If the Aggies are going to put it up in the air 50 times a game, it would be advisable to find a quarterback at some point. The candidates are junior Royal Gill and juco transfer Joey Vincent. They were both up and down, so the race went back and forth. Unlike the previous regime, though, Mumme will be in no mood to mess around with a QB by committee. So who's it going to be? ... New Mexico State is incredibly thin on the O-line. It's never a good sign when more than one true freshman is expected to contribute immediately on the line. That usually doesn't turn out well. ... While nearly everyone returns to the secondary, that's not good enough. It's not good enough because the play hasn't been good enough. Time for these guys to crank it up a notch. ... Don't even try to guess who will be kicking and punting for the Aggies this fall. The coaching staff doesn't even know. At punter, Brad Evans didn't impress and the hunt for walk-ons has begun. They're also looking for a place-kicker; sophomore Ryan Guardia was injured in a car accident in December, and will no longer play football.

2004 overall record:
Conference record:

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Tyson Thompson (811 yds)
Passing: Dale Rogers (1,389 yds)
Receiving: Rufus Skillern* (588 yds)
Tackles: Josh Powell* (101)
Sacks: Tony Ficklin (7)
Interceptions: Brian Nunez* (4)

Spring Answers: Although the book is not closed, sophomore Adam Tefralis clearly established himself as the front-runner for the starting quarterback job. Both J.P. Greco and Kevin Brown had their moments, but Tefralis was the most consistent and seems more comfortable with the system and the staff. ... In their competition, the QBs benefited from the play of the team's receiving corps. Skillern and Chester Coleman lead the way, and there should be no reason the Spartans can't average more than 175 yards through the air this time around. In the WAC last season, that number outpaced only "run to set up the run" Rice. ... The senior-laden secondary returns nearly intact, including safety Josh Powell and corner Trestin George, who has managed to score a touchdown five different ways during his college career. ... Convincing one of the winningest active coaches in the country to help revive a dying program was the only answer those loyal few fans left really needed to hear. Don't laugh, but getting 3,500 out to the spring game is big news at San Jose. Apparently the players are also caught up in the excitement. Not much for hype, coach Dick Tomey said he's never had a team work harder in the offseason and that it's been awhile since he had one that hit more in practice. He started building a team concept from the first day and everyone bought into it without hesitation. It was a tremendous start to a crucial era in Spartan football.

Fall Questions: Of course that all sounds nice, but what happens when the actual season starts? Until proven otherwise, this is still a two-win team with many questions that need answers. ... At tailback, the Spartans were stung by the early departure of Thompson. The current No. 1 on the depth chart is sophomore Yonus Davis, who carried the ball three times for minus-4 yards last fall. Lamar Ferguson is also back, but he's not scaring anyone, either. An interesting possibility is incoming freshman Brandon Minor (5-7, 200), who rushed for 2,700 yards and notched a mere 50 TDs during his senior season in Southern California. ... Who will fill the four vacancies created with the departure of the bookends on both lines? On the defensive side, Tony Ficklin and Sean McNamara provided a fairly fierce pass rush and will not be easily replaced. Any talk of the defense has to be prefaced with the fact that this was a unit that gave up a nation-high 43 points a game last year. Will there be any improvement? Doesn't there just to about have to be? ... Bijan Shahmirza and Jeff Ferrier are dueling it out at kicker, but Tomey made it clear he wasn't pleased with the performance of either one of them this spring. Outside help might be the on the way.

2004 overall record:
Conference record:
2-5 (Sun Belt)

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 2

2004 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Chris Forbes* (396 yds)
Passing: Travis Cox (1,908 yds)
Receiving: Kevin Robinson* (602 yds)
Tackles: Robert Watts (74)
Sacks: Ronald Tupera (5)
Interceptions: Cornelius Lamb* (3)

Spring Answers: None of them came in the form of a depth chart. At the end of spring, coach Brent Guy refused to announce a two-deep. He said he'd like to see his batch of August arrivals before deciding anything. If that's not a wake-up call to the returning players, what exactly would be? ... While the receiving corps was hurt by the graduation of Raymond Hicks and the decision of Rod McNeal to pursue a track career full-time, this is a still one of the team's strengths as long as Robinson and Tony Pennyman are around. The duo combined for 87 catches and 1,200 yards last fall. Plus, Robinson added another dimension by averaging 25 yards per kickoff return and 22.5 yards per punt return (second in the country). ... In order to stop the run — one of the top priorities heading into spring — the Aggies switched to a 4-3 defense, allowing them to attack the line of scrimmage a little better. The new-found aggression was noticeable and the ends look like they could provide a legitimate pass rush. After a year at tackle and a year at linebacker, senior John Chick is moving back to end, where he resided his freshman season.

Fall Questions: In 2004, the Aggie offense ranked 111th in the country in both scoring (16.7 ppg) and total offense (290 ypg). While hard to do, the unit might be even worse this season. If the offense is going to turn it around in the fall, the group sure didn't show any signs of it this spring. ... The quarterback competition did not make anyone perk up and take notice. Leon Jackson III is the only player on the team to have thrown a pass last year, but he didn't blow anybody away during drills. That's why JC walk-on Eric Sobolewski might have the slight edge, at least until August. USU has been a drop-back passing team in the past, but the new staff wants to get the QB more involved with the running game. That's why incoming freshman Jerod Walker, who ran a very similar offense in high school, will get a chance to compete from the moment he arrives. ... The key to the season might be how long it takes for the offensive line to gel. By the end of spring, a tight end and a D-lineman were running first-string. It didn't help that center Brent DeLadurantey was among the disappointments of the session. ... In desperate need of a boost from the running game (76 ypg in '04), the Aggies really couldn't decipher a whole lot with Marcus Crawford and incumbent Chris Forbes nursing injuries. Crawford missed all of last season with knee problems, but will likely start because the staff loves his size and strength.

Brett Edgerton is a researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at Brett.M.Edgerton.-ND@espn.com.