Mountain West Spring Overview: West Division
By Ken Pomponio
With the NCAA Tournament tipping off and Major League Baseball teams designating their Opening Day starters, it can only mean one thing for college football fanatics: Spring football is at hand.
With that in mind, here’s a rundown – presented in true spring fashion, of course – on how things are taking shape in the Mountain West’s West Division:
Springing Into Action
Spring camp start date/spring game
- Fresno State (Feb. 25/March 23)
- Hawaii (March 20/April 27)
- Nevada (March 28/April 20)
- San Diego State (Feb. 25/March 23)
- San Jose State (Feb. 19/March 23)
- UNLV (March 4/April 12)
Brian Polian isn’t just taking over for a legendary coach at Nevada; he’s taking the reins from a College Football Hall of Famer.
Chris Ault stepped aside after 28 years as the Wolf Pack’s alpha coach after the team’s 49-48 loss to Arizona in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. In steps Polian, the son of heralded former NFL executive Bill Polian, who spent 2012 as the tight ends/special teams coach at Texas A&M.
At 38, though, Polian is the ninth-youngest FBS head coach and he inherits a Wolf Pack squad with only 11 returning starters, the second-fewest in the 12-team MWC.
Spring Shoes To Fill
San Jose State’s official spring depth chart hasn’t been released yet, but whoever starts at defensive end is going to have a heck of a time replicating the impact Travis Johnson had on the Spartans’ 24th-ranked FBS defense last season.
Johnson, the WAC Defensive Player of the Year, not only led the conference in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (21.5), but also was an inspirational team captain for the Spartans in one of the best seasons (11-2, Military Bowl champions, ranked 21st in final Associated Press poll) in the program’s history.
Feeling The Spring Heat
It starts warming up in Vegas come March, but Bobby Hauck’s head-coaching seat at UNLV is extra toasty after back-to-back-to-back two-win seasons in the desert.
That adds up to a 6-37 record in three seasons with the Rebels, and Hauck needs some tangible progress if he is to see a fifth campaign – especially guiding one of the most experienced teams in the conference with a projected 18 returning starters.
Hauck is putting his stock in two new coordinators – Timm Rosenbach on offense and brother Tim on defense – and they’ll be charged with turning around units which both ranked 95th in FBS in scoring a year ago.
Norm Chow, the renowned offensive coordinator at BYU and USC, finally got his first shot at an FBS head-coaching gig last year at age 66 at Hawaii, but it wasn’t a strong start as the Warriors stumbled through a 3-9 season.
Even more alarming, the usually potent Hawaii offense finished 118th in total offense and 124th (or dead last) in FBS passing efficiency with a mere 12 TD passes in 12 games – making the days of Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan seem like eons ago.
With 10 returning offensive starters, Chow figured to have plenty of experience to work with, but then came the recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser report that 2012 QB Sean Schroeder will sit out the spring with an ailing back, placing yet another hurdle in Chow’s path.