The WAC conference is one that many left for dead months ago, there was little hope that the conference would live on but with two new teams coming in there is some renewed hope for a conference that lost its best team. In 2012 though there will still be WAC football and there will definitely be a few prospects to watch from unfamiliar teams like San Jose State and Idaho. Could this be the year this conference takes a step forward?
QB Colby Cameron-6’2, 205 lbs.
The Bulldogs will only go as far as QB Colby Cameron can carry them. He has six of his top seven WR’s coming back including big play target Quitton Patton. Cameron who has started only nine games over his entire career will be asked to take the next step in 2012 and lead this team. Cameron is a snap decision QB who likes to get the ball out quickly and to his WR’s with space to operate. He’s also got decent wheels and can make throws rolling to his left or his right.
DT Justin Ellis*-6’2, 330 lbs.
The big man in the middle will the blocking focal point of every opponent the Bulldogs face. Ellis will need to control the middle of the line and get push in the pocket as the Bulldogs replace both starting DE’s from a year ago. At times last year Ellis appeared unblockable when he stayed low and bull rushed the interior of the OL he got great push. Ellis must control the line of scrimmage if this Bulldogs defense is to be effective.
OC Tyler Larsen-6’4, 308 lbs.
Last year’s first team OC in the WAC, Tyler Larsen, returns to once again lead the way for the Aggies. Larson calls out all the protection for young QB Chuckie Keeton and with leading rushers Robert Turbin and Michael Smith gone to the NFL the onus on Larsen gets even heavier as he will be relied on to blow holes open in the line for RB Kerwynn Williams.
OLB Bojay Filimoeatu-6’2, 256 lbs
The former JUCO All-American was a playmaker for the Aggies last year and will be asked to take on an even bigger role this season. Filimoeatu is extremely athletic and does a good job attacking the line of scrimmage and playing downhill. He will need to show more discipline and recognition skills this year as the Aggies will need him to play a better all-around game and not just a big play one.
San Jose State
RB De’Leon Eskridge-5’11, 215 lbs.
The former Minnesota Gopher, Eskridge left the cold and snowy land of Minnesota to return back home to San Jose after the 2010 season. He had to sit out 2011 due to NCAA rules and now is back and ready to lead the Spartans into uncharted territory. Eskridge who is a two time 600+ yards, 7 TD ball carrier will need to shoulder the load for the Spartans as they will rely heavily on he and star TE Ryan Otten to move the ball down the field.
SAF James Orth-6’2, 206 lbs.
While DE Travis Johnston may get most of the accolades for this defense because of his sack totals it may be Orth who has a bigger impact. The former WR turned DB has great range and playmaking ability and he does a great job getting after the ball in the air. He had four INT’s last year and shows off some impressive hands. He’s also not afraid to get dirty and make a tackle, he is the team’s second returning tackler and made 78 stops last season.
QB Dominique Blackman*-6’5, 255 lbs
The former Washington and Old Dominion player Dominique Blackman hasn’t played much football since he was in HS. He has uncanny size and a magnificent arm that is sure to draw comparisons to the last 6’5, 250 lbs QB we saw playing in the NCAA. Don’t confuse the two though because what Newton did with his feet is something Blackman struggles with. He’s just not all that mobile and with an elongated, and at times awkward, release his play reminds many of David Garrard.
DE Benson Mayowa-6’3, 250 lbs
Mayowa needs to step up and have a big year for the Vandals if they hope to do anything this season. They are contenders to potentially win the WAC conference and at the very least should challenge for a bowl spot. Mayowa’s pass rush ability will be key to them accomplishing those goals. Used predominantly in a reserve pass rushing role Mayowa has a nice burst and enough speed to turn the corner on DE’s. He needed to get stronger and more physical at the point of attack and that could be the difference for him
New Mexico State-
OT Davonte Wallace-6’4, 290 lbs
The original plan for Wallace when he got on campus a few years back was to RS him and let him develop slowly. Well injuries quickly derailed that plan but the Aggies did find their answer at LT for the next few season as Wallace stepped in and exceeded all expectations. The athletic LT moves very well on his feet, and has a lot of natural fluidity to his game. He has good size and technique that allows him to take on the bull rush as well as he does the speed rush. Wallace is possibly the best player on the entire Aggies team.
DE Nicholas Oliva*-6’4, 245 lbs
New Mexico State’s defense is a mash up of returning players, and JUCO transfers. It’s difficult to really know who will succeed and who will falter however Oliva is an intriguing prospect. He was a dynamic rusher at the JUCO level registering 11.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks. He has good size, speed, and instincts to know where the ball is going. While the WAC may not be the best largest jump in talent level its still a change and it will be interesting to see how Oliva develops.
TE Chase Harper-6’5, 260 lbs
Harper is a name you’re all going to want to get to know as we close in on the season. He’s an accomplished blocker in the Texas State run dominated attack and a very good, albeit unpolished, receiving option. Harper has good size and runs routes smoothly, he has a knack for the finding the open spots v. zone and runs hard with the ball in his hands. He’s a better blocker than Dwayne Allen was coming out last year and is almost as accomplished a receiver.
LB Joplo Bartu-6’2, 220 lbs
Yet another playmaking LB in the WAC, Bartu is facing a very difficult rise in the level of competition he’ll be taking on. The lineman will be bigger and stronger, the backs will be faster and more powerful, and the receivers will be quicker and run better routes. He has to raise his game to a whole new level. He can start by continuing to be a constant threat off the edge when rushing the passer and getting after rushing plays with the same level of aggression and tenacity that he shows when blitzing.
DE Marlon Smith-6’6, 225 lbs
There may not be a prospect Im more excited to watch in 2012 than Marlon Smith, he has uncanny size, speed, and athleticism that make him among one of my favorite sleepers in the entire country. He was a pass rush machine last year putting up 8 sacks to go along with five more hurries. More importantly than that though is that Smith understands the little things that a lot of younger DE’s don’t. By that I mean that if you can’t get to the QB you need to get your hands up and into passing lanes. Smith has seven pass deflections last year. Smith to me projects to a 34 OLB prospect who has the potential to become elite.
LB Steven Kurfehs*-6’3, 225 lbs
In other conferences it’s been tall and rangy CB’s that have been in vogue but for the WAC it’s been OLB’s who can fly to the ball and love to hit. Kurfehs doesn’t fit that mold perfectly as he is both a LB who can hit and tackle with the best of them, but also a guy who can drop back into coverage and make plays. Kurfehs is an excellent zone coverage LB who gets into his drop quickly and does a great job spying the QB’s eyes. He’s not afraid to get aggressive and attack the ball while in the air either to try and make a play.