Chuckie Keeton has Utah State back in contention for the WAC title.
WAC football is officially on life support. The defections of Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii over the last two years have left the conference with just seven members for the 2012 season. With Louisiana Tech and UTSA joining Conference USA for the 2013 season, Texas State moving to the Sun Belt and San Jose State and Utah State moving to the Mountain West, New Mexico State and Idaho are the only remaining members of the WAC. The Aggies and Vandals are searching for a new conference but may have to play as an Independent in 2013.
While the future of the conference is gloomy, Louisiana Tech has a chance to make some national noise this season. The Bulldogs won seven out of their last eight games last year and return several key players. Quarterback Colby Cameron was solid in the second half of the season, while the receiving corps will be among the best in the WAC. The defense must replace seven starters, but there’s plenty of experience returning. Louisiana Tech has a challenging non-conference slate (Texas A&M, at Illinois and at Virginia) but could spring an upset in any of those games.
Gary Andersen has Utah State headed in the right direction, but the Aggies must replace the WAC’s 2011 Offensive Player of the Year – running back Robert Turbin. Quarterback play is a strength with Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy returning, while the defense could be the best in the WAC with seven starters coming back.
While Louisiana Tech and Utah State are clearly the conference’s best teams, the rest of the WAC is up for grabs. San Jose State is a team on the rise, but must replace quarterback Matt Faulkner and safety Duke Ihenacho. However, the Spartans return first-team All-WAC receiver Noel Grigsby and gain the services of Minnesota transfer DeLeon Eskridge at running back.
New Mexico State is making progress under DeWayne Walker, but the Aggies return only four starters. Quarterback Andrew Manley is back from a torn ACL, but he will have a new coordinator and there’s no proven go-to running back. The defense is a major concern with 10 starters departing.
Idaho is coming off a disappointing 2-10 season but there’s hope this team could improve upon that total in 2012. Quarterback play is an issue, but the Vandals are hoping junior college recruit Dominique Blackman can provide a spark. The return of linebacker Robert Siavii should bolster the defense.
Texas State and UTSA enter the first season of FBS play and it will be an uphill battle to reach a winning record. The Bobcats could have a dangerous offense, but lost three starters on the offensive line. UTSA is only in its second season of fielding a team, but there’s certainly no shortage of talent to recruit in Texas. Quarterback Eric Soza posted solid numbers last year (2,148 yards and 14 touchdowns), but depth could be an issue for the Roadrunners in their debut (and only) season in the WAC.
Athlon's 2012 WAC Team Previews
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