Expected to be a high-flying conference yet again, the Mountain West is headlined by a bevy of signal-callers entering the 2022 season. Led by potential high NFL draft pick Jake Haener at Fresno State, how does the rest of the class of top 10 returning players shake out in the Mountain West? After combing through every team’s top returning players, we were left with a clear picture of the top 10 returning college football players in the MWC this season.
For each Mountain West team’s top returning players: Air Force | Boise State | Colorado State | Fresno State | Hawaii | Nevada | New Mexico | San Diego State | San Jose State | UNLV | Utah State | Wyoming
Top 10 returning players to the Mountain West
While we were counting down every school’s top 10 returning players, a natural flow developed as each player began to stack up against their conference foes. While we’ll release our All-Conference teams a bit later, let’s take a sneak peek into just who may be the top overall players returning to every conference in 2022. Up first, the Mountain West.
10) Jonah Tavai, DT, San Diego State
One of the top pass rushers on the interior in the country, Jonah Tavai dominates his gap responsibilities on the regular. He’ll two-gap when necessary, but when Tavai has a favorable one-on-one matchup, it’s advantage Aztecs. He’s hard to stop with just one lineman and routinely fights off double-teams to get to ball carriers. Tavai can pursue on the backside all the same as he has surprising speed for a man his size.
9) Brad Roberts, RB, Air Force
Returning to handle the first option duties at Air Force, Brad Roberts is the prototypical front man for the Falcons. Roberts has plenty of speed and better balance through contact. He’s hard to bring down in the open field, but that’s not even the top priority of his game. He’ll not lose the ball via fumble, nor will he lose yards upon just one arm tackler as he sheds those at will.
8) JL Skinner, S, Boise State
Laying the boom or roaming free in coverage, JL Skinner can do it all for the Broncos. Skinner is a big safety who plays even bigger. He doesn’t lose anything by way of speed or athleticism and plays stronger as the games go on. Skinner is instinctual and smart, rarely taking bad angles or missing tackles. A technical veteran, Skinner anchors a relatively young secondary in Boise.
7) Patrick McMorris, S, San Diego State
Headlining one of the nation’s top annual defenses, Patrick McMorris dominated a season ago. He’s a hard-hitting safety who sets the tone for the Aztecs in their secondary. McMorris comes downhill well and closes off space with his blend of speed and instincts, acting at times like another linebacker for SDSU.
6) Jalen Cropper, WR, Fresno State
With an ability to take over games, Jalen Cropper possesses several elite traits as a receiver. Whether it’s his body control at the sideline or his ability to separate from defenders with his combination of elusiveness and speed, Cropper is Haener’s best on-field friend. With plenty in his tank, Cropper is set to potentially break the 1,000-yard receiving plateau in 2022.
5) Viliami Fehoko, EDGE, San Jose State
A master of his craft off the edge, Viliami Fehoko is a dominant pass rusher with plus skills in run defense. Fehoko was terrific a year ago and pairs with Cade Hall once again to form the conference’s top edge-rushing duo. He has great hands and a high motor, using both to his advantage against any type of tackle or blocker in his way.
4) Hank Bachmeier, QB, Boise State
When the Boise State Broncos needed him, Hank Bachmeier stood tall in the face of pressure — both from defenders and media alike in 2021. Bachmeier returns to lead the Broncos back to the top of the table in the west as he’s healthy and more than capable of climbing these rankings. He’s got a big arm and a bigger heart, as there is no shaking his confidence or denying him the most from his athletic ability.
3) Logan Bonner, QB, Utah State
Handling the Blake Anderson system for the first time by himself, Logan Bonner’s decision to follow Anderson to Utah State was met with an MWC Championship in 2021. As Bonner aims for 10,000 career passing yards this fall, he returns to run the Aggies’ offense for one final season. Bonner has the ability to find open receivers with a great pocket presence and a better ability to go through his reads. It’s a QB-friendly system, but Bonner exceeds the system’s confines with his ability to buy time and dish accurate, powerful passes into all types of coverages.
2) Dom Peterson, DT, Nevada
Despite a lot of turnover throughout the Nevada roster following head coach Jay Norvell’s departure to Colorado State, the Wolf Pack’s top player returns. Dom Peterson is the best defensive player returning to the conference as he’s the most disruptive. Stuffing the rushing lanes or pushing the pocket, it doesn’t matter as Peterson is an elite player along the middle of the Nevada defensive line.
1) Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
One of the nation’s top returning quarterbacks, Jake Haener flirted with the transfer portal before ultimately landing back at Fresno State. As his intentions are clear now, Haener has his sights set on leaving his own lasting legacy at the QB-rich Fresno State. Haener has a terrific arm and plenty of strength to hit every level of the field with accuracy. Combining that with his improving decision-making will go a long way toward him dominating the MWC again and ultimately becoming a high draft pick.
Honorable mention players returning to the Mountain West in 2022
- Ilm Manning, OT, Hawaii
- Phillip Hall, S, UNLV
- Nehemiah Shelton, CB, San Jose State
- Easton Gibbs, LB, Wyoming
- Haaziq Daniels, QB, Air Force
- Cam’Ron Carter, LB, Colorado State
- Tavian Combs, S, New Mexico
- Calvin Tyler Jr., RB, Utah State
- Aaron Frost, OT, Nevada
- Toa Taua, RB, Nevada
- Dontae Bull, OT, Fresno State
- David Perales, EDGE, Fresno State