2024 Mountain West DT Rankings: Air Force’s Payton Zdroik Soars to the Top

    Unlike other positions in the conference, most of the Mountain West's top DTs are returning. Who crack the top 10 in the 2024 Mountain West DT Rankings?

    The top of the 2024 Mountain West DT Rankings was rather unscathed by NFL Draft declarations and transfer portal departures, especially when compared to the EDGE position. While Boise State has three DTs in the top 15 and Wyoming and Hawaii have two in the top 10, who checks in at No. 1?

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    Mountain West 2024 DT Rankings

    10) Jacob Holmes, Fresno State Bulldogs

    Jacob Holmes’ ranking comes with a bit more projection than others, but it’s deserved. In a rotational role, he racked up seven tackles for loss, five sacks (led the team), a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. With starter Johnny Hudson Jr. out the door, Holmes will have a full season of first-team reps to wreak havoc on the conference.

    9) Cam Bariteau, Colorado State Rams

    Mohamed Kamara (NFL Draft) and Grady Kelly’s (transfer portal) departure from Fort Collins leave massive shoes to fill on the defensive line. Cam Bariteau was reliable on the interior, generating pressure and stuffing runs at a slightly lower rate than Kelly. As the Rams’ new DT1, he’ll have higher expectations in 2023, but he won’t disappoint.

    8) Ezra Evaimalo and Daniel “Sauce” Williams, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

    Technically, the Rainbow Warriors have four players in the 2024 Mountain West DT Rankings. However, I decided to combine Ezra Evaimalo and Daniel “Sauce” Williams, as they are rotational pieces — damn good ones.

    Either one could’ve assumed the starting position left by John Tuitupou, but Hawaii decided to bring in Nevada’s Dion Washington, who’s coming off a strong campaign. Evaimalo is undersized at 6’2″, 255 pounds, but he uses his speed advantage to thrive on passing downs. Meanwhile, Williams’ stout 5’11”, 330-pound frame allows him to eat gaps in run defense.

    7) Jordan Bertagnole, Wyoming Cowboys

    Speaking of eating gaps, Jordan Bertagnole, ladies and gentlemen. He isn’t quite as wide as Williams at 6’4″ and 287 pounds, but he uses his arm length and low pad level to shed blocks.

    MORE: 2024 Mountain West EDGE Rankings

    Although his pass-rush production took a hit last season, he improved as a tackler and dominated against the run (watch his game vs. UNLV in Week 11 for proof).

    6) Dion Washington, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

    A former wrestler, Dion Washington knows how to use his opponent’s body against him. Despite spending nearly half his snaps at nose tackle last season, he was able to generate pressure as a pass rusher. Moving to the B gap full-time at Hawaii will only offer more opportunities to get after QBs. Oh, and he’s a brick wall in run defense to boot.

    5) Gavin Meyer, Wyoming Cowboys

    Bertagnole is a stud, but Gavin Meyer played even better on fewer snaps last season. He’ll step in for Cole Godbout and start next to Bertagnole in 2024, forming arguably the best DT duo in the Group of Five, let alone the conference. If he can finish more of his pressures with sacks, he will put his name on the national stage next year.

    4) Alex Whitmore, UNLV Rebels

    UNLV likes to move their defensive line around, resulting in Alex Whitmore lining up anywhere from 3-7 tech on any given snap. Typically, having your 6’2″ and 280-pound DT try and rush off the edge is a recipe for failure, but Whitmore makes it work. Still, he’s best utilized inside, where he can use his bowling ball size to push the pocket and fill gaps.

    3) Braxton Fely, Boise State Broncos

    At 6’1″, Braxton Fely’s low center of gravity allows him to maintain balance while bending across linemen. He’s also long and quick, resulting in a one-man wrecking crew as a pass rusher. Of course, that frame doesn’t translate quite as well as a run defender, but when you penetrate the pocket up the middle on a consistent basis, it’s forgiven.

    2) Soane Toia, San Jose State Spartans

    Soane Toia tallied 37 tackles, seven TFLs, and five sacks en route to second-team All-Mountain West recognition in 2023. He took the baton from Junior Fehoko as both an on-field producer and off-field leader, and his second season in the role should only spark excitement from Spartans fans — and worry from MWC opponents.

    1) Payton Zdroik, Air Force Falcons

    EDGEs PJ Ramsey and Bo Richter are gone, and Air Force’s defensive line looks a bit uncertain. However, the Falcons can rest easy with Payton Zdroik manning the interior. Across the last two seasons, he’s recorded 62 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, and 9.5 sacks. And that was with leaving Week 3 after three snaps and missing Weeks 4-5 due to injury.

    KEEP READING: 2024 Mountain West Power Rankings

    Zdroik flashed his potential at the end of 2022 and took over drives when healthy in 2023. Thus, I believe he’ll earn his first All-Mountain West nod in 2024 and finish as the top DT in the conference.

    2024 Mountain West DT Rankings | 11-20

    11) Sheldon Newton, Boise State
    12) Gabriel Iniguez, Utah State 
    13) Herbert Gums, Boise State
    14) Seni Tuiaki, Utah State
    15) Tatuo Martinson, UNLV
    16) Kuao Peihopa, Hawaii
    17) Gavriel Lightfoot, Fresno State
    18) Tupu Alualu, San Diego State
    19) Tyler Kiehne, New Mexico
    20) Sosefo Moeaki, Nevada

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!


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