The deadline for players declaring for the NFL draft is complete. The Portal is closed. Freshmen signing days are over. I have gone thru the roster of every All-Star game and noted all the players that are playing and marked them as gone. I am a little over two months into this year’s magazine which is a 6.5-month process. By the time I finish talking to the coaches post spring I will have every player move captured. The extra Covid year is still the wild card here but not as big a factor as it was the last couple of years. Every player with college eligibility is not necessarily going to return as some will just leave football. Each of my All-conference blogs highlights the players that are coming back, and the players not highlighted are gone. There is a slight chance that I missed on a player or two coming or going. If you look over this list and know that someone I have marked as returning is gone or vice versa, please either tweet at me @philsteele042 or mail Todd@philsteele.com. This is in preparation for the page 28 of the magazine which is the All-Conference points returning and lost. With that said here is the American List of my All Conference players from last year and which ones are returning and which ones are gone.
The results have been consistent including a result that goes against the grain but has done so consistently including last year. This metric looks at the All-Conference players returning and lost. I use the following point system: 10 points to 1st Tm All-Conf Player, 7 points to 2nd and 4 points for 3rd. If a player is an All-American, he gets awarded an additional 5. If you look in the blue column, you’ll see the positive number for more players back than lost. In ‘20 the 8 teams with the most negative points (lost the most all-conf players) all 8 had a weaker record. Last year 7 of the top 8 had a weaker record with Louisiana having the same record. There were 21 teams that were -33 or more and of the 21; 17 had a weaker record, 1 had the same and only 3 teams managed to improve. Alabama improved from 11-2 to 12-2 and Oklahoma was coming off a losing season and was in almost every Going Up box in the magazine and improved.
Today I will look at the Mountain West conference. Many group of five head coaches I talk to say that with the advent of the transfer portal and NIL that they develop players only to have them leave before their senior seasons as they get plucked by Power Five teams. Earlier the Sun Belt showed all 12 First Team Offensive players from 2023 have left their teams due to graduation or the portal. I will say that last year even after I talked to the coach’s post spring some Group of Five teams lost key players to the portal so you can probably expect a few more names to be lost before August rolls around.
The Mountain West Conference (MW) has four of the 1st team Offensive players back with six of the 1st team all-defensive players back. Of the first three teams of the MW has 33 players are returning. The MAC and American each had 50% of their all-conference players back. CUSA was next with 35 back so the Mountain West drops into the next spot with 33 and the SBC is last with just 29 players from the first three teams back.
While these numbers may change by the time the magazine goes to the press in June, five of last year’s MW teams have a positive number this year with Wyoming at +2, Utah St +11 and Hawaii at +15. Two of the leagues strongest teams are at the top of the chart with UNLV leading with +49 and Boise St at +44. Air Force usually ranks near the bottom as coach Calhoun starts a lot of seniors each year and the Flyboys are last with -67 points.
Here is this year’s list and the players that are highlighted in yellow are the players returning and if they are not highlighted then they are gone.
Last year the VIP deal worked out tremendously. All VIP members had access to the magazine two days after we sent it to the press, and they had EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to the digital magazine for two full weeks. The magazines were shipped priority mail to them as they rolled off the press and VIP members had the actual magazine in their hands about 3 weeks before it went on sale at Barnes and Noble. This year I have added a Super VIP in which you get two magazines, and I am giving away the full year of Phil Steele Plus access ($99 value) all for just $69 including shipping. Here is a link and we do send out the magazines on the FIFO method of First In (first ordered) First Out (first shipped). So right now if you order your magazine will be shipped on the first day but that window is closing fast. Also I may change my mind on giving away a full year of Phil Steele Plus with the Super VIP order but it is available at least thru February.