#28 Boise State Football 2017 Preview


Boise State Broncos


Overall Rank: #28

#1 Mountain West

Following five conference losses during the last two years, many are beginning to think that Boise State has taken a step back. Even if the Broncos are not getting worse, the rest of the Mountain West is getting better. This is a program that we expect to not just reach the conference title game every year, but win it and be right there among the best the Group of Five has to offer. If it does not happen this year, Boise State will take another step towards just being another team in the Mountain West.
2016 Record: 10-3, 6-2
2016 Bowl: Cactus Bowl vs. Baylor (L 12-31)
Coach: Bryan Harsin (31-9 at Boise State, 38-14 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Zak Hill
Defensive Coordinator: Andy Avalos
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Alexander Mattison, RB, 328 yards
Passing: Brett Rypien, QB, 3,646 yards
Receiving: Cedrick Wilson, WR, 1,129 yards
Tackles: Cameron Hartsfield, S, 65
Sacks: David Moa, DL, 8.5
Interceptions: Tyler Horton, DB, 1; Leighton Vander Esch, LB, 1
Other Key Returnees: LB Jabril Frazier
Key Losses: RB Jeremy Nichols, WR Thomas Sperbeck, WR Chaz Anderson, OL Travis Averill, OL Mario Yakoo, DE Sam McCaskill, LB Ben Weaver, DE Chandler James, LB Darren Lee, LB Tanner Vallejo, CB Jonathan Moxey
The offense is potent though. Last year they led the conference in passing offense and total offense. The problem was finishing those drives with touchdowns. The Broncos ranked sixth in the Mountain West in scoring offense with just 33.8 points per game. Quarterback Brett Rypien is back after throwing for 3,646 yards and 24 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. The junior will be tested this year though with so many of his other weapons gone. Top receiver Thomas Sperbeck is gone after catching 80 passes for 1,272 yards. Cedrick Wilson will be the big play receiver again after catching 56 passes for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns, but inexperienced players like Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson will have to be ready to step up. Top running back Jeremy McNichols is gone too after rushing for 1,709 yards and 23 scores during his junior season before heading to the NFL. Alexander Mattison, who served as McNichols backup as a freshman, figures to step into the starring role. He rushed for 328 yards and four touchdowns on 67 carries. Like the skill positions, the offensive line has starters to replace, but also has a bevy of talent waiting for their opportunity.
The defense was solid last season, but the complete lack of turnovers was a problem. The Broncos forced just nine during the entire season. This year the coaching staff wants to be more aggressive in order to create more turnovers, but that may come at the expense of allowing a few more big plays. With four safeties back who have some starting experience and Tyler Horton manning one of the cornerback spots, Boise State should feel comfortable to leave the secondary on their own occasionally and send more pass rushers towards the quarterback. There are some big holes to fill at linebacker too, but Jabril Frazier is a proven playmaker from the rush linebacker spot and big things are expected from Leighton Vander Esch after he missed much of last season with an injury. The front line returns David Moa, who recorded 8.5 sacks last season. He will move to the defensive tackle spot where he is a much better fit compared to the nose tackle position that he played in 2016. That could lead to even more productivity. The key for the line though will be to find depth to give Moa and others a break. The unit was far less effective by the end of the 2016 campaign due to a lack of depth.
The Bottom Line:
Despite the argument that this is no longer the Boise State program we saw just a few years ago, the Broncos still have a ton of talent on their roster. There are upperclassmen that have been role-players for a couple of years and are now ready to step into much bigger roles. Other teams in the Mountain West rarely have the depth across the board that this team has. Those holes on both lines, at the skill positions and at linebacker will be filled by players who will be productive and a few of them will emerge as leaders on the field. Boise State just needed to win the turnover battle and last year’s 10-3 season could have been an undefeated regular season.
Projected Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.5 (63rd in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 298.3 (15, 1)
Total Offense: 472.8 (21, 1)
Scoring Offense: 33.8 (38, 6)
Rushing Defense: 176.8 (69, 4)
Pass Defense: 213.0 (46, 7)
Total Defense: 389.8 (52, 4)
Scoring Defense: 23.3 (29, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.69 (116, 11)
Sacks: 2.23 (53, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.46 (27, 5)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#72 David Moa