August 3, 2021, 11:01 am
Random Team Preview:
Boise State Broncos
2020 Record: 5-2
Conference: Mountain West
Head Coach: Andy Avalos(1st year/1st year here)
Season Win Total: 9
Returning Starters: 9 offensive, 8 defensive
2021 Schedule Difficulty: #62
The Boise State Broncos are in a peculiar situation coming into the 2021 season..well, all college football teams are. The “Post-Covid” theme for this season is evident, this year will be more geared to the fans and the return to true football. With that being said, let us not forget how special being able to enjoy this sport really is. As Boise State becomes the FIRST EVER team to be previewed by me for Hoopball, we are just scratching the surface of the upcoming college football season.
Boise opens up their season with a game against UCF and both teams will be rolling out brand new coaches in Week 1. The opening game against the Golden Knights is merely a warm up for three of their four out of conference games that are against very formidable foes. Luckily for the Broncos, they will be hosting Oklahoma State (and hopefully me..s/o Blake) but are on the road against BYU on October 9th. Before that matchup the Broncos have a showdown with Carson Strong and Nevada on the Smurf Turf on October 2nd. I feel as though getting two of the three games against Oklahoma State, UCF and BYU is huge. The results of those three games will significantly shape the outcome of this team’s win total come season’s end. Look for the returning offensive starters and the experience that the Boise State offensive line (4 of 5) gets back to fuel their high powered offense.
Both Hank Bachmeier(SO) and Jack Sears(JR) got some burn last season in the shortened 5-2 season. Both quarterbacks however, were injured against BYU in that loss last year. These slingers for Boise are both highly ranked and rated within the college football realm. Hank Bachmeier is penciled in as the starter and should be the guy come September. If one goes down then there will be another capable arm waiting to step up. The 3rd string QB Cade Fennegan even saw game action last year so this is a very tested and studied quarterback room.
Another position that will see familiar faces and experience returning to. Starting tailback George Holani(SO) was injured pretty much all of last year so getting him and his experience back alongside Hank Bachmeier will be very huge in the success for the Broncos. Behind Holani will feature a bevvy of talent in Oregon transfer Cyrus Habib-Likio(SR) and Andrew Van Buren(JR) who was able to carry the load for good portions of games last year with his versatility. Overall, don’t expect this group to WOW you or be the carrying force for this offense but realize it is not a group that will hurt the Boise State chances at success this season.
The Broncos are 5th in the nation in returning percentage of their yards from last year. A heavy and large part of that is due to the wide receiver group. The top three pass catchers are upperclassmen, Hank Bachmeier will have plenty of targets to divvy out. There is balance as well as speed throughout this position group. Just like the running backs, these players won’t be hurting this Broncos team more than they help it. 1st team Mountain West wideout Khalil Shakir(JR) will look to lead the way as the top producing receiver in Avalos’ offense. Around him will be guys like Octavius Evans(SR) and CT Thomas(SR) who have more speed than average in comparison to the rest of the nation’s wide receivers. This group is ready to produce. I am looking for the new hire of OC Tim Plough (was at UC-Davis ‘17-’19) to bring a fresh vibe to this offense. Bryan Hairsin actually suggested that Andy Avalos gave Plough a shot at coordinator.
Riley Smith(SO) was the third leading receiver last year for this Boise offense. Look for him to be looked at a lot throughout this season since the offensive line returns more starts. That means he won’t be needed as much to block, the Broncos only averaged about 107 rushing yards per game last year. That should improve this year as well as Smiths’ touchdown total this season.
This unit was ravaged last year and suffered losses in big ways. Losing all conference talent in multiple spots made it challenging to get anything going on the ground. Momentum was hard to come by in the run game, therefore certain aspects of the passing attack were made ineffective. Four starters return led by senior RG Jake Stetz. Redshirt FR Ben Dooley could be just what the o-line needed at right tackle. The fact remains that this unit has all conference talent throughout and it to me is the key determining factor on if Boise State puts up eye-popping numbers again. Since joining the FBS 20 years ago, Boise State has had double digit wins in 17/20 seasons.
Avalos brings over an Oregon STUD linebacker with him in Andrew Faoliu(SO) that will give some depth to this defensive line room that will be returning SEVEN players who started a game last year. This team will be two years removed from having the MW DPOY on their team but this is the deepest defensive line group they have had in some time. Perhaps back when they had Shea McClellin, Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence. DT Scott Madlock(SO) is a difference maker and we could see him in the middle of negative plays created by this defensive line.
With Andy Avalos being a stud defensive coach and his Oregon defenses reaching top-10 heights with him in control, I feel as though this team is in good hands. The right hire was made for the defensive players looking to develop into NFL talent. In 2011 Avalos was the LB coach at Sacramento State, he then coached up LB Todd Davis to 1st Team All-Conference honors and Todd currently plays for the Denver Broncos after being drafted to the NFL. In his previous tenure (16-18), Andy Avalos coached his defense to allowing only 20 PPG or less in 17 of 27 games. There are a lot of returning tacklers for this linebacking corps so I believe the continuity and the coaching chops of Avalos will be big advantages for the Boise State defense.
Perhaps the deepest and most talented group on defense. Which would be saying a lot considering how deep this defense really is. There will be new pieces getting tested out in this defense for DC Spencer Danielson (spent L2Y as Co-DC) in 2021 but the safety room returns a high percentage of productivity. Experience and instinct are very bright spots for this defense, I believe it is possible that we see Boise State become a top-5 defense in sacks this year as well as QB pressure rate and line yards gained. Markel Reed and JL Skinner are both sophomores who play torpedo-like defense. Expect them to defend as well as break up a ton of passes this season. The secondary only adds to overall balance that is a common theme for this team going into 2021 on paper.
Stacy Collins could be the MVP for this Boise State team when they are having their end of season football banquet. Collins comes over from Utah State where he enjoyed top notch success as the Aggies special; teams coordinator for the past 5 years. Here are his teams ST rankings over the last 5 seasons starting with 2020 (16th, 50th, 9th, 8th, 116th in his first year). The Boise State special teams unit was actually #1 last year in the nation but have been 63rd or worse on 3 separate occasions and above 100th twice as well. With Stacy Collins coming in having lots of tools in place for a successful ST room, I think we will see Boise pull out close games because of the performance of Collins’ guys on special teams. I am a firm believer that special teams is a heavy component into handicapping close games in college football. Look for this unit to finish top-10 for the 2021 season.
Long story short, I have Boise State getting to 10 wins this season which is the norm for this program. Since joining the FBS ranks 20 years ago, Boise State has the highest win percentage for all qualified teams. I believe the Broncos get their HEALTHY revenge against BYU, I believe they pick up a signature win against Oklahoma State on the Smurf Turf and I believe that there is a possibility that Boise wins their final 5 games to heavily tip us to the over. This is a team I have finishing really high (#1 or #2) in the Mountain West this year. The biggest games for the conference standings will be against Nevada and the last game against SDSU. If the QB room can stay healthy and Avalos has true pedigree, then we could see an 11 or 12 win Boise State team this year at the end of bowl season.