Originally I had this article in mind for January 3rd or 4th, but I think it is safe to say that no one saw this coming. I am writing to help calm the nerves and panic that has swept over myself and many in the Bronco Nation. Join me after the jump as we discuss the prospects for next year.
The Bronco defense graduates a two time all WAC defensive end Ryan Winterswyk (6'4'' 270), linebacker Derrell Acrey (6'1'' 238) nickle back and second team all WAC LB honors Winston Venable (5'11'' 220), cornerback Brandyn Thompson (5'10'' 177) and two time all WAC safety Jeron Johnson (5'11'' 198). The Bronco defense also graduates contributing senor linebacker Daron Mackey (5'11'' 240).
We are losing a load of talent and play makers with this graduating class. Need not worry however, there are many recognizable names that will be filling in the gaps to keep the machine moving next year. Keep in mind, a lot can happen in terms of injuries, emergence of new play makers in spring and fall camp, possible violation of team rules and or suspensions, and other possible scenarios that would nullify my observations.
On the offensive side of the ball, replacing Will Lawrence will be Faraji Wright (upcoming Jr, 6'3'' 282), and filling in for Matt Slater will be Brenel Meyers (upcoming Jr, 6'2'' 282). Replacing the WR duo of Young and Pettis looks to be Geraldo Rivera... I mean Hiwat (upcoming SO, 6'4'' 195) and Aaron Burks (upcoming SO, 6'2'' 187). Coming off of a red shirt will be Kirby Moore (SO, 6'2'' 202). Burks and Hiwatt will be playing the X, and Y, position with Moore behind Tyler Shoemaker at the H position. The potential to have all 3 starting receivers at 6'1'' or above will cause match-up problems with opposing teams cornerbacks and line backers. Add this to the crafty use of Chris Potter (aka CP3) in the Wild cat formation and as punt returner, and Mitch Burroughs as solid blocking receiver. This will make for the upcoming receivers to have a big year. We lose the downfield speed of Young, but what team can say all three starting recievers have the height that we will have? Not to mention the likes of Matt Miller coming off on an ACL tear, and any other RS WR's that come into the mix. I like our chances very much Bronco Nation.
Our offense will return starters at quarterback in (upcoming senior ) Kellen Moore (I don't have time to list all his accolades), running back Doug Martin (upcoming senior, 1,000 yard rusher and most importantly, Muscle Hamster, upcoming senrior, 5'9'' 212), Offensive tackle and first team all WAC honors Nate "Baby Huey" Potter (upcoming senior, 6'6''300), offensive guard Joe Kellog (upcoming Junior, 6'2'' 300) center Thomas Byrd ( upcoming senior, 5'11'' 280), receiver Tyler Shoemaker ( upcoming senior 6'1'' 215). and tight end Kyle Efaw (upcoming senior 6'4'' 232). Add this to Gabe Linehan who is getting quality reps at the tight end position. Our offense will have no problem scoring points on the MWC foes.
Our defense returns potential all WAC defensive player of the year in Shea McClellin (upcoming senior, 6'3'' 254), defensive tackle Billy Winn (upcoming senior 6'4'' 288) defensive tackle Chase Baker (upcoming senior 6'1'' 295), middle line backer Byron Hout (upcoming senior 6'0'' 223) strong side linebacker Aaron Tevis (upcoming senior 6'3'' 232) line backer J.C. Percy (upcoming junior 6'0'' 217), corner back Jamar Taylor (upcoming junior 5'11'' 191) and strong safety George Iloka (upcoming senior 6'3'' 209). Throw in returning defensive contributors like Jerrell Gavins at the CB position, and the depth at defensive line with Jarrell Root, J.P. Nisby, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, and Tyrone Crawford, not to mention contributions of Hunter White and Jonathan Brown at the Nickle Back position. Our defense will not miss a beat as we prepare to take the Mountain West Conference by storm.
I pick Tyrone Crawford to fill in for the departing Winterswyk, and Kharyee Marshall to take Crawford's spot on the depth chart. We will return Hout, Tevis and Percy as linebacker's. I predict Jonathan Brown (upcoming SO, 5'10'' 197) to start next year at the nickle back position, I see Jerrell Gavins playing at the cornerback slot left by Thompson, and I Cedric Febis (upcoming Senior, 6'3'' 204) should fill in for departing Jeron Johnson. Look for Jeremy Ioane to fight for time at the SS position, and Qualon Ewing-Burton to challenge Gavins for playing time at corner. I expect Ewing-Burton to get time as our 3rd corner back, similar to the role Gavins played this year.
Our team will be very solid. There is no reason we should not be in the talks for a BCS bowl next year. We have better competition as a whole, not to mention starting the year with a Georgia team that loses one of the best WR's in college football. We do have TCU, most likely in FT. Worth, but they lose the best Quarterback the MWC has seen (sorry BY-Who fans, he is a heck of a lot better than Max Hall ever was, and Dalton will have led his team to two BCS bowls, that is a lot better than the Las Vegas Bowl) and also lose outstanding skill players on both sides of the ball. I like our chances Bronco Nation, I really do. We might not start off the year ranked so high like next season, but it isn't where we start, it is where we finish. We need not fear. Things look very bright for us. Also, if TCU sticks around in the MWC, with the addition of Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State, that could open the door for an AQ bid. Top to bottom that is the same if not better than the Big East or the ACC.
I hope to see all of you at the OBNUG tailgate for the Utah State gamae. We must get out and support our team and show them that one loss doesn't alter our view of our team or program.