The Broncos are a deep team, says people like me who really wish to believe that. Despite losing as many as 16 starters according to some outlets, Boise State has loads of backups with starting experience and loads of recruits that we long ago penciled onto WAC, er, Mountain West all-conference teams. But then someone turned me onto the idea of false depth, and now up is down and down is up.
False depth is the depth that is broadcast in feel-good football previews and propaganda-laden press releases. It may be technically accurate, but it's practically irrelevant. Real depth is different. I'll let our friends at Barking Carnival explain:
Real depth comes in three varieties: experienced players who aren't quite talented enough, young players who aren't quite experienced enough, and good players who can't beat out great players. We like the latter best.
And all of these quality measures are relative. Is that back-up a 3 out of 10 or a 6 out of 10? And are they backing up another 3 or are they backing up a 9?
With this new depth definition in mind, let's take a spin around the Boise State roster and see just how deep it really is.
Good depth, lofty depth
Offensive line. The Broncos could field a starting five with starting experience at every position - a rare feat when you lose three starters from the year before. The infinite loop merry-go-round in the trenches has paid off for Boise State. Credit the coaches for being democratic in their lineups, but also credit the quality players that go at least two-deep at every spot. When guys like Brenel Myers can't sniff the field, you've got good problems.
Wide receiver. Taking a literal interpretation of the real depth definition, this position has it all: experienced players who aren't quite talented enough (Chris Potter), young players who aren't quite experienced enough (Dallas Burroughs), and good players who can't beat out great players (Geraldo Boldewijn). Throw those fellas behind Matt Miller, Mitch Burroughs, and Kirby Moore, and voila! Team strength.
Nickel. Corey Bell, Jonathan Brown, and Dextrell Simmons may very well be fraternal clones of each other, which is to say there is no drop off when one subs for another.
Tight end. Throw Dan Paul and moonlighting fullback Chandler Koch here, and the tight end position for Boise State is a cornucopia of skills. Pass catchers and road pavers and H-backers, oh my!
Bad depth, Vandal depth
Kicker. Obvious kicker joke goes here.
Safety. The Broncos have been dangerously shallow at safety for a couple seasons now, so losing George Iloka and Cedric Febis didn't help. Behind Lee Hightower and Jeremy Ioane are ... people. Free comment rec's if you can name one.
Medium depth, okay depth
Cornerback. Having a healthy Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins helps immensely, but it's not like the rest of the cornerback depth chart is lacking talent or experience. It's just that we'd all rather not go down the TCU redux road if we don't have to.
Running back. Should D.J. Harper's knee ligaments cash in their ROTH IRAs and retire to Boca at midseason and should Drew Wright develop an acute case of Tiki Barber fumbleitis, where would the Broncos turn? Ideally, they would turn to Jay Ajayi whose greatest hits include high school YouTube clips and sweatpants theft. Two true freshmen could also be in the mix, so it's not a terrible mix, just an unproven one. Like chocolate Chex Mix.
Quarterback. The Broncos say they have four equally talented players at quarterback, which is good. But what kind of talent are we talking about? Tony Hilde talent? Or Tom Brandstater talent?
Linebacker. The triumvirate of J.C. Percy, Blake Renaud, and Tommy Smith are more than good enough to lock down the two linebacker spots in Boise State's 4-2-5. Beyond that? Crickets, crickets with untapped potential.
Defensive end. Regarding the idea of real depth, I think all Bronco fans would like to assume that the depth at the defensive end position is a bunch of good players (Darren Koontz, et al) who couldn't beat out great players (Shea McClellin, et al), plus a couple of talented newbies shy on experience (Demarcus Lawrence, Sam Ukwuachu).
Defensive tackle. See above. Let's assume that the talent of Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Mike Atkinson, and gang was suppressed by the loftiness of Billy Winn and Chase Baker these past couple years.