It was supposed to be a season where we focused on the dominance of the "now" instead of the promise of the future, but sometimes things don't go quite according to plan. Here are the grades for the 2015 Boise State offense. There was no curve.
You'd think the marks at QB would be sky-high with Boise State fielding a first-team All-MWC signal-caller and freshman of the year, but like the rest of the 2015 Bronco team, consistency was a bit "scattered". Brett Rypien played beyond his years at times and clearly has a bright future in blue and orange, but there were still some freshman moments from the youngster and plenty of improvement is possible. Of course, Rypien might not have even seen the field if not for Ryan Finley's freak broken ankle against Idaho State...and Finley gets an "incomplete" grade on the year after a so-so performance in the opener (a win) and a forgettable performance against BYU (a loss).
Rypien finished the regular season hovering around 3,000 passing yards, 17 TDs and just 7 INTs. The fact that 6 of Brett's INTs came in just two games—Utah State and New Mexico—says a little something, especially given that the three picks against the Lobos were all tip drills on account of Drop-apalooza 2015. Still, consistency's consistency and if the QB unit had a bit more of it, things might have gone differently in the close losses the Broncos suffered this year. Then again, a bit of that on the defensive side might've had the same result, but that's a topic for another day.
Boise State looked to prepping the "stable" for a committee approach in 2015, but in the end, we got another feature back. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you...but having fresh legs to spell the starter from time to time is a major boon and Boise State never really found them. McNichols' 1,244 yards and 18 TDs (including 7 straight 100+ yard performances) were helpful, to put it lightly, and as the year wore on, it became clear that McNichols was doing a yeoman's service because as it turned out...the O-line wasn't that great. However, when McNichols wasn't in the game—the running game was basically going nowhere—but FAST!
Senior Kelsey Young had a decent year, with 457 yards and 7 TDs, but wasn't given a ton of opportunities. His one start, against Utah State, netted just 60 rushing yards. Devan Demas, Jack Fields, Cory Young, and Ryan Wolpin were the other Broncos to get touches, but those touches were very few and very far between. Bottom line, the Broncos need to run the ball better on first and second downs and in the early going (rushing game seemed to wear down opponents in the second half) to get highest marks, but 4.4 yards/carry isn't a terrible average and I'm definitely going to take the so-so O-line play into consideration here.
Running back play is linked somewhat inextricably to O-line play and wide receiver play is linked to QB play, so no one ever truly shoulders all the blame if things go poorly (that's why it's called a "team") nor do they get ALL the credit if things go well. Being as this is the case, I can't blame every drop on the receiving unit, nor can I blame them for not running out a slightly long deep ball. What we can pin on this corps is our old pal consistency and it simply wasn't there in 2015 (trust me, this is a recurring theme). Boise State had did find one bonafide superstar in the WR ranks and the fact that it was the guy that looks like a busboy is not lost on me. Thomas Sperbeck was THE MAN for the Broncos this season and his 1,334 yards is a new school record. Here comes the "however"...HOWEVER, like McNichols, Sperbeck didn't have as much help as he (and we) probably would have liked. The team's second leading receiver, Chaz Anderson, had a respectable 532 yards, and SWR and McNichols rounded out the top four by pitching in another 794 yards between them...but in some of the more crucial moments in the Broncos' season, the unit had trouble finding separation from DBs or simply making a catch (looking at you again, New Mexico game).
Boise State doesn't have great height at the WR position, so they rely on speed, crisp route-running, and good hands. The only player I'd say exhibited that on a week by week basis was Sperbeck, and his stats back that up. The Broncos aren't dead in the water at WR, but Junior Adams needs to get more playmakers to stand up this offseason because we know they're there...and also because Brett Rypien deserves as much.
This one was a tough grade because the Broncos did finish 20th in receiving yards...but those came the hard way, and sometimes at the cost of an absolute TON of pass attempts. Sperbeck's banner year can't patch the other issues that arose in the end.
Nothing made me appreciate Jay Ajayi more than watching this year's offensive line. With basically everyone back on a veteran unit, everyone expected the Broncos to field a dominant O-line in 2015. That was not the case. Sure, things got a bit better as the season went on, but the offensive line couldn't keep the quarterback safe all year and some weeks didn't seem to be able to effectively run or pass block. You want to know why Brett Rypien had so many overthrows in key games...look no further than his microscopic passing windows. Rypien was trying to unload the ball before a D-lineman flattened him and rushing deep balls is a fantastic way to overthrow them. Also, the Bronco run game saw far too many negative plays, and I haven't charted it, but seemingly one after each positive ground play. Certain games, the deficiencies were less glaring, but in others they were laid painfully bare. Against Utah State, for example, Boise State didn't have McNichols available to help pick up blitzes, but the rest of the O-line couldn't either so hey, Lee Marks is off the hook. Furthermore, as the season wore on teams became aware of this fact and sent the house against the Broncos almost every down...and why wouldn't they...it was working. Brett Rypien is deadly with enough time to go through his progressions and Jeremy McNichols is dangerous if he can find a little running room—neither were consistently provided this season as inexplicable as that is.
Honestly, I thought we'd see more from this unit this year...Sanford brought the group back from extinction last season and I thought Drinkwitz might even improve on that, seeing as the new OC was coaching the unit a year ago...but the tight ends weren't utilized a great deal this year and I wish they had been. Sure, Jake Roh and Holden Huff were the team's 5th and 6th leading pass-catchers, respectively, but the crew is SO deep, maybe I psyched myself into believing there'd be multiple TEs on the field at all times. Still, no TE play stood out to me as particularly horrible or fantastic—the guys did what was asked of them and will be there next year (minus Hardee and Huff). We may not see a TE take over games, but I still think we have the depth and talent there to do so. Hopefully Rypien does work on his corner fade routes this offseason—size is your friend in the back corner of the end zone.
Were the grades too harsh? Not harsh enough? Is measuring the relative success of these units against their potential the wrong formula? Tell us what you think.