Not much ambiguity about it, Boise State did not meet all of their goals this season—that is, if goal 1A is still, "to win the conference". Of course, not meeting one's goals doesn't always equate to abject failure, and the Broncos were successful in at least one pretty important way...they won more games than they lost (for the 18th straight year). Still, there are plenty of things to work on and some other good things to build on as the Broncos start to prep for their final game of the season on December 23rd. This article series will seek to grade, as best we can, the different coaching and position units to see how we fared in 2015 and how we can fare better in the future. How about we start at the top...
First off, let me state that this ranking probably won't be fair. I've afforded Drink a pretty big first-year mulligan and think the true test of his overall booth skillz will be found in year two...however, even with a pretty long lead, Drinkwitz had a year to be proud of...mostly. Boise State finished the regular season ranked 21st in the country in total offense—racking up 489 yards a game and scoring darn close to 38 a contest (on average). Through the air, the Broncos landed inside the top 20, with approximately 305 passing yards a game (ahead of BYU...booyah) and though they were 53rd in the country in rushing offense, that's still in the upper half of the FBS. Drink did a good job of guiding Brett Rypien, who stepped into a pressure-cooker and came out a All-MWC first-teamer and putting forth fairly good game plans each week on the offensive side.
As we know, Boise State had some execution issues in the redzone and turnovers and drops hit epidemic proportions in several games, but I'm not sure how much of that falls on Drinkwitz in the long run. I did think that Boise State tended to get a little "cute" in the redzone at times, and went to the wildcat and screen well a bit too often in those situations. Furthermore, first and second down play-calling wasn't consistently effective, leading the Broncos to far too many 3rd and long situations. Again, it could be argued that execution was lacking on those key downs...but at times it seemed inappropriate for the Broncos position on the field, or the time remaining on the game clock (looking at you, New Mexico game). Overall, I think Boise State patched some gaping holes admirably, namely those left behind after the departure of Jay Ajayi, Grant Hedrick, and of course Mike Sanford Jr. The Broncos have some work to do finding some consistent depth at skill positions, but I think Drinkwitz's sense of the game improved as the season went on and the offensive numbers back that up.
Oh, what could have been! Boise State appeared to have every piece in place to field a dominant defense in 2015—perhaps a last dominant hurrah for the foreseeable future with the anticipated losses of scads of D-lineman and our most seasoned defensive backs. And the Broncos showed that dominance in their first game, holding Washington to just 179 yards and zero offensive TDs, but the BYU game the following weekend exposed a few worrisome areas...mainly, the discipline of the defense. The Broncos weathered early adversity in Provo and played pretty well between the 20s, but big plays burned them whenever the momentum appeared to be squarely on our side and allowed the Cougars to escape with a win. The Broncos put together a few more dominant wins over the next few weeks, but as injuries mounted it became clear that the perceived depth of the defense, especially in the secondary, was not where we'd hoped it would be. Each positional coach is responsible for shoring up that depth, but it was up to Yates to move those chess pieces around the board and late in the season, the Bronco D didn't resemble the dominant unit we'd seen against UW in week one and the triple-option again embarrassed the unit time and again.
The sad thing is the Bronco defense was much better against the running elements of the triple-option...the main element as it were, but they found themselves toasted time after time through the air with LBs left covering wideouts or safeties nowhere near where they needed to be. You can blame injuries a bit for some of the missteps, but after two years at the helm, the Broncos are 1-3 against triple-option teams and 0-4 in moral victories over the triple option. Since we now get the pleasure of playing two such squads in our division each year, we need to figure it out ASAP. I have no doubt we have the athletes to get it done, but actually getting it done has to at least in some small ways, "trickle up". That said, the Broncos finished 23rd in the country in total defense...so I can't kill Yates too bad for what amounts to two awful games defensively and two "meh" games defensively out of 12.
Grades are subjective and we're a long ways from pass/fail, but feel free to weigh in on the coordinating this season. Harsin might say, "It's never as bad as you think or as good as you think"...so what exactly do you think?