Boise State didn't necessarily have a dream season in 2015. Bronco fans helplessly looked on as the good, bad, and ugly befell last season's squad. 9-4 isn't anything to write home about in the city of trees, but neither is it cause to pull up stakes and move to the Palouse. The Broncos underachieved by our standards, but let's face it...our standards are rather high. Curb-stomping NIU in San Diego at least ended the season on a high note, but the loss of a bevy of playmakers in the offseason means even that Poinsettia performance is unlikely to have residual effects.
So, if you're following along at home—2016 is a rebuilding year and we're coming off a sub-par season...expectations will be low, right? Not remotely. Boise State's standard remains unchanged, and new playmakers have to step up in place of their departed comrades. This means that some lucky players to get bear the weight of these expectations in roles that are brand-new to them. So which players will hoist the largest yokes in 2016? Let's look.
Dylan Sumner-Gardner, S
Coming in as the highest-rated prospect the Broncos had ever signed probably saddled DSG with the burden of expectations as soon as he arrived 2 springs ago, and not much has changed as he's never really been given the benefit of a solo starring role during his time on The Blue. Sumner-Gardner showed some playmaking flashes in his two truncated seasons, but with the ultimate departure of Darian Thompson, he'll step on the field in 2016 as the most-seasoned of the full time safeties. If DSG wanted to live up to his hype, 2016 would be a helluva time to do so.
Tyler Horton, CB
As the seasoned vet on the other side, Jonathan Moxey has plenty to prove in 2016, but there was only one significant departure in the CB unit this offseason, and that was the pick-happy Donte Deayon. Most think that Horton will be the man to take over the vacant CB spot, but he'll certainly be pushed by Raymond Ford and a host of other underclassmen. Still, there's a reason that Horton played last season as a true frosh...he has the tools to be a big-time playmaker for the Broncos, but won't have the grace period that others have enjoyed.
Jabril Frazier, DE
Boise State lost a load of interior D-lineman to graduation, but the tacked-on departure of Kamalei Correa at the end spot really put the 2016 D-line in flux. Correa, as evidenced by his early departure, was a legitimate superstar, and could enjoy a long and prosperous NFL career...but back to Bronco reality, we need a solid edge-rusher and Frazier could absolutely be that guy. Frazier was a sack-machine at Verbum Dei High School and has the length and athleticism to really give opposing tackles nightmares. He played in 11 games for the Broncos last season, and put up respectable numbers for a guy that wasn't yet "the guy" (17 tackles, 4 TFL, 2.5 sacks). I fully expect Frazier's numbers to skyrocket this season...but expectations, as we know, are a double-edged sword.
Akilian Butler, WR
Boise State has a star on the WR unit...and he goes by the name "Thomas Sperbeck". The thing is, Sperbeck would love to have company at the top, and Butler looks like he may fit the bill. He can't fill the shoes of Shane Williams-Rhodes because he probably wears a bigger size, but he'll need to fill the figurative shoes of our dear SWR for the WR unit to really move. The Broncos have a ton of guys waiting in the wings for Brett Rypien to play catch with, but they'll need another superstar that can stretch the field and Butler, like it or not, looks like that dude.
Brett Rypien, QB
Okay, so Rypien gets the benefit of coming in with sky-high expectations last spring and somehow raising that bar for 2016. As MWC Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-MWC performer, we're all pretty sure what Rypien can do...but now the question becomes what can't he do? In 2015, Rypien was pretty darn good for a true frosh, but Kellen Moore was pretty good as a RS frosh in 2008—it was Moore's progression the following 3 years that cemented his legacy. We've all seen Rypien's work ethic and his skill set...but 2016 is time for the former number eleven to turn things up to an eleven.
Which players do you think will bear the largest burden of expectations in 2016? Is there another star waiting in the weeds?