With just two games (both wins, thankfully) under our belts, the 2016 season is just getting underway, but I think as we pause for the bye week we can look back and say that some big question marks have been resolved. With that, I humbly submit a list of surprising and non-surprising things I believe we’ve learned so far in this young season.
Cedrick Wilson is as good as advertised
Thomas Sperbeck still reigns supreme, but JuCo-transfer Cedrick Wilson appears to be as good as advertised through two games. We heard throughout fall camp that he was going to be a handful for defenses, and so far I’d say he’s lived up to that billing. Through two games, Wilson has 10 receptions for 198 yards and a score. The 19.8 yards per reception still slightly trails Sperbeck (20.2), but some of the catches that Wilson has made have been truly impressive.
Defensive line deeper than we thought
Sure, we’ve played just two games...but I think everyone was wondering if the 2016 D-line would be okay given the mass exodus of last season—especially considering we’d lost an all-star DE in Kamalei Correa. Well, it’s a small sample size, but so far I’ve been impressed with the 2016 iteration. David Moa—another star of fall camp—has come on strong early this season and accounted for 1.5 sacks and a PBU, Sam McCaskill had 2 sacks against ULL and a key FG block against WSU, and Jabril Frazier has shown a ton of range and versatility through two contests. Also, true freshman like Chase Hatada and Emmanuel Fesili looked good against ULL, but didn’t play against WSU...meaning we have the bodies to get through a game without needing the new guys. We’ll see more of them as the season goes on, but many thought we’d HAVE to play the newbies out of necessity. So far, that hasn’t been the case.
Linebackers are “stupid good”
The Broncos lost starting MLB Joe Martarano for an undetermined amount of time due to injury, but the depth is so good at linebacker that it didn’t have a demonstrable effect. The starting LB unit accounted for nearly 40 tackles against WSU and displayed great instincts, toughness, and open-field tackling ability. Through two games, Ben Weaver and Tanner Vallejo have 22 and 23 tackles, respectively and Vallejo’s play specifically was called out by Mike Leach (among other things Mike Leach ranted about this week).
Leach: our inside receivers were afraid of number 20 #GoCougs— Will Sherratt (@willsherratt) September 12, 2016
Mike Leach says with exception of John Thompson, WSU inside WRs who faced Boise's Tanner Vallejo last weekend "got their ass kicked"— Stefanie Loh (@StefanieLoh) September 12, 2016
Safety depth concerns overblown
The defense is getting a lot of the spotlight today, but let’s be honest...they had far more question marks going into the season. Safety, in particular, was a hot topic given the perceived lack of depth and experience there and those fears were compounded when it was announced that Dylan Sumner-Gardner would be sitting out the first four games. Well, so far so good. Despite having both Chanceller James and DSG out for game one, the Broncos still shut down the UL-Lafayette passing attack behind strong play from freshman Evan Tyler and junior Cam Hartsfield. Then, with James back against WSU, things didn’t skip a beat. Hartsfield and Tyler, specifically, have shown me something so far.
Mattison a future star
We’ve seen precious little of the highly-touted Mattison outside his 61-yard, 1 TD debut against ULL…but he showed enough in that contest to stir some excitement in Bronco fans. Mattison showed great vision, good speed and determination in his first action as a Bronco, and the fact that the coaching staff trusted him with some snaps (and a carry) late in a tight contest against WSU tells me they have as much faith in him as we’re starting to.
O-line looking solid
The Boise State O-line got a lot of grief last season for not living up to expectations. With returning all-conference performers on the line like Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo, many expected better run lanes for running backs and cleaner jerseys for the QBs. True, McNichols got stronger as the year went on and recorded the 7th straight 1,000-yard rushing season for a Bronco, but the pass protection was still lacking and many a sack was given up. So far, the Broncos have given up just one sack in two games, and have been allowing Brett Rypien tons of time in the pocket. If Brett can minimize some of the mistakes he showed against the Cougars…he could be an extremely deadly weapon with that kind of time to find one of our excellent receivers.
What do you think we’ve learned so far from the 2016 Broncos? Has any player, coach, or unit stood out? What concerns do you have after two games? Let’s chat it out and stave off bye week boredom.