National Signing Day is always a glorious day in Bronco Nation. The future of the program is introduced to the foundation of the program and we all get to speculate if another Kellen Moore, Jay Ajayi, or Kamalei Correa is in the mix. Yesterday’s haul was big on talent and big on size, but which players—offensive and defensive—stood out the most to our intrepid OBNUG editorial crew? I asked, they answered (even Casey this time). Let’s dig in.
I want to preface this with the notion that you could pick any offensive or defensive player in this class and say they were big get. This is a terrific class with a lot of playmakers. Having said that, here are my picks:
Jermani Brown will be a popular choice here, but I was trying to think of someone else. Kekaula fits the bill. With the departure of Thompson and Deayon, we were lacking a ball hawk. No offense to our current DBs, but we took a significant step back in the turnover department. I think Kaniho can turn that back around. We have some talent at the safety position next season, so it remains to be seen if he will see the field or not. But 6 INTs and 5 pick-6s is nothing to scoff at. I expect big things from him in the coming years.
Again, I think Chase Cord will be a popular choice here, as will Beasley, but I'm going with Thomas here. He finished the season with 60 receptions for 1,205 yards (20 yards per catch) and 15 TDs. All of that was done in Texas, which is kind of a big deal in the high school football scene. He's very much in the SWR mold, just bigger. I think he can be an immediate impact player, it's just a matter of getting the ball in his hands.
The coaches were really high on Moore, as they should have been. He's basically guaranteed a certain level of success just on name alone. During the National Signing Day extravaganza Coach Bryan Harsin recounted a story of Coach Scott Huff visiting Moore and a rival set of coaches were literally waiting to pounce. The Boise State coaching staff was concerned with keeping him, and if you have a chance to watch his videos, it's pretty clear as to why. Dude is going to get plenty of playing time for the Broncos. I don't think he will start, but he will be heavy in any, and all, rotations.
Again, the staff was concerned about retaining Mr. Kelemete's services. This time with tangible proof. Kelemete's flip to Washington State, then back to the Broncos, always gets a bit of a side-eye from onlookers. Then the SUPER late offer from the University of Southern California (ala Fatu last season) really shows the value of the Broncos' recruiting in general. I do not think Kelemete sees the field next year. I hope he doesn't ONLY because I want him to have his freshman year to figure things out. But, this staff is more than willing to plug in a true freshman when he's done all the right things. If Kelemete is one of those guys, then by all means get him in. But, just selfishly speaking, I would like for him to redshirt.
For my pick of defensive grab, it's pretty easy to say that Jermani (pronounced “Germany”...really) Brown is the best remaining player, if for no other reason than that he has more than one area of proficiency--two of which are at an area of need for the Broncos. Firstly, Brown proved that he could be a playmaker in the secondary, having success as both a shutdown and a ball-hawking corner, and that is a skill that will never not be in demand. Our depth at corner seems pretty decent right now, but does anyone remember Kellen's final season in 2011? Particularly the game against TCU? And even more particularly the secondary getting torched because the defensive depth we had at DB was about as deep as a hose-filled kiddie pool in a Boise August? And they were dropping like flies too. I 'member. I was there. And it was brutal. Casey Pachall, people!
Never forget. (Editor’s note: 12 OBNUG demerits for mentioning this game. Bad Michael!)
...and, more importantly, never let it happen again. It seems like steps are being taken to ensure as much because Boise State continues to stockpile versatile DBs.
Which brings me to the second thing that Jermani does so well. if you've seen his film, you know that he's shifty and very, very fast. Those are skills that translate very well into returning punts and kicks. Jermani has a stated desire to fill a need in that capacity, and he successfully did so in high school. Last year, the return game materialized as something of a liability for Boise State. While Wilson was able to alleviate some of that, it seems wise to remove some of the wear and tear on a guy that will be our #1 receiver going into next season.
Oh, and as much as coaches brush away the star rating system, it is a useful metric, at least from the perspective of us fans, to use as a baseline. Jermani comes in with 4 of them. However, I think he'll be successful based off of what I've seen from him. The fact that he has four stars is, however, a great bonus.
Speaking of four stars, Drake Beasley actually had the same rating...before some seemingly petty and vindictive adults at his old high school had qualms with Beasley playing at another high school and successfully blocked his being able to play his senior year, after transferring. Before he had to sit a year, Beasley had already done enough to catch the interest of a number of P5 schools, as well as a large chunk of the PAC 12.
Once he was ruled ineligible, most of those schools lost his number, and didn't want to gamble on a player that 'sat' for a year. But that leads into another part of this story that could be hugely beneficial for BSU: He didn't just sit. After he had transferred to his new school, Drake went to practice and participated fully with his new team, with the exception of actually playing on gameday. He's not just rolling into a premiere FBS program from the street. This speaks to his character, for one thing, that he still tried to help his team, even while his personal situation was in flux, but also the fact that the highlights that we have seen--that attracted such high-profile interest--belong to a player that was only 16 or 17 at the time. There really is no telling what his film would have been like, had he been able to play his senior season, and the sky really seems to be the limit. This ends up being a truly, mutually beneficial arrangement as we probably wouldn’t have been unable to secure his services had his high school career progressed normally. For his part, he's walking into a program that's produced two recent Pro Bowl running backs and one other that will almost certainly be firmly on an NFL roster this time next year.
I’ve noticed a strange phenomena around our roundtables...we don't like to pick the same answers. Some don't want to step on toes with their picks and some don't want to pick the perceived "popular" choices...but in this particular exercise, I don't think there really is a wrong answer. I'd like to think I'd have made these picks regardless of who else picked them and I suspect others feel the same about their picks...even if they imagined their rationale was to bring a unique take. All of these players spoke to us in different ways and all these players can absolutely be future stars in this program.
Cole is on the offensive side, but what appeals to me about his game is similar to what drew Michael to Jermani Brown—versatility. This kid put up some pretty sick numbers his senior season—over 1,600 all-purpose yards, 16 TDs...but also can bring the lumber on the defensive side of things and take any kick he touched to the house. You have to have a high football IQ to basically never leave the field and Cole did just that as a senior at El Cerrito High. Cole was a two-time first-team All-TCAL Rock Division performer and has quite the set of wheels. Pretty much every Mountain West school was after Cole and plenty of Pac-12 schools were sniffing around as well. In short, the Broncos were lucky to nab a player of Cole’s caliber so late in the recruiting cycle and plenty of schools will soon wish they’d had the same good fortune.
Frankly I have no idea why Ezekiel Noa didn’t have a dozen more offers. Actually, scratch that...I do know why he didn’t have a dozen more offers—probably his height (5’11”), but Bronco fans may be eternally grateful that Noa's genes capped him at a shade under six feet. Of course, it's not like everyone slept on Noa...he did have offers from Washington State, Colorado, Wisconsin, and a host of MWC teams, but I think the fact that he didn't become a true national recruit really benefitted the Broncos in their pursuit of the talented LB.
Noa was a four year starter at a powerhouse program (Helix HS) which isn't easy to do even at small potato schols and as a two-time CIF San Diego Section Defensive POTY, he's got plenty of accolades to go along with impressive game film. Speaking of film, Noa has plenty—and in the film below has his game broken down by analysts. Their assessment is the same as mine (and the same as Coach Avalos)—Noa is an unusually instinctive football player and has the mental tools to come in right away and play...as long as his recently-repaired knee comes along for the ride.
Which 2017 signee are you geeked out about?