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Next Bronco Up: Running backs

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NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Next up in this series, we’ll clarify what is happening at one of the next most crucial positions: Running back. Who are we kidding, they are all crucial. As far as skills positions, this is up there.

Graduated/Left

Ryan Wolpin - 5’8 198lbs - 122 carries for 448 yards, 6 TDs, 12 receptions for 107 yards.

Current

Alexander Mattison - True Junior - 5’11 214lbs - 209 carries for 1,074 yards, 12 TDs, 28 receptions for 284 yards, 1 TD. Boise State Offensive Player of the Year, 2017 All-MW Team Honorable Mention.

Jake Shaddox - RS Junior - 5’11 216lbs - No notable stats as of yet. Walk-on

Robert Mahone - RS Sophomore - 5’10 211lbs - 23 carries for 81 yards, 1 TD.

Drake Beasley - RS Freshman - 5’11 178lbs - No stats. Coming off red shirt season.

Incoming

Andrew VanBuren - 6’1 215lbs - 224 carries for 1,259 yards, 21 TDs. Daily News All-Area 1st Team, Mission League Offensive Player of the Year.

Danny Smith - 6’ 210lbs - 176 carries for 1,610 yards, 21 TDs. Oxnard Offensive Player of the Year

I was fairly outspoken about Wolpin being one of my favorite players. I love to see walk-ons come in and earn a scholarship and meaningful playing time. It’s not easy to do and I love it when it happens. While Wolpin didn’t necessarily have eye-popping numbers, anyone who watched him play knew he left it all out there every single game. He came in and did what he needed to do in the MW Championship game, grinding out yards and the clock. Against Oregon, he got tough yards and set a career best yard mark in his final game as a Bronco. His leadership and hard work will be missed, but I’m sure he imparted what he could to the youth on the team.

Alexander Mattison COULD be in his final season with the Broncos. I am not convinced of this yet, but I can certainly see it as a possibility. With over 1k yards rushing last season as a sophomore, I would anticipate he would build on that total. He has all of the tools to improve, and while he suffered an injury near the end of the season, I don’t anticipate that to slow him down any. Mattison will be the starter this season, that much is for sure. The question is who will be his back-up?

Robert Mahone has great size and showed plenty of potential last season, especially late. I also felt like he could have been given a few more opportunities, but hindsight is 20/20, right? Based on his game-time experience, one could pencil him in as RB2 and I’m sure plenty of people will be fine with that. Others may look to other players on the roster.

Drake Beasley had a bit of an odd ending to his high school career. Leaving Loyola to transfer, he was barred from playing his senior year. He red shirted last season, but was highly praised by Coach Marks. While he fits into more of a Jeremy Avery body mold, he could blow things up this season. He was listed as a 4-star RB his junior year, but fell off a lot of school’s radars once he was kept from playing after his transfer. The Broncos capitalized and came out on top.

Jake Shaddox has shown some fun flashes in scrimmages, and while I always root for the walk-ons, I don’t anticipate seeing Jake on the field outside of special teams. He has a lot of talent he is up against.

Andrew VanBuren was the talk of the 2018 class. A 4-star running back out of powerhouse Chaminade, AVB ran for nearly 1,300 yards at the highest level of football in California. He has the size and skills to play immediately, which is where the RB2 discussion gets foggy. AVB could very well come in and pass up Mahone and Beasley. Ideally, personally, I would like him to red shirt. I have a feeling we will have a hard time doing so.

Danny Smith is another bruiser of a back coming in with the 2018 class. I kind of look at Danny as a bit of a sleeper prospect. Not really talked about with another recruit at the same position getting more attention. Danny could come in and REALLY cause a controversy. I think Danny red shirts this year to give a bit of depth in 2019 in the event Mattison leaves.

Really we have a bit of an embarrassment of riches at the position. We have some experience and depth with plenty of size and talent. Fall camp should be a lot of fun. I could see Mattison’s workload being reduced, actually, despite what I said earlier. The coaches might have a hard time keeping all of this talent off the field. Either way, these kids will be fun for Bronco Nation to watch. GO BRONCOS!