Spring football is over following the annual spring game and since the AAF folded, we’re stuck with the prospect of no football at all until summer. We all knew this day would come.
But how was Boise State’s spring game (besides rainy)? Well, I was on the sidelines yesterday and took lots of mental notes. Here they are:
They often say that the defense is ahead of the offense in spring and that might be the case this year more than in the past. Not a single quarterback on the field yesterday (or on the sidelines) has started a D1 game and despite some flashes here and there...this race is going deep into fall camp.
The “order of operations” were Jaylon Henderson (Sr), Hank Bachmeier (Fr), Riley Smith (RSFr), Kaiden Bennett (Fr), and Zach Matlock (RSFr). Henderson moved the offense reasonably well on the first drive and showed a good command. Bachmeier’s first series with the offense was probably his best, but he faced the number 1 defense most of his series’ and had a bit of trouble with pressure and ball placement. Smith, Bennett, and Matlock all had some nice plays and all showed they are legit running threats. Still, it was Henderson that had the best day (187 yards passing, 1 TD) and he definitely looks like he’ll carry an edge into fall camp. Remember, Chase Cord should be back by then too, so all bets are officially off. I’ll say this about the QBs—none looked utterly lost and all can run and throw a good ball. Adding Cord to the mix only improves our chances of having 1 or 2 solid signal callers by week 1.
WRs are (insert googly eye emoji)
Boise State had a rock-solid WR unit last season with playmakers all over the field. This year, they’ll enter the season without the senior leadership and chain-moving abilities of AJ Richardson and Sean Modster...but if yesterday was any indication...I think they’ll be juuuuust fine. Khalil Shakir is 100% healthy and is about as electric a player as we’ve seen in a while. Shakir led all receivers with 96 yards and a ridiculous TD run early in the game. Redshirt Freshman Stefan Cobbs also showed early why he was so hard to sit in 2018...the kid made some really impressive grabs and in tight coverage no less—he finished with a nice 69 yards on just 3 catches.
Of course, John Hightower is back and also made us remember the 2018 magic with a couple of gnarly catches, like the one below (they ruled this incomplete, btw...which set Harsin into a faux rant at the refs).
And the spring game's king of "Almost Touchdowns"...Hightower pic.twitter.com/hs95FEVBqT— OBNUG (@OBNUG) April 6, 2019
I’ll wrap him into the WR recap because that’s how they used him, but Redshirt frosh Tyneil Hopper (y’know...the guy that had an Alabama offer) showed some real receiving chops. He looks like the type of guy that might be able to take up the pass-catching TE mantle of Jake Roh. John Bates might also take a step this year, but Hopper was a big-time safety valve for the prospective QBs and looked great—echoing Harsin’s sentiments from throughout camp.
You generally don’t see a lot of rushing fireworks in spring games and Saturday wasn’t really an exception, but the Broncos did show some good depth and some healthy running that will only be bolstered this fall when George Holani and Keegan Duncan arrive. Andrew VanBuren is definitely RB1 at the moment and fought his way to 47 yards on 12 carries. Robert Mahone looks like your consensus 2-back at the moment and had 26 yards on 5 carries. After those two (Danny Smith was on crutches), walk-on Marcus Washington got some good work in and while he had just 4 rushes for 12 yards, looks like the definition of a short-yardage-back. Seriously, this dude is built like Doug Martin.
The defense played pretty well as a whole and two local kids had some nice highlights. One of whom, you’d probably expect—Scott Matlock. Matlock got a lot of snaps yesterday since the Broncos were sitting a few interior lineman (David Moa amongst them). Nothing super flashy from Matlock, but he definitely made his presence felt. The other local kid that probably surprised many was walk-on Dylan Herberg, who played a ton and even had some series with the first team defense. Herberg, who plays STUD but is built more like a traditional OLB, had a “sack” (two-hand touch style...it’s spring after all), a QB hurry and 2 PBUs. If you’re looking for next “local boy makes good” storylines...these fellas are a good place to start.
Because it’s a scoop about the 2019 DBs...get it? Okay, maybe that was a stretch, but the Broncos should have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2019 defensive backfield even with the departure of stalwart Tyler Horton. For starters, DeAndre Pierce is back, and while he didn’t make too many splash plays...just seeing him back out on the field and running with the ones had to have put a song in many a heart. Redshirt freshman Chris Mitchell, who many have been sky-high on at corner, led the defense with six tackles (although I’m not sure how many were with the first-team D, if any), and sophomore Tyreque Jones had 5 of his own. The first-team at corner appears to be Jalen Walker and Avery Williams for now, and if both guys take that next step...could stay that way into the fall—but Mitchell or Marques Evans could make a move and Tyric LeBeauf should be healthy by then as well. Definitely some battles to monitor.
D-line looking mighty fine
David Moa is still being held out as a precaution, and highly-touted ends like Demitri Washington and Aisa Kelemete were also just watching, but the defensive line still wreaked a bit of havoc yesterday without them. Scale Igiehon and Sonatane Lui were lined up on the interior with the 1s and that level of beef is a welcome sight at the tackle spots. Curtis Weaver is still doing Curtis Weaver things and notched two quasi- sacks from the STUD spot. Of course, the aforementioned Matlock and Herberg (NOT the 70s cop drama) made some nice plays as well for the D-line.
LB question marks linger
If you thought we’d finish spring with definitive answers at linebacker...well, I warned you! With several LBs (Riley Whimpey and Casey Kline for starters) sitting out the spring game, and another highly-touted LB yet to make landfall (Langi), the unit just isn’t “complete” enough to get a “complete” grade. However, Zeke Noa looks like he’ll carry some 2018 momentum into this season and guys like Benton Wickersham, Roman Kafentzis, and Brandon Hawkins all got plenty of snaps and look like at worst, they’ll be providing solid depth this year. Expect to see Kaniho play a more traditional SAM role this year, and keep in mind that we’re probably sticking with the 3-4 (STUD will often be that “4”).
Who knows? Can’t be worse than last year though, right? RIGHT?!
If you happened to be in attendance yesterday, what did you see? Anyone stand out to you that didn’t get a mention here?