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Revisiting the Boise State 2017 Class Part 7: Defensive Backs Part 2

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Hawaii at Boise State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to a fun off-season series that Drew (that’s me!), Zach, and Mike (both of MWCConnection) are rolling out for your viewing enjoyment (hopefully). Back in February, excitement was at an all time high for fans and coaches alike as the 2021 class was officially signed. Like every year, fans often tout a class as potentially one of the best on paper. However, once players get on campus and actually on the field, the true story begins to reveal itself. It can often take years for a class to truly be judged as the impact of many players won’t be seen for a few seasons. That being said, this series will aim to revisit and evaluate Boise State’s 2017 class. There has now been enough time that many members of the class have either left or are entering their final seasons, which means players are able to be looked at for their production (or lack thereof) rather than projection and hype.

Anyway, each week, Drew, Zach, and Mike will look at a different position group from the class. While we will contribute two posts each week over the next month, the location of the posts will change. The start of the week will feature a post on OBNUG while the end of the week will see a post up on MWCConnection, that way readers of both sites can follow along. Each post will have all of us weighing in on the same talking points for each season: our expectations of the player from when they signed, the production they gave each season on the team, and their overall impact. The impact will fit into one of 3 categories (exceeded expectations, met expectations, or below expectations). We will each keep a running tally of our totals and then at the end we can each determine the over impact the 2017 class had. It should be a fun and interesting study to see what kind of careers each player had and revisit some names that may have been forgotten.

The 2017 recruiting class is in some ways a bridge between the two stages of recruiting during the Harsin era. The first few classes (which we have reviewed the past few years) were somewhat top-heavy, meaning some talented headliners and then more unheralded prospects filling out the rest of the ranks. The final three classes were a noticeable step up, possessing star-power and the back half of the class could be categorized as a high-floor. The 2017 class is right in the middle of that progression, taking a step forward in both overall talent as well as top to bottom depth. In fact, it was a strong class on paper at the time, even if it was immediately overshadowed by the 2018 class. To hear our thoughts on specific players from the class, read below.

Part Seven continues to look at the defensive backs, this time focusing more on safeties and nickels. Take a look at the three high school players who fit into this category and each have had a bit of a different path in their Boise State careers thus far.

Tyreque Jones

Drew

Expectations when he signed: As I recall, Tyreque was a later addition to the class and as such, I didn’t have a chance to deep dive on his high school tape. My expectations were somewhat muted.

2017 Season: DNP

2018 Season: Appeared in every game and made 4 starts. Not bad for a frosh.

2019 Season: Again appeared in every game with 4 starts. A pattern, perhaps?

2020 Season: Don’t recall seeing much of him in weird pandemic year. Had some injuries.

Overall Impact: Solid. I don’t know that we’ve seen world-beater Jones quite yet, but he’s been productive when healthy and he’s a versatile guy. My expectations were “who dis?” when he signed so I’ll say he has exceeded that.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: His recruiting ranking didn’t match his film. Jones looked like a dynamic safety who could contribute early.

2017 Season: Redshirted, which was a bit of a surprise.

2018 Season: Played in 13 games and even started four. Looked like a star in the making.

2019 Season: Once again played in 13 games and had a big interception against Colorado State. Was hit a bit by the injury bug which hampered his production.

2020 Season: Didn’t really make the huge step that was expected. Dealt with some injuries again.

Overall Impact: Jones’ legacy as a Bronco still has a ways to go. I think if he can stay healthy, he will be in for a big 2021 season. For now, I will go with met expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: I really liked the Tyreque signing. He was a safety with size and he looked like he would become a multi-year starter on the blue.

2017 Season: Jones redshirted, which wasn’t unexpected.

2018 Season: Tyreque played in every game and even started four games. His impact was uneven, but the talent was evident.

2019 Season: Again 13 games and again four starts. Injuries hampered his time on the field and kept him off the field a bit. But when he was healthy, he was a solid performer.

2020 Season: Jones stepped into a bigger role and performed well but not other-wordly. Like many BSU safeties, he plays better against the run than he does against the pass. Still, he’s developed into a good player.

Overall Impact: Jones has been a starting-caliber safety more often than not during his career. However he hasn’t had the stats or the consistency to be an all-conference type of player. Basically, he has met expectations in his four seasons, with at least one more to go.

Roman Kafentzis

Drew

Expectations when he signed: The Kafentzis name is well known in WAC/MWC lore as his whole family is a giant Hawaii legacy. Considering he came from powerhouse Mater Dei and his surname was modestly well-know, I’m going to say the expectations were fairly high.

2017 Season: DNP

2018 Season: Made one (assisted) tackle

2019 Season: Appeared in 13 games...made (one) handful of tackles.

2020 Season: Made 14 tackles on the (shortened) year

Overall Impact: Kafentzis is one of those guys where I’m glad he’s on the team and like the depth he provides, but from a significant impact angle...I can’t say he’s been where I thought he’d be to this point. Sometimes the depth chart just swallows you up. Still, he’s a versatile defender and a great special-teamer, but pie in the sky...he ain’t there. So, I think you know what that means.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: Kafentzis was a highly regarded recruit with some really solid offers. He looked like a really solid addition to a loaded safety class.

2017 Season: Redshirted.

2018 Season: Played in nine games, mostly on special teams. Made one tackle.

2019 Season: Played in 13 games, mostly on special teams.

2020 Season: Backed up Kaniho and saw some more action at nickel.

Overall Impact: Kafentzis has been solid on special teams. But he was expected to be a key contributor. That hasn’t happened at this point. Failed to meet expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: I liked Roman committing because he from powerhouse Mater Dei and I thought he could end up being a steal. However, I mostly projected him to be a part-time starter at some point in his career.

2017 Season: He redshirted.

2018 Season: Roman appeared in 9 games and contributed 1 tackle.

2019 Season: More of the same; 13 games, 4 tackles, 1 TFL.

2020 Season: Roman was a key backup and special teams player, but didn’t have many stand-out moments.

Overall Impact: Roman has been far from a star or even someone who has amassed a lot of tackles. Expectations weren’t high for him to begin with, so I was strongly tempted to say he met expectations. However, because he has yet to emerge as a productive backup, I will have to say he has failed to meet expectations.

Kekaula Kaniho

Drew

Expectations when he signed: This kid was one of the top recruits on the very fertile Hawaiian recruiting grounds and if I recall correctly, had like 30 pick sixes his senior year. Expectations—High.

2017 Season: Appeared in every game—made five starts and scored two defensive TDs (as he was known to do)

2018 Season: Made 8 starts and led team in INTs (3)

2019 Season: Hit for the defensive cycle, named first team All-MWC

2020 Season: Weird short year, but still managed to find a new way to score (91 yard blocked FG return). Kid is silly.

Overall Impact: Love this kid. One of my absolute favorite Broncos. Brings it every game, every down. Has exceeded HIGH expectations...which frankly, is hard to do.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: If I am being honest, I didn’t know much about Kaniho coming out of high school. I thought he was awfully small and would need a lot of time in the weight room.

2017 Season: In a bit of a surprise, Kaniho was a key contributor immediately. He scored two defensive touchdowns and was a starter by the end of the season. His pick-six against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl was huge.

2018 Season: Played in all 13 games. Led the team in interceptions, was a tackle machine and proved to be one of the best players on defense. Kaniho improved after a solid freshman campaign.

2019 Season: If you ever question Kaniho’s legacy as a Bronco, watch the Florida State game. He made some plays that changed that game. This was his best season to date and he was All-Mountain West First Team as a result.

2020 Season: To be honest, this wasn’t his best season. But Kaniho had to play everywhere in the secondary because the Bronco defense was hit so hard by COVID. Overall, it was another solid season.

Overall Impact: Kaniho will go down as one of my all-time favorite Broncos. What a career and we still get another year! He has easily exceeded expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: My expectations were fairly reserved, I thought he would become an ace special teamer with the potential to start later in his career. I did take note that the coaching staff compared him to Marty Tadman on signing day.

2017 Season: I was surprised when Kaniho played as a true freshman, ahead of other players who were better bets on paper to play. He had two defensive touchdowns over the course of the season, one in the bowl game, and worked his way into the starting rotation over the course of the year.

2018 Season: Kaniho became one of the stars of the defense, playing every game, and leading the team in interceptions. His calling card was finding a way to make a big play in a key moment, whether it was a pick, sack, or fumble.

2019 Season: Kaniho kept finding ways to improve, all while doing more of the same as his first two seasons. For his efforts, he was named to the All-MWC First Team.

2020 Season: It’s hard to keep taking steps forward, but Kaniho seemed to take a step back. Nothing was really wrong with his game, but it was absent of the plays we were used to seeing from him. Still, he was one of the team’s better defenders.

Overall Impact: Kaniho burst on the scene as a true freshman and has filled up the stat sheet as he has impacted a number of games with big plays during his career. Simply put, he has exceeded expectations without a doubt.

Running Totals:

Drew: 3 exceeded expectations, 4 met expectations, 13 failed to meet expectations

Zach: 2 exceeded expectations, 4 met expectations, 14 failed to meet expectations.

Mike: 2 exceeded expectations, 5 met expectations, 13 failed to meet expectations.