The media days for the Mountain West Conference wrapped up on Wednesday, meaning one thing for the Boise State Broncos football team: Kickoff to the 2019 college season is nearly here.
Shortchanged last December 26 in the First Responder Bowl thanks to Mother Nature’s love of lightning, players for Boise State have been chomping at the bit to get back onto the field. The last time we saw a meaningful Boise State football game was the December 1 loss to Fresno State in the 2018 Mountain West championship game, a gut punch to a fairly successful 10-win season.
Returning players and coaches have had nearly eight months to shake the title game loss out of their system. Any lingering remnants of missteps will serve as fuel for the fire in 2019. The Broncos will need every ounce of fuel in 2019, with heady expectations again being placed on the program.
National publications are penciling in Boise State as the Group of Five school to beat, though some giving Boise State an initial ranking outside the top-25. (However, NCAA.com has the Broncos coming in at no. 25)
Closer to home, at the Media Days in Las Vegas, Boise State was predicted as winners of the Mountain division. The Broncos had 15 of the 21 first-place votes and totaled 120 points. The Utah State Aggies received the other six first-place votes and had 108 points.
Here are a few quick thoughts as we approach the first day of fall camp, August 2.
The darlings of 2018
Boise State won the Mountain division last season. It was the Aggies, however, who were the darlings for much of 2018. Utah State was scoring points by the bucket load and riding a 10-game winning streak when they arrived on the blue turf in late November, a game they ultimately lost 33-24.
Quarterback Jordan Love, who threw for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2018, is back to lead the Aggies. Love was voted as preseason Offensive Player of the Year and has a small Heisman campaign building around him.
The hype around Love is reminiscent of what Josh Allen had at Wyoming before his final college season. Love isn’t quite getting the “number one pick in the NFL draft” kind of treatment that Allen received, but a lot is expected of Love in 2019.
Allen lost a lot in regards to weapons around him on offense before his final collegiate season and so did Love. It will be interesting to see he holds up as he is only one of two starters returning on offense.
Boise State questions on offense
The Broncos will be dealing with replacing their own stars on offense. Gone are the likes of Brett Rypien, Alexander Mattison, Sean Modster, and A.J. Richardson, among others.
Eyes will be glued to the quarterback battle as the heir to Rypien is decided. True freshman Hank Bachmeier and redshirt sophomore Chase Cord, depending on where he’s at in his recovery from a torn ACL, likely are the two with the inside track. And don’t be surprised if Jaylon Henderson edges ahead and earns some snaps.
Replacing Mattison, who had been a true workhorse the past couple of seasons, might be even tougher. Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren are the top holdovers, with many waiting to see what George Holani can do. My guess: A running back-by-committee early in the season, unless someone blows away the rest of the field in fall camp.
Modster and Richardson were 1-2 in receptions in 2018, but Boise State had depth there. John Hightower, a preseason all-conference pick, and CT Thomas are back, along with Khalil Shakir, Akilian Butler, and Octavius Evans.
One thing the Broncos have on offense is the offensive line, one of the most experienced in the nation. Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon are both preseason all-conference picks. They are part of a unit that gelled the second-half of 2018. Success on offense will be predicated on play of the line, in turn allowing these young guys at the skill positions a chance to shine.
A stellar defense
If the linebackers come together and Boise State stays healthy, this might be one of the best Boise State defenses ever.
And preseason pick for Defensive Player of the Year, Curtis Weaver, is only one of the reasons why. In only two seasons, Weaver has accumulated 20.5 sacks, tying him for sixth all-time in school history.
Weaver will draw a lot of attention as the sack master of this unit. And even with some losses up front, the defensive line will be fine, especially with David Moa returning.
And the secondary, especially at safety, can be one of the most dominant in the Mountain West, health permitting. The unit is loaded with juniors and seniors, players who have played since early in their career.
Be sure to follow Bronco Nation News as we explore these positions battles, the depth of the defense, and more as we get closer to kickoff on Aug. 31 against Florida State.