In most good offenses in football, there is a player that you can’t keep your eyes off of. A guy that is the focus of the opposing team’s defense yet seemingly has a knack for finding the end zone.
Heading into the 2015 season, the Boise State Broncos were on a search for who that player would be. A collection of players were ready to step up and help replace the production that left when Jay Ajayi departed college early for the NFL.
Gone were 1823 rushing yards, 32 total touchdowns, and 397 touches. Not exactly an easy task for a group of players, let alone just one man.
Jeremy McNichols begs to differ.
McNichols, a true sophomore, has been been playing at the high rate fans have come to expect from the running back position at Boise State and he’s been doing it with a humble approach.
The magic started against Washington as McNichols found the end zone twice, the Broncos only two touchdowns of the night. In fact, it wasn’t until the third game of the season that another player besides McNichols scored a touchdown for Boise State.
Through five games, McNichols has scored 12 touchdowns. Ten of these have come on the ground while two have came via the passing game
In fact, the ten rushing touchdowns currently has McNichols tied for 2nd in the NCAA. Even better, his 12 total touchdowns rank him first in that category.
Not too bad for the man that wasn’t even supposed to play last year.
Coach Bryan Harsin burned McNichols redshirt last year after a season-ending injury to Matt Miller. From there, McNichols proved that he was a weapon that was going to be utilized. In 9 games, McNichols scored two touchdowns and touched the ball 32 times, averaging nearly ten yards per touch.
McNichols has slid nicely into the role of lead back this year. He’s not being asked to carry the ball 30 times per game like Ajayi did but McNichols is proving to be just as dangerous, at least when it comes to finding the end zone
Thanks to more consistency and production from the entire offense, McNichols has blossomed these last few weeks. He had his first 100-yard game against Hawai’i, gaining 108 yards on 20 carries to go along with two touchdowns.
On the year, McNichols has 97 total touches for 500 yards. The average per touch is lower than last year but he is still a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball (including kickoff returns, on that rare event a kick is actually returned.)
Even at two touchdowns per game, McNichols is slightly off pace of the school record of 32 total touchdowns set by Ajayi and Brock Forsey. Still, through five games, McNichols is putting up more than respectable numbers for a guy in his first-year as the starting running back.
The offensive line has done better in recent weeks at opening up holes for McNichols, allowing the sophomore to utilize his speed. Those chances should continue this Saturday against Colorado State. The Rams are allowing 193 yards per game on the ground this season.
With two years still remaining, there’s a good chance we haven’t even seen the best that McNichols has to offer. The spotlight is certainly not solely on him but if anything, McNichols has proven he’s ready to embrace the role handed to him, giving the Broncos a lead weapon in an arsenal that is slowly growing with each passing week.