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I was wrong about Boise State last year. Can a more experienced team hit the BSU standard?

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A nine-win season is a disappointment in Boise. But if the Broncos can reach the same highs without falling to the same lows, 10-plus are on the table in 2016.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Swing and a miss

In this preview series, I frequently quote my previous year's pieces as a means of table-setting. The quotes frequently serve as a reminder of things I got right. But that's definitely not always the case.

From my 2015 Boise State preview:

Yes, there are questions to answer at quarterback and running back. Yes, Boise State is a couple of linebacker injuries away from dipping into a pool of freshmen. Yes, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford got plucked away by Notre Dame.

But no other mid-major can come close to matching Boise State's depth and potential, especially on defense.

A crazy-young team got better on both sides and returns most of the reasons. Boise State probably isn't going to be 2010-good, but I'll be surprised if the Broncos aren't a top-15 team. Either the Boise era continues, or a new one just began.

To put it lightly, I was pretty high on Boise State. A defense that ranked 38th in Def. S&P+ in 2014 returned a ton of exciting talent, and even if the offense stumbled after ranking 13th in Off. S&P+, the fall probably wouldn't be too steep.

Boise State played at a good-to-great level in eight of its last nine games that year and returned most of the reasons why. Combine that with the Broncos' excellent history and recruiting far superior to the rest of the conference's, and you had a slam dunk. BSU was easily going to be the best team in the MWC and had a decent shot at going 14-0.

Not so much. The Broncos lost via Hail Mary to BYU in Week 2, then lost quarterback Ryan Finley in Week 3. With a blue-chip freshman at quarterback and a few injuries in the secondary, they were volatile. They were capable of posting high scores (56 against Virginia, 55 against NIU, 55 against UNLV) and imploding (12 combined turnovers against Utah State and New Mexico). On defense, they held Colorado State and NIU to 17 total points and 1.7 yards per play but allowed 30 points per game and 7.3 yards per play in the final four games of the regular season.

The upside was obvious, but the downside was deadly. Boise State still went 9-4 and ranked 41st in S&P+. The latter was the best rating in the conference -- conference champion SDSU ranked 45th, Utah State was 46th, and Air Force was 52nd -- but three conference losses kept the Broncos out of the title game.

Despite the decent ranking, this clearly wasn't what I expected.

I hate making the same mistake twice. When I'm immensely wrong, I try to figure out why. So throughout this preview, I'll be calling on last year's to see where I was right and where I was not.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 37 | Final S&P+ Rk: 41
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
4-Sep Washington 13 16-13 W 71% 84% -10.5 -9.0
12-Sep at BYU 35 24-35 L 41% 35% -15.6 -14.0
18-Sep Idaho State N/A 52-0 W 82% 100% +6.2
25-Sep at Virginia 78 56-14 W 72% 98% +34.2 +39.0
3-Oct Hawaii 120 55-0 W 98% 100% +36.1 +30.5
10-Oct at Colorado State 86 41-10 W 95% 100% +20.8 +15.5
16-Oct at Utah State 53 26-52 L 4% 0% -31.0 -35.5
24-Oct Wyoming 115 34-14 W 63% 97% -8.2 -15.0
31-Oct at UNLV 105 55-27 W 67% 97% +10.5 +8.0
14-Nov New Mexico 99 24-31 L 19% 14% -32.5 -37.0
20-Nov Air Force 63 30-37 L 14% 2% -10.4 -19.0
27-Nov at San Jose State 89 40-23 W 66% 91% +10.1 +9.5
23-Dec vs. Northern Illinois 66 55-7 W 99% 100% +46.4 +39.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 30.9 52 23.2 33
Points Per Game 39.1 15 20.2 18

2. Three duds

BSU's chances of going undefeated will likely come down to two trips to Utah. They visit BYU in a Week 2 matchup I can't wait to see, then they face Utah State. Lose that one, and it's possible the Broncos don't even win the MWC Mountain at 11-1. USU is strong enough to do the deed, but BSU will still be a solid favorite, as it will be in every game this year.

Indeed, BSU was favored to win every game. And the Broncos frequently backed up Vegas' faith. They beat Virginia, Hawaii, and NIU each by over 30 points more than expected, and they did more than enough to beat the spread against Colorado State, UNLV, and San Jose State. Plus, the closer-than-expected win over Washington was more on the Huskies -- UW turned out far better than anyone thought.

Most of the time, Boise State looked like it was supposed to. But when they laid an egg, it was the size of an ostrich egg. They committed eight turnovers in a 26-point loss at Utah State. They committed four more in a home loss to New Mexico. They had no hope of stopping Air Force's offense.

When Boise State undershot against the spread, they typically missed by at least two touchdowns.

  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. USU, UNM, and Air Force): 12% (~top 115)
  • Average Percentile Performance (other 10 games): 75% (~top 30)

Boise State was a high-tempo team with a freshman quarterback and a defense that allowed a few too many big plays. That made the Broncos insanely volatile. Does experience alleviate the volatility?

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.29 51 IsoPPP+ 102.2 59
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.5% 31 Succ. Rt. + 103.9 57
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 27.3 17 Def. FP+ 28.8 51
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.4 71 Redzone S&P+ 97.5 84
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.7 ACTUAL 22 -2.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 15 59 57 59
RUSHING 39 63 46 65
PASSING 16 71 62 71
Standard Downs 52 56 51
Passing Downs 76 57 81
Q1 Rk 45 1st Down Rk 30
Q2 Rk 76 2nd Down Rk 25
Q3 Rk 36 3rd Down Rk 72
Q4 Rk 40

3. Go fast, part 1

With offensive coordinator Sanford heading to South Bend, Harsin handed the reins to tight ends coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Drinkwitz pulls from different influences.

For better or worse, Boise State had a clear identity in 2015, one it will likely maintain. The Broncos operated at one of the highest tempos in the country, and that didn't change when freshman Rypien took over.

Rypien was the jewel of the recruiting class, but he got the reins sooner than expected. Against two solid defenses, Finley had completed 66 percent of his passes, albeit with four interceptions, but he injured his ankle.

Rypien and sophomore running back/slot receiver Jeremy McNichols showed immense upside. But McNichols was inefficient, and Rypien was a freshman. That led to plenty of glitches.

Despite up-and-down results, Drinkwitz was hired away by NC State this January. As seems to be increasingly common, Harsin elected to go with co-coordinators as replacements. Offensive line coach Scott Huff was given part of the job, and former Eastern Washington offensive coordinator Zak Hill took the other half.

Hill is intriguing. He actually followed new Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich to the islands this offseason but couldn't pass up the Boise opportunity. Hill has ran an excellent, high-tempo, pass-first attack 400 miles away in Wyoming, and he should find pieces he likes.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Brett Rypien 6'2, 199 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9044 272 428 3350 20 8 63.6% 20 4.5% 7.2
Ryan Finley 6'4, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600 46 70 485 1 4 65.7% 6 7.9% 6.0
Thomas Stuart 5'11, 196 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7724 12 18 114 1 0 66.7% 5 21.7% 3.4
Jake Constantine 6'1, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8201

4. The training wheels are off (if they were ever on)

The odds of one of these QBs turning out well are high, but you never know that one will actually play well until he actually does.

Finley was fine in his brief tenure as a starter, but Rypien quickly proved his high ceiling. [Update: Finley transferred to N.C. State. this offseason.] In his first two starts against Virginia and Hawaii, he completed 43 of 60 passes for 592 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions. His passer rating topped 170 in these two games and two others, and it was above 145 three other times. In his final two games, he completed 75 percent for 574 yards.

With four of his top five targets back, including 1,400-yard receiver Thomas Sperbeck, Rypien's ceiling should be as high or higher. The main question, however, is about his floor.

As is customary for a true freshman, the lows were awfully low. In Boise State's three MWC losses, he completed just 51 percent at 11.8 yards per completion with six interceptions. Rypien is still only 12 months removed from senior prom, and he will have some dicey moments again. But how many? And against whom?

Going at a mach-speed tempo with a freshman quarterback means you're going to run into walls. What happens now that Rypien's a sophomore?

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Jeremy McNichols RB 5'9, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7859 240 1337 20 5.6 8.2 34.6% 4 2
Kelsey Young RB 101 511 8 5.1 4.9 33.7% 1 1
Devan Demas RB 5'8, 175 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8556 29 171 2 5.9 6.0 48.3% 1 1
Ryan Wolpin RB 5'8, 191 Jr. NR NR 25 155 0 6.2 6.7 44.0% 0 0
Thomas Stuart QB 5'11, 196 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7724 25 98 3 3.9 3.5 32.0% 1 0
Brett Rypien QB 6'2, 199 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9044 21 50 1 2.4 2.2 23.8% 8 3
Cory Young RB 5'10, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8492 17 90 0 5.3 7.1 35.3% 0 0
Ryan Finley QB 6'4, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600 16 74 0 4.6 1.9 43.8% 0 0
Shane Williams-Rhodes WR 13 102 1 7.8 6.9 53.8% 1 0
Jack Fields RB 9 31 0 3.4 1.1 44.4% 0 0
Thomas Sperbeck WR 6'0, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8135 5 42 0 8.4 5.8 60.0% 1 1
Alexander Mattison RB 5'11, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8584







5. A disappointing run game (to a degree)

The line will block well for any runner, but we don't know that any running back will do well until he proves it.

Line play and line stats are tricky things. A line's success depends so much on the ball-carriers, and chemistry can change the quality drastically from year to year.

I was certain BSU would have one of the best mid-major lines last year. And while Rypien's quick release helped out the sack rates, either the Broncos weren't capable of helping McNichols find open space, or McNichols wasn't capable of taking advantage of the blocks he got.

When McNichols got to the second level of the defense, he tended to run a long way. He finished with 15 gains of 20-plus yards and 34 of 10-plus. But he only managed a five-yard gain on 35 percent of his carries, a pretty low total.

Was this on the line? On the running back? Regardless of the answer (which is almost certainly "both"), the good news is that things improved. McNichols averaged just 3.8 yards per carry through the first three games of the year, then 6.1 the rest of the way. He missed the Utah State game with a concussion, then averaged 152 yards per game over the rest of the regular season.

With McNichols and backups Devan Demas and Ryan Wolpin returning (both Demas and Wolpin were more efficient, but not as explosive), BSU should have the pieces in the backfield.

But what about the line? Disappointing or not, it produced two all-conference performers (center Marcus Henry and tackle Rees Odhiambo), and both are gone. Everybody else is back, and Auburn transfer Will Adams could make an impact.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Thomas Sperbeck WR-X 6'0, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8135 140 89 1431 63.6% 27.7% 10.2 67.1% 52.9% 1.73
Shane Williams-Rhodes WR-H 83 62 521 74.7% 16.4% 6.3 65.1% 50.6% 1.18
Chaz Anderson WR-Z 5'10, 186 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8714 79 42 581 53.2% 15.6% 7.4 60.8% 45.6% 1.49
Jeremy McNichols RB 5'9, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7859 57 51 460 89.5% 11.3% 8.1 45.6% 56.1% 1.35
Jake Roh TE 6'3, 229 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8435 46 33 357 71.7% 9.1% 7.8 54.3% 54.3% 1.33
Holden Huff TE 36 18 243 50.0% 7.1% 6.8 61.1% 38.9% 1.57
A.J. Richardson WR-Z 6'0, 205 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8407 18 10 113 55.6% 3.6% 6.3 44.4% 44.4% 1.19
Kelsey Young RB 10 8 65 80.0% 2.0% 6.5 50.0% 30.0% 1.82
Terrell Johnson WR-H 8 4 9 50.0% 1.6% 1.1 87.5% 25.0% 0.47
Sean Modster WR-H 5'11, 187 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7967 6 3 39 50.0% 1.2% 6.5 16.7% 50.0% 1.14
Akilian Butler WR 5'10, 175 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8544 4 3 38 75.0% 0.8% 9.5 75.0% 50.0% 1.38
Alec Dhaenens TE 6'3, 244 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8435 3 2 22 66.7% 0.6% 7.3 66.7% 66.7% 1.30
Austin Cottrell WR-X 6'2, 206 Jr. NR NR 2 1 37 50.0% 0.4% 18.5 50.0% 50.0% 3.54
Chase Blakley TE 6'4, 235 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8711
Jake Knight (Auburn) TE 6'4, 230 So. NR NR
Matt Pistone TE 6'3, 242 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504
Bryan Jefferson WR 5'11, 188 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8254
Cedrick Wilson WR 6'3, 190 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8238
Julian Carter WR 6'3, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8946
Bubba Ogbebor WR 6'1, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8351
John Bates TE 6'6, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8119

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 94.2 2.74 3.27 36.5% 76.8% 19.5% 105.4 5.8% 5.7%
Rank 100 90 63 92 10 70 52 83 31
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Marcus Henry C 13 40 2015 1st All-MWC
Rees Odhiambo LT 8 25 2015 1st All-MWC
Travis Averill LG 6'3, 299 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8722 11 28
Steven Baggett RG 6'3, 282 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8227 13 27
Mario Yakoo RT 6'4, 329 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 12 26
Archie Lewis LT 6'3, 289 Jr. NR NR 8 13
Jerhen Ertel RT 0 0
Will Adams
(Auburn)
OL 6'7, 303 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8441 0 0
Kellen Buhr RG 6'1, 282 Sr. NR NR 0 0
Andrew Tercek LG 6'1, 281 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8435 0 0
Mason Hampton C 6'3, 290 Jr. NR NR 0 0
Andres Preciado LT 6'6, 277 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726 0 0
Eric Quevedo OL 6'4, 297 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8200

John Molchon OL 6'5, 295 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8180

Garrett Larson OL 6'4, 282 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8081

Kole Bailey OL 6'5, 285 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8441

Ezra Cleveland OL 6'6, 275 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115


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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.51 126 IsoPPP+ 100.9 64
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 33.0% 5 Succ. Rt. + 120.9 7
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.4 22 Off. FP+ 30.8 46
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.9 27 Redzone S&P+ 122.8 12
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.6 ACTUAL 31.0 +5.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 12 37 7 64
RUSHING 5 7 5 27
PASSING 45 50 25 69
Standard Downs 18 3 40
Passing Downs 77 50 92
Q1 Rk 9 1st Down Rk 22
Q2 Rk 79 2nd Down Rk 8
Q3 Rk 3 3rd Down Rk 39
Q4 Rk 39

6. Go fast, part 2

The Broncos had a bit of a big-play issue, but for most opponents, aiming for a big play on the ground wasn't worth it when a vast majority of carries went three or fewer yards. The line was an underrated reason for the Broncos' success in the 2009-11 window, and this might be as good as any BSU has had.

The Harsin identity means aggression. Boise State played at a crazy tempo on offense and attacked in every concievable way on defense. The Broncos held opponents to a 33 percent success rate, fifth in the country (seventh with opponent adjustments) and were willing to sacrifice big plays for three-and-outs and turnovers.

This can be a wonderful approach as long as the big plays don't get out of hand. But while BSU allowed just 135 gains of 10-plus yards (sixth-fewest in FBS), 20 went for 40-plus (105th). That's too damn many big plays, and it ruined the effects of having one of the best run defenses in the country.

By the way ... surprise! Harsin lost another coordinator! Marcel Yates left for Arizona (and took some recruiting prowess with him) and was replaced by linebackers coach Andy Avalos. So don't expect the identity to change much.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 122.9 2.10 3.08 29.5% 51.2% 27.7% 110.7 6.8% 7.4%
Rank 5 3 52 4 9 5 47 14 64
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kamalei Correa STUD 13 31.0 4.8% 11.0 7.0 0 0 3 0
Tyler Horn DE 13 29.0 4.5% 8.5 4.0 1 2 1 1
Gabe Perez (2014) STUD 6'4, 236 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8445 14 24.5 3.2% 7.5 3.5 0 2 0 0
Armand Nance NT 13 19.0 2.9% 7.5 3.5 0 0 0 0
Justin Taimatuia DT 13 18.5 2.8% 6.0 2.0 1 2 0 0
Jabril Frazier STUD 6'4, 232 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414 11 14.0 2.2% 4.0 2.5 0 2 0 0
Sam McCaskill DE 6'3, 257 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7000 13 12.0 1.8% 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Elliot Hoyte DT 6'4, 271 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7583 13 10.5 1.6% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Dereck Boles DT
13 8.5 1.3% 4.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Tutulupeatau Mataele DT 11 8.5 1.3% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
David Moa DE 6'3, 269 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8091 5 3.0 0.5% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Durrant Miles STUD 6'5, 226 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8301 11 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kaleb Hill DE 6'1, 237 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8116
Matt Locher DE 6'2, 252 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8222
Sam Whitney DE 6'1, 234 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8081
Daniel Auelua DT 6'2, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8093
Kayode Rufai DE 6'4, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8528
Jabari Watson DT 6'2, 265 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8413
Curtis Weaver DE 6'4, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8385
Chase Hatada DE 6'2, 255 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8317
Nick Crabtree DE 6'6, 250 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8289
Derriyon Shaw DE 6'3, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8281
Emmanuel Fesili DT 6'2, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8156

7. A void at tackle

That BSU was efficient against the run is impressive considering the Broncos were missing both Tyler Horn and Justin Taimatuia. Each was a key member of the defensive rotation, but both missed 2014 with injuries.

The return of both Horn and Taimatuia gave Boise State a stout, deep front four despite the loss of end Gabe Perez. Six linemen recorded at least four tackles for loss, as did three linebackers, and the Broncos were strong enough tactically to dominate on standard downs. They penetrated the backfield against both run and pass, allowing just 3.1 yards per rush and a 105.9 passer rating on first downs.

The problem came on later downs. Though opponents completed only 50 of 103 passes on third-and-4 or more, and though Boise State picked off seven of those passes, the 50 completions gained 790 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Still, the front seven was awesome. Four experienced linemen and about five experienced linebackers return, along with the fruits of back-to-back strong recruiting classes. The one warning sign: three of those four linemen are ends. Only senior Elliot Hoyte has much experience at tackle, and he made all of 10.5 tackles last year. Four of the top five tackles are gone, and that's scary. Sophomore David Moa is evidently moving inside, and senior Sam McCaskill played on the inside a lot in 2014. But it would help BSU's prospects immensely if JUCO transfer Daniel Auelua were able to quickly establish a spot in the rotation.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Ben Weaver WLB 6'0, 228 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8681 13 51.0 7.8% 4.0 0.0 3 1 1 1
Tanner Vallejo MLB 6'1, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8594 12 44.5 6.8% 8.0 1.0 0 0 2 0
Tyler Gray WLB 12 41.5 6.4% 8.0 3.0 0 3 2 0
Joe Martarano MLB 6'3, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8463 13 36.5 5.6% 2.5 0.0 1 0 0 0
Darren Lee MLB 6'1, 229 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7667 13 17.0 2.6% 2.0 1.0 1 1 0 0
Leighton Vander Esch WLB 6'4, 234 So. NR NR 12 17.0 2.6% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Drew Berger WLB 6'1, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8548
Marquis Hendrix MLB 6'0, 228 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115
Tyson Maeva LB 6'0, 230 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8310
Desmond Williams LB 6'0, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8033








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Darian Thompson S 12 51.0 7.8% 8.5 1 5 4 2 0
Chanceller James NB 6'2, 216 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453 13 43.0 6.6% 5 2 1 6 0 0
Jonathan Moxey CB 5'10, 188 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7959 13 34.0 5.2% 1 1 2 10 0 0
Donte Deayon CB 10 32.5 5.0% 3 0 4 7 1 0
Mercy Maston CB 12 23.0 3.5% 1 0 1 2 1 0
Kameron Miles S 6'1, 215 Jr. NR 0.8561 12 21.5 3.3% 0.5 0 0 3 2 0
Raymond Ford CB 5'10, 183 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8000 12 13.5 2.1% 1 0 2 2 0 0
Dylan Sumner-Gardner S 6'1, 201 Jr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9607 4 12.5 1.9% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Tyler Horton CB 5'11, 172 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8289 12 11.0 1.7% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Skyler Seibold S 6'1, 192 So. NR NR 13 3.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Hartsfield S 5'10, 187 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7678 12 2.5 0.4% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Evan Tyler S 6'2, 181 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8451
Ladarryl Blair CB 5'11, 188 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8432
Damion Wright S 6'0, 204 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8417
Donzale Roddie CB 5'10, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404
Darreon Jackson S 5'11, 187 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8184
DeAndre Pierce CB 5'11, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8184
Robert Lewis CB 5'10, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8123
Reid Harrison-Ducros CB 5'11, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8060

8. A void at cornerback

With ballhawk Darian Thompson and scrappy corners Donte Deayon and Jonathan Moxey leading the way and a host of hungry youngsters backing them up, this unit will likely make plenty of plays.

Indeed, the secondary made plays last year. Safeties Thompson and Chanceller James combined for 13.5 tackles for loss, six picks, and 10 breakups, and corners Moxey, Deayon, and Mercy Maston combined for five, seven, and 19, respectively. This was an active, aggressive, confident secondary, one that frequently flustered opponents and allowed a mere 93.5 passer rating in nine wins.

In four losses, meanwhile, the Broncos allowed 18.5 yards per completion and a 175.6 passer rating.

Constant turnover was an issue. Thompson, Maston, a few backups missed at least one game, Deayon missed three, and blue-chip safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner missed nine. Shuffling can lead to communication errors.

Thanks to the shuffling, nine defensive backs saw quite a bit of playing time, and six of them return. The safety position should be particularly strong with the return of James, Sumner-Gardner, and Kameron Miles, not to mention the addition of three three-star redshirt freshmen to the mix.

Cornerback, however, might be an issue. Moxey's back but Deayon and Miles aren't, meaning it's senior Raymond Ford and a bunch of youngsters fighting it out for the starting spot opposite Moxey. Whoever wins the battle -- likely either Ford or sophomore Tyler Horton -- should be pretty strong, but a couple of injuries would mean that BSU is playing freshmen in the backfield.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Sean Wale 6'2, 185 Sr. 53 42.1 5 20 21 77.4%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Tyler Rausa 5'9, 183 Sr. 95 62.7 56 3 58.9%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Tyler Rausa 5'9, 183 Sr. 59-61 17-18 94.4% 8-12 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Terrell Johnson KR 19 23.0 0
Jeremy McNichols KR 5'9, 205 Jr. 5 17.8 0
Donte Deayon PR 16 3.3 0
Shane Williams-Rhodes PR 8 8.9 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 12
Field Goal Efficiency 14
Punt Return Success Rate 96
Kick Return Success Rate 54
Punt Success Rate 57
Kickoff Success Rate 18

9. If only Tyler Rausa had been around in 2010

Too soon?

After a string of problems at the kicker position, BSU seems to have found a good one in Rausa, who booted there of every five kickoffs for touchbacks and proved both consistent on shorter kicks and accurate on longer kicks. His success made Boise State's special teams unit pretty good.

Then again, it may have had more to do with the year.

We know all about the key kicks the Broncos missed in the 2010-12 window, but beyond that, they ranked first in Special Teams F/+ in 2011, third in 2013, and 10th in 2009 ... and 52nd in 2012 and 56th in 2010. Even-numbered years apparently aren't kind to this unit.

Top 15 in every odd-numbered year, worse than 50th in the evens. If Rausa misses his first couple of kicks this fall, don't say I didn't warn you.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep at UL-Lafayette 106 15.3 81%
10-Sep Washington State 48 6.8 65%
24-Sep at Oregon State 86 7.7 67%
1-Oct Utah State 73 11.1 74%
8-Oct at New Mexico 102 13.2 78%
15-Oct Colorado State 96 18.2 85%
20-Oct BYU 35 3.4 58%
29-Oct at Wyoming 110 16.4 83%
5-Nov San Jose State 92 16.7 83%
12-Nov at Hawaii 118 18.2 85%
18-Nov UNLV 114 24.4 92%
26-Nov at Air Force 80 5.5 62%
Projected wins: 9.1
Five-Year F/+ Rk 28.3% (17)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 65 / 69
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 9 / 0.9
2015 TO Luck/Game +2.9
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 70% (87%, 53%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 9.2 (-0.2)

10. Spoiler alert: I'm picking BSU to win the conference again

If Boise State was ever gone, Boise State is back.

I fell into the "[Previously Great Team] is back!!" trap. I loved the Broncos' returning production,  recruiting, and schedule. And BSU ended up losing at least three more games than I thought.

Where did last year's preview go wrong? It underestimated the instability that could unfold with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator. I didn't expect Rypien to win the job, and he technically didn't, but he was called on.

Meanwhile, it appears injuries did just enough of a number on the secondary that cracks formed. An exciting unit was sometimes exciting for the wrong reasons.

Now, this year ... I'm falling into the same trap. The offense is more experienced, and I like the latest moves on the offensive coaching staff; meanwhile, the defense has questions to answer at tackle and cornerback but boast an embarrassment of riches at end, linebacker, and potentially safety.

I'm not going to predict anything close to an unbeaten record this time, but I do have to note BSU is a projected favorite in every 2015 game. I would be surprised if the Broncos didn't hit double-digits wins again.