Key returning starters: WR Thomas Sperbeck, RB Jeremy McNichols, QB Brett Rypien
Last season, Boise State’s offense averaged more than 500 yards per game, and it brings back the quarterback, receiver and running back most responsible for those staggering numbers. Four of the five starters on the Broncos offensive line are also back, and with one of the brightest young quarterbacks in football in Rypien (who averaged 304.8 yards per game as a freshman in 2015), this offense could power Boise State into the playoff conversation.
Key returning starters: DE Gabe Perez, CB Jonathan Moxey, LB Ben Weaver
Under new coordinator Andy Avalos (promoted from linebackers coach this winter), the Broncos defense will field an inexperienced line and secondary. A year ago, Boise State’s defense ranked 12th in the FBS in total defense—with 31 turnovers gained, good for fifth in the FBS—but it struggled at times against the run, a weakness this year’s unit will need to shore up before facing the likes of New Mexico and Air Force, two option offenses that were able to fleece the Broncos in 2015.
Leader in rushing: McNichols. The junior gained 1,337 yards on 240 carries a season ago, accounting for 26 touchdowns, a team high – and also more than any other returning FBS player.
Leader in receiving: Sperbeck. The prolific receiver enters his senior season with a firm hold on the top spot after finishing 2015 with 1,412 yards. His 88 catches tied a single-season Broncos record, which he could easily top in his final year in Boise.
Leader in tackles: Weaver. He has led the Broncos in tackles in two of the past three seasons, logging an impressive 89 as a freshman in 2013.
Leader in interceptions: Moxey. The corner picked off just two passes a year ago as a junior, but as the lone returning starter at cornerback, he should see more reps. Plus, with Darian Thompson, a safety who led the team a year ago with five interceptions, gone to the NFL, the opportunities will be plenty.
Opposing coach's take
“They’ve been the standard for the Group of Five, but they’re not the same animal they have been. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still damn good, but last season, for the first time in a while, they lost games they should have won.
They’ve got new co–offensive coordinators in Scott Huff and Zak Hill, but it doesn’t really matter, because coach Bryan Harsin is heavily involved offensively. He wants to throw the ball around out of the shotgun. Their [sophomore] quarterback, Brett Rypien, was impressive last year. He’s going to be one heck of a player, but he’s not very mobile.
If you decide to pressure Rypien, you better make sure you can cover their receivers one-on-one, a really good group led by crafty [senior] Thomas Sperbeck. They’re also a real big deception team, so you’ve got to be prepared for trick plays.
There’s a ton of questions on defense with just five starters back. And there’s a new defensive coordinator, Andy Avalos; we expect him to run a 3–4 scheme. Their line has been overhauled, but they’ll be fierce in the secondary with ball-hawking safeties Cameron Hartsfield [a junior] and Chanceller James [a senior]. Kicker Tyler Rausa and punter Sean Wale, both seniors, are outstanding, which is a real advantage.
They don’t make a lot of mistakes, but they’re a beatable team. If they’re going to be the Boise of old, it’ll depend on their defensive line.”
Although Weaver led the team in tackles a year ago, it’s 6’ 1”, 230-pound linebacker Tanner Vallejo who will be the key to Boise’s defense. With better pass-rushing potential and quickness than his counterpart, Vallejo is dangerous against both the pass and the run, and he could be the star of the Broncos defense as a senior this season.
at Louisiana Lafayette
at Oregon State
at New Mexico
San Jose State
at Air Force