October 22, 2021

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Fit And Go Forward

Season preview: Boise State football set to begin Avalos era

The Boise State football team made its fourth straight appearance in the Mountain West championship game last fall, but the way the season ended didn’t sit well with anyone on the team.

The Broncos lost to San Jose State in the title game, and then the players voted to not play in a bowl game, ending the program’s streak of 18 straight seasons with an appearance in a bowl game.

Boise State is set to kick off this season Thursday at UCF (5 p.m. MT, ESPN). Here’s what you need to know to follow the Broncos this year.

Avalos comes home

Boise State football coach Andy Avalos returned to his alma mater in January to begin his head coaching career. The 39-year-old replaced Bryan Harsin, who went 69-19 in seven years as the Broncos’ head coach but left in December to take over at Auburn.

Avalos was a linebacker at Boise State from 2000 to 2004, and he spent the past two years as the defensive coordinator at Oregon. He called leaving Boise after the 2018 season one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do, and he’s excited to pass the program’s many traditions down to the next generation of players.

There is pressure for him to live up to his predecessors’ early success. Harsin — who was once a quarterback at Boise State — led the team to a Mountain West title and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl in his first season as head coach in 2014.

The coach Harsin replaced, Chris Petersen, led the Broncos to a 14-0 record and a Fiesta Bowl win in his first season.

Players to watch

Offense

QB Hank Bachmeier — Bachmeier beat out USC transfer Jack Sears again this year to win the starting job for the third season in a row. The former four-star recruit has completed 62% of his career passes, and he’s 11-2 as the starter the past two years.

RB George Holani — Holani missed most of last season with a knee injury, and the Broncos struggled to run the ball without him, ranking last in the conference with just 107.1 rushing yards a game. He’s been healthy so far this fall, and with improved depth behind him, Boise State’s coaches hope to see him return to the form he showed while racking up 1,014 rushing yards as a freshman.

WR Khalil Shakir — Shakir has done it all the past three seasons, and that isn’t going to change this year. He’ll be the receiver Bachmeier turns to when a play needs to be made, especially on third down. He’s sure to get some carries again this season and he may even get a shot at another touchdown pass. In 2019, he contributed 10 touchdowns: six receiving, three rushing and one passing. He was one of four Broncos named preseason All-Mountain West, and he heads into his senior year with 18 career touchdowns.

Defense

LB Riley Whimpey — One of the seven super seniors the Broncos have back this season, Whimpey has been the team’s top tackler the past two seasons. He finished last fall with 61 and racked up 83 in 2019.

Edge Demitri Washington — Washington missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury in game two at Air Force. He’s a versatile athlete who can play on the line as a traditional defense end, rush the passer from a two-point stance and drop in pass coverage. With defensive end Shane Irwin sure to get some attention after leading the team with 6.5 sacks last season, Washington has a chance to be a nightmare for quarterbacks.

S JL Skinner — One of the most physically imposing players on the team, Skinner moved into a full time role as a starter last season. Safeties coach Kane Ioane was impressed with his range and physicality in fall camp, and he Skinner and fellow safety Tyreque Jones to be two of the most active players on the defense this year.

Depth chart

Boise State released its first depth chart of the season on Wednesday. There weren’t many surprises, other than sixth-year senior Donte Harrington winning a camp battle against Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez to start at center. Holomalia-Gonzalez started six games there last season.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Octavius Evans was also listed as a starter after he missed most of last season because of personal issues, and the Broncos’ starting left guard was listed as redshirt junior Garrett Curran, who started there last season, or Texas Tech transfer Will Farrar.

Safety Seyi Oladipo is the only true freshman on the two-deep. He’s listed as Jones’ backup at free safety. Freshman quarterback Taylen Green will open the season behind Bachmeier and Sears. Here’s a look at the full depth chart.

Offense

Quarterback

19 Hank Bachmeier, Jr., 6-1, 210

16 Jack Sears, R-Sr., 6-2, 213

10 Taylen Green, Fr., 6-6, 215

Running back

24 George Holani, R-So., 5-11, 205

4 Cyrus Habib-Likio, R-Sr., 6-1, 210

21 Andrew Van Buren, Sr., 6-0, 240

Tight end

3 Riley Smith, R-Jr., 6-5, 238

88 Tyneil Hopper, R-Jr., 6-2, 242

87 Kurt Rafdal, R-Sr., 6-7, 240

Wide receiver

1 Octavius Evans, R-Sr., 6-1, 210

18 Billy Bowens, R-Jr., 6-1, 202

Wide receiver

2 Khalil Shakir, Sr., 6-0, 190

6 CT Thomas, R-Sr., 5-8, 175

Wide receiver

5 Stef Cobbs, R-Jr., 6-0, 185

17 Davis Koetter, R-Sr., 6-2, 195

Left tackle

70 John Ojukwu, R-Sr., 6-6, 303

74 Jacob Golden, R-So., 6-5, 300

Left guard

75 Will Farrar, R-Sr., 6-5, 322

OR 69 Garrett Curran, R-Jr., 6-5, 305

Center

71 Donte Harrington, R-Sr., 6-2, 305

55 Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez, R-Jr., 6-2, 300

Right guard

68 Jake Stetz, R-Sr., 6-2, 311

72 Dallas Holliday, R-Jr., 6-3, 318

Right tackle

66 Ben Dooley, R-So., 6-5, 305

77 Uzo Osuji, R-Sr., 608, 305

Defense

Defensive end

55 Shane Irwin, R-Sr., 6-3, 260

19 Aisa Kelemente, R-Sr., 6-4, 250

Nose tackle

90 Scale Igiehon, Sr., 6-2, 290

94 Jackson Cravens, R-Jr., 6-2, 305

OR 95 Divine Obichere, Sr., 6-3, 295

Defensive tackle

99 Scott Matlock, R-Jr., 6-4, 295

92 Michael Callahan, R-So., 6-3, 280

OR 95 Divine Obichere, Sr., 6-3, 295

Edge

38 Demitri Washington, R-Jr., 6-3, 270

30 Isaiah Bagnah, R-So., 6-4, 225

Middle linebacker

7 Ezekiel Noa, R-Sr., 5-11, 240

52 D.J. Schramm, R-Jr., 6-0, 231

Weakside linebacker

44 Riley Whimpey, R-Sr., 6-1, 231

3 Brandon Hawkins, R-Jr., 6-2, 220

Nickel

29 Kekaula Kaniho, R-Sr., 5-11, 188

4 Rodney Robinson, R-Fr., 5-8, 177

Cornerback

8 Markel Reed, Jr., 6-0, 190

24 Damon Cole, R-Sr., 6-0, 185

Strong safety

0 JL Skinner, Jr., 6-4, 218

34 Alexander Teubner, R-So., 5-11, 194

OR 41 Jaylen Clark, R-Fr., 6-2, 198

Free safety

21 Tyreque Jones, R-Sr., 6-2, 205

23 Seyi Oladipo, Fr., 5-11, 194

Cornerback

22 Tyric LeBeauf, R-Jr., 6-2, 185

26 Caleb Biggers, Sr., 5-11, 196

Special teams

Kicker

35 Jonah Dalmas, So., 5-8, 161

46 Joel Velazquez, R-Sr., 6-0, 220

Punter

46 Joel Velazquez, R-Sr., 6-0, 220

35 Jonah Dalmas, So., 5-8, 161

Longsnapper

42 Daniel Cantrell, R-Sr., 6-0, 241

65 Mason Hutton, Fr., 6-6, 217

Holder

89 Connor Riddle, R-Jr., 6-1, 220

28 Kekaula Kaniho, R-Sr., 5-11, 188

Kickoff return

2 Khalil Shakir, Sr., 6-0, 190

5 Stef Cobbs, R-Jr., 6-0, 185

Punt return

2 Khalil Shakir, Sr., 6-0, 190

5 Stef Cobbs, R-Jr., 6-0, 185

COVID-19 protocols

The Mountain West has been pushing all players and coaches to get vaccinated for COVID-19. It announced in July that those who aren’t will have to undergo many of the same testing protocols as last season.

The conference also said games canceled because of the virus will not be made up, and the team unable to compete will have to forfeit. The Mountain West isn’t imposing roster minimums like it did last season, when teams were required to have 53 players available to play and a minimum number of players at certain positions.

Boise State will not disclose the team’s vaccination rate, but players have said it’s been trending upward in recent weeks. The athletic department does not plan to release COVID-19 data moving forward, but like last season, Boise State will release a list of players available for each game about 45 minutes before kickoff.

Broncos’ schedule

Thursday: at UCF (5 p.m., ESPN)

Friday, Sept. 10: vs. UTEP (7:30 p.m., FS1)

Saturday, Sept. 18: vs. Oklahoma State (7 p.m., FS1)

Saturday, Sept. 25: at Utah State (10 a.m., CBS)

Saturday, Oct. 2: vs. Nevada (TBD, Fox/FS1/FS2)

Saturday, Oct. 9: at BYU (TBD, ESPN Networks)

Saturday, Oct. 16: vs. Air Force (TBD; Fox/FS1/FS2)

Saturday, Oct. 30: at Colorado State (5 p.m.; CBSSN)

Saturday, Nov. 6: at Fresno State (5 p.m.; CBSSN)

Friday, Nov. 12: vs. Wyoming (7 p.m.; FS1)

Saturday, Nov. 20: vs. New Mexico (TBD; Fox/FS1/FS2)

Friday, Nov. 26: at San Diego State (10 a.m.; CBS)

Note: All times Mountain

Can’t-miss games

Oklahoma State at Boise State, Sept. 18 — The Cowboys and Broncos meet for the second time in program history. They first met in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 2018 and the Cowboys won 44-21. Boise State is 2-2 all-time against teams from the Big 12.

Nevada at Boise State, Oct. 2 — The Wolf Pack’s high-flying passing attack, which ranked No. 12 in the country last season, looks like it’s going to be tough to stop again. Nevada is led by quarterback Carson Strong, who is getting preseason hype as a potential No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he has one of the Mountain West’s top receivers to target in Romeo Dobbs. Even though it’s early in the year, this game should have major conference title implications.

BOISE STATE AT UCF

When: 5 p.m. Mountain on Thursday

Where: Bounce House, Orlando, Florida

TV: ESPN (Matt Barrie, Rodd Jones, Harry Lyles Jr.). That’s channel 133 on Sparklight, 206 on DirecTV and 140 on Dish Network.

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Series: This is the first game between the programs.

Vegas line: UCF by 5.5

Weather: 75 degrees at game time, 24% chance of rain, 9 mph winds

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Ron Counts is the Boise State football beat writer for the Idaho Statesman. He’s a Virginia native and spent three years covering the University of Virginia before joining the Statesman.

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