By Rick Worthington
Once again, Boise State has been picked to finish first in the Mountain Division in the conference preseason media poll.
This is a story we have told you before. The Broncos have been the preseason pick to win its conference or division for 12 straight years.
This is as good a time as any to examine why the 2019 Broncos are the division favorites – and to many the conference pick too.
Reason #1: Boise State has a really good Defense!
Boise State finished last year with the nation’s No. 20 rushing defense (123 yards per game). Anybody who has been looking at the Broncos depth chart knows, Boise State’s “D” in 2019 could be even better. Just look at the run stuffers. Redshirt senior defensive tackle David Moa is back from being injured last year. Two more Seniors are also plugging up the middle in Chase Hatada and Sonatane Lui.
On the backside of the Defense, the Broncos have speed and experience at corner with Avery Williams and Jalen Walker in addition to Senior strong safety Kekoa Nawahine. Safety is a spot coaches are very comfortable, with DeAndre Pierce back in the fold after injuries in 2018 and depth with Jordan Happle and Evan Tyler.
Linebacker is also solid. Benton Wickersham and Ezekiel Noa will make plays in the middle and get help from Riley Whimpey when he comes back from a torn ACL from last season.
I saved the best for last. Curtis Weaver is a BEAST and is my choice for the MWC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He is an absolute wrecking ball and will give MWC offensive coordinators nightmares trying to figure out how to block him. During the BSU Spring Game, Weaver came in for 4 plays (as I recall), and had a sack, a tackle for a loss and was involved in breaking up the other 2 plays. He is very good, and with a great Junior year, could make the leap to the NFL after the season.
Now for the great unknown:
Offensively, Boise State has some very big questions to answer. Who will replace 4 year starter Brett Rypien at QB being the biggest and most obvious. Also consider the Broncos need to replace all-conference running back Alexander Mattison AND its two leading receivers, Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson. That is a bunch of production to replace in one year.
Word on the street is, Chase Cord is fully recovered from his injury in 2018, and will be the guy to play QB. The Broncos also recruited two really high profile QB’s in Hank Bachmeier and Kaiden Bennett, and both are going to push Cord for the job.
If Boise State is going to have a chance to be good offensively, it will fall on the O-Line to create the time needed for the inexperience skill players to excel. However, that is the Broncos strength, with 4 out of the 5 starters having at least 20 career starts: Ezra Cleveland, John Molchon, Garrett Larson and Eric Quevedo are the anchors the Broncos need to live up to expectations.
The Special Teams will have to step it up in 2019. They played poorly last year, so put it mildly. Watch out for a rising star here. I love Khalil Shakir’s play. His speed and explosiveness might make it hard to keep him out of the offensive huddle for much longer.