By Chris Lewis
Now that the spring game is done, we’re without Boise State football until fall camp begins. With this season’s depth chart as mysterious as ever, here are my reckless predictions on how it’ll shake out on offense.
On Saturday, August 31, when Boise State takes its first offense snap in Jacksonville against Florida State, Hank Bachmeier will be the starting quarterback. That goes against what I saw in the spring game, where he was third on the list on who stood out to me. However, the more I envision the season, the more I realize that this is the most realistic and logical outcome.
First of all, I can’t count on Chase Cord being healthy. It’s the second time tearing his ACL, which is concerning for a QB that relies on mobility and usually means a more careful rehab. It happened in early October, which would mean week 1 is less than 11 months since the injury. Plus, even at the NFL level, quarterbacks who rush back from injury usually struggle early in their return.
That leaves Jaylon Henderson, Kaiden Bennett and Bachmeier as the main contenders. Henderson is the only one of that group with college experience, but nothing about his profile says bonafide starting QB. Boise State is his third collegiate stop, and his numbers weren’t impressive at his previous two stops. Also, he wasn’t a high-pedigree HS QB entering college. Henderson playing mop-up duty last year in a few games didn’t showcase much either. While he has the experience edge (which showed in the spring game), he doesn’t seem like the highly-talented QB that Boise State would ideally like to trot out there.
Bachmeier does meet the high-pedigree and talent criteria. He’s a four-star recruit that had offers to big programs. Plus, his game is more “pro-style” than the other true freshman option Bennett, who is also significantly smaller. Boise State has shown that they aren’t afraid to start a true freshman QB if that quarterback is mature enough to handle it. If the coaches determine that Bachmeier won’t be scarred by the situation in Jacksonville, he’ll be the guy.
This group is harder to project than the quarterbacks. Coach Bryan Harsin’s history as a head coach tells us that he likes to ride one running back. The way he’s used Ajayi, McNichols, and Mattison makes it clear he loves a workhorse. The part I’m most confident in predicting is that Robert Mahone will be the No. 2 back. It’s a role he’s had before, and it’s a role he’s handled well. However, the fact that he never really had the opportunity to be a lead back, even when Mattison was banged up last season, tells me that the coaches don’t see him as a No. 1.
The question is, who will be the No. 1 if it isn’t Mahone? Andrew Van Buren is my pick to be the lead guy over true freshmen George Holani and Keegan Duncan. Holani and Duncan not being with the team in the spring is a slight disadvantage. Boise State RBs need to be able to pass protect, and those guys missed out on reps doing that in the spring. Plus, it’s hard for me to imagine that someone a few months removed from high school can physically handle the workload that Harsin wants to give his main back.
The previous Boise State workhorses all had at least a season on-campus to build their body up before they became a feature back. Van Buren has had that luxury. One of either Holani or Duncan will get reps as a No. 3 back, and my reckless guess would be Holani. That means, I think Duncan redshirts.
The wide receivers were the standouts of the spring game. Even though AJ Richardson and Sean Modster are gone, no one seems to think this group will miss a beat. Khalil Shakir was the standout of the spring game. He found ways to get open, and make people miss once he caught the ball. It got me to rethinking where he’ll be in the receiver rotation. Before the game, I thought John Hightower and CT Thomas were poised to be the top two options. I’ve put Shakir in that tier moving forward. He’ll finish second on the team in catches and yards. Thomas will be the dependable third down option and team catch leader. Hightower will be the big play threat, and yardage leader. Shakir seems to give a little of both, with also the ability to run. The wildcard of the position didn’t play in the spring game. Octavious Evans had a season ruined by injury last year. At this point a year ago, he seemed to be a threat to be the top WR. At this point, I’ll put him fourth on the list of impactful 2019 receivers. It’s a strong group, and may have to carry the offense early.
Chris Lewis, the play-by-play voice of Boise State women’s basketball and Olympic Sports, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @ChrisLewisTweet (Twitter).