This is the time of the season when nearly all the football teams in the conference are battered and dinged up due to injuries. And the Boise State Broncos are no exception. They are as bruised and banged up as any other team in the Mountain West, with the depth at many positions nearly depleted. The 55-27 win at UNLV last Saturday was overshadowed by the on field struggles the Broncos faced on both sides of the football. Here is a quick look at the present state of affairs.
The offensive lineup:
Three games into the season quarterback Ryan Finley was sidelined indefinitely with a broken ankle. That forced head coach Bryan Harsin to send in Brett Rypien, 6-2, 199 lbs, and burn his redshirt. As expected the young freshman has proven to be an excellent quarterback, but being thrown in as the starter has also been an on-the-job learning curve. The Broncos receiving corps have also had to go to back to school and learn to adjust to a different leader who has his own techniques and timing of specific routes. At times those adjustments have allowed a few of the receivers to take some big hits. WR Jake Roh, 6-3, 229 lbs, is one of them and he is one who could do with some R&R.
This lull in the action gives the coaches an opportunity to take a hard look at the O-line and polish up some of the patches they have in place. One of the patches is the result of left tackle Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 303 lbs, breaking his ankle against Wyoming two weeks ago. Another player who could be of concern is right tackle Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 329 lbs. He missed the game at Wyoming, and was less than 100 percent last week against UNLV. Then there is star RB Jeremy McNichols, 5-9, 205 lbs, who was sidelined three weeks ago and missed the Utah State. It was evident that the backfield suffered without him. Only he knows if he is back to peak performance.
Sizing up the defense:
The Broncos powerful defense went into the UNLV game last week as the top ranked defense in the conference and one of the best in the country. Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates has developed the 4th best rushing defense in the nation and the 8th best defensive unit overall. They give up an average of just 265.5 yards per game in total defense. But last week, while the Broncos held the Rebels to 100 yards on the ground, UNLV quarterback Blake Decker, 6-2, 215 lbs, was able to pass for 357 yards and give the Broncos a scare until the Boise State offense pulled it out in the fourth quarter. That is alarming when you consider that Broncos give up an average of just 206.7 passing yards per game. The only other game this season where a team passed for more than three hundred yards against the Broncos was in the loss to BYU (309 yards) in week two.
One explaination of why last week’s alarm bells were going off in Bronco Nation can be tied directly to the mounting injures. Boise State’s defense was without three key players, including two of the four playmakers in the secondary: safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 201 lbs, and cornerback Donte Deayon, 5-9, 155 lbs. Deayon is 3rd in the conference in both interceptions and in passes defended, and doubles as Boise State’s punt returner on special teams. The defense was also playing without starting linebacker Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 230 lbs, who has been out for several games with an undisclosed injury.
Here is an updated list of the Boise State injuries reported to the NCAA:
10/31/15 LB Tanner Vallejo, Undisclosed, out indefinately
10/27/15 OL Rees Odhiambo, Ankle, out for season
10/20/15 DB Donte Deayon, Knee, expected to miss 4-6 weeks
10/14/15 S Dylan Sumner-Gardner, Ankle, out indefinitely
09/21/15 DE Gabe Perez, Shoulder, out for season
09/21/15 DE Rondell McNair, Knee, expected to miss 3-4 weeks
09/20/15 QB Ryan Finley, Ankle, out indefinitely
It is safe to say that both Drinkwitz and Yates along with their coaches will use the bye week to regroup and shore up some of the weakened positions. They also plan to hit the recruiting trail and that should give the entire team time to address some of the injuries, regenerate, refocus, rest up and heal so this week’s bye could not have come at a better time. B.J. Rains notes that the last time the Broncos started a season and went nine consecutive weeks without a week off was in 2003. I looked that up. Dan Hawkins was the head coach back then, and the Broncos finished that year 13-1, including a conference championship, a 16th place finish in the AP poll, and a win over TCU in the Fort Worth Bowl.
It will be interesting to see how this bye works out for the Broncos as they head toward the end of this season.