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Boise State’s tailback position begins to solidify

Broncos RB Jeremy McNichols could be closing in as the starter

Dec 31, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Boise State Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols (13) against the Arizona Wildcats in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl at Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Boise State Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols (13) against the Arizona Wildcats in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl at Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols, 5-9, 205 lbs, had a positive outing in the fall scrimmage Friday night at Albertsons Stadium, and took most of the action with the Broncos’ first team indicating the starting position could be his to lose.

But don’t look for the Broncos staff to advertise that fact just yet. Head coach Bryan Harsin will wait until a week to 10 days out from the season opener against the Washington Huskies before rolling out his starting lineup and making it official.

Just as the quarterback position is starting to narrow down, the starting position at tailback is also starting to coalesce. It’s not a big secret that McNichols has continued to hold onto the confidence of the coaches. Last December he was being heralded by Harsin as "the future of our backfield" even as he played in the shadow of former star running back Jay Ajayi. That confidence was underscored Friday evening by offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz after McNichols had six carries for 22 yards and pulled in five catches for 24 yards. "I thought J-Mac had a really good run, a couple of really hard downhill runs," he said. "That was a positive. He caught the ball well out of the backfield, didn’t have any protection busts that I saw." Last season in nine games McNichols only had 17 carries, but averaged 9.35 yard a touch. He also caught 15 passes for 155 yards in those games.

But if he starts against Washington don’t expect McNichols to be the every-down guy Ajayi was. The rotation at running back could be very fluid. McNichols is being pushed for time in the backfield most notably by Stanford transfer Kelsey Young, 5-10, 198 lbs, and Devan Demas, 5-8, 175 lbs. Young was Stanford’s second leading rusher last year and comes into the Broncos lineup with some very impressive experience. And he’s just the kind of back Boise State likes to have in the backfield: one with good hands and one who can both run and receive. But Demas has some bragging rights of his own and can mix it up in a tough-down situation. Besides being the fastest man on the team, his 25 rushing attempts last season averaged 6.92 yards per carry.