Welcome to a fun off-season series that Casey (of OBNUG) and Mike (of MWCConnection) are rolling out for your viewing enjoyment (hopefully). Back in February, excitement was at an all time high for fans and coaches alike as the 2018 class was officially signed. Quite often around that time it is not uncommon to hear fans say things like “On paper, this is the best recruiting class ever for ____.” And on paper, that may even be true or arguably true. However, once players get on campus and actually on the field, the true story begins to reveal itself. It can often take years for a class to truly be judged as the impact of many players won’t be seen for a few seasons. That being said, this series will aim to revisit and evaluate Boise State’s 2014 class. There has now been enough time that many members of the class have either left or are entering their final seasons, which means players are able to be looked at for their production (or lack thereof) rather than projection and hype. Also, this was the first recruiting class in the Bryan Harsin era for the Broncos. Although it was basically only put together over a period of a few weeks, there was quite a bit of hype surrounding the class back in February of 2014.
Anyway, each week, Casey and Mike will look at a different position group from the class. Both of us will contribute each week, but the location of the post will change (one week on one site, the next week on the other) so followers of both sites can follow along. Each post will have both of us weighing in on the same talking points for each season: our expectations of the player from when they signed, the production they gave each season on the team, and their overall impact, which we will fit into one of 3 categories (exceeded expectations, met expectations, or below expectations). We will each keep a running tally of our totals and then at the end we can each determine the over impact the 2014 class had. It should be a fun and interesting study as the 2014 Boise State class had a little bit of everything over the past 4 years.
This is the 5th installment of our series, which will examine the defensive tackles. There were three players at this class signed at this position. Like the other positions, there was quite a variety on how things panned out. One player was removed from the team after two seasons, a JUCO player with an interesting story, and one player who will be a senior this fall.
Expectations When He Signed: I was pretty high on Boles based on his credentials out of high school. Named to second team all-state at the highest level of play in Florida was a big deal. He had solid size, and while I didn’t anticipate him to play as a true freshman, I thought he could.
2014: He red shirted, which wasn’t much of a surprise. I figured this would give him time to gain weight and learn the schemes.
2015: Dereck had a solid red shirt freshman campaign, accounting for 11 total tackles, 6 solo, 4 tackles for loss and a sack. Off to a promising start that I could see easily expanding.
Overall Impact: Wow, Dereck went all Mike Tyson! Honestly, I don’t know the details surrounding the skirmish that took place, but it resulted in Boles being dismissed from the team. What looked like a potentially promising career at Boise State resulted in dismissal because of aggression. I would say Boles was on track to exceed expectations, but instead, failed to meet expectations.
Expectations When He Signed: Boles seemed like a classic diamond in the rough find when he signed out of Lakeland, Florida. It showed the new staff was searching far and wide for the best players available. I thought he would end up a quality player along the defensive line when all was said and done.
2014: Boles redshirted, as expected.
2015: The D-line was stacked in this year, as some may remember. They could pretty much go three-deep across with little to no drop off and even then not all the talent found the field. Somehow, Boles did see the field some that year. He drew the praise of Coach Caldwell (which isn’t easy to do) and it was fair to say that expectations were raised for what was to come in the years ahead. Alas, those year did not come. In a strange story, Boles was kicked off the before spring ball for biting off the ear of a teammate (Stranger still, some teammates reported he was acting in self-defense). He ended up at a junior college and was at Arizona last year.
Overall Impact: Boles did not have much time to make an impact, lasting just two seasons and seeing only a limited number of snaps in just one of those two. However, when he did see the field, he was effective. It was just a glimpse of what could have been and for that, he failed to meet expectations.
Expectations When He Signed: Honestly I felt like Moa was more suited to end due to his size (6’3 249 lbs). I didn’t expect him to play right away, but saw plenty of promise. He had some nice accolades coming out of high school, so I was interested in seeing what he could do.
2014: Red shirted the season, as expected.
2015: David had a modest freshman campaign, recording 3 solo tackles and a sack. Not eye popping, but considering the depth at the position, it was remarkable to see him on the field. He did put on about 20 lbs, which lead me to believe he would be playing inside more often than not, but he seemed on the light side.
2016: Moa came out of nowhere, after graduation left some spots open, and he flourished. Contributing a whopping 10.5 sacks among his 30 tackles, he showed he was a force to be reckoned with. It earned him spots on many watchlists for end-of-the year awards, and rightfully so. After such a solid season, he earned himself a spot of the All-MW First-Team.
2017: His production took a step back, which isn’t all that surprising. His modest 3.5 sacks and 21 tackles is indicative of him being a focus for opposing lines. With a player like David in the middle, he required double teams, resulting in other players having breakout seasons, like Curtis Weaver. That isn’t to say Curtis didn’t earn his way, but with Moa coming off the season he had, opponents had no choice but to game plan to take him out of the equation.
Overall Impact: With one more year to play, I expect Moa to finish off his career on a high note. I don’t necessarily expect him to blow us away with any crazy stats, but he’s been a leader on the defense for a few years and have no reason to believe he won’t finish strong. I would say David has exceeded expectations for me.
Expectations When He Signed: Moa seemed like a key get when he committed. While I didn’t think he would end up who he is now, coaches praised him and said he had a huge upside if he could develop his game and his body.
2014: It was no surprise that redshirting was the first step in that development.
2015: As I mentioned above, the line was stacked in this season. Moa didn’t crack a consistent spot in the rotation but it wasn’t a surprise as there was a lot of talent, age, and experience playing in front of him.
2016: All the players in front of him were suddenly gone and Moa found himself as the starting Nose Tackle. Though undersized for the position, it was a breakout year for him. Moa led the team in sacks and caused havoc on opposing offensive lines with his speed. For me at least, it was unexpected to see him take that big of a jump that quickly.
2017: Sliding back to the 3-technique defensive tackle position that is a bit better suit for him, Moa had another productive season. He overall stats dipped, but much of that was due to constant double teams and game-planning centered on stopping him. The attention he commanded opened up opportunities for his teammates on the D-line and that unit was as effective as ever.
Overall Impact: It is safe to say that Moa reached the potential the coaching staff talked about way back when he signed. Initially I thought he could be a key cog along the defensive line, but he ended up being the star of the unit and one of the better players on the team each of the last two seasons. With one year still to go, it is clear that he has exceeded expectations.
Expectations When He Signed: Hearing his story, I didn’t necessarily have crazy expectations that he would come in and wreck things. I REALLY wanted him to simply because his story was so powerful.
2014: Being a JUCO guy, I expected him to contribute right away, being that he had experience. While he didn’t do anything crazy, he contributed 13 tackles, 1.5 for loss, which is fairly in-line with what a back-up tackle would get.
2015: I was disappointed to hear that Antoine had an academic issue which kept him from finishing the season with the Broncos. We didn’t find out until later, so it was a bit odd to not see him on the field, yet not know why.
Overall Impact: I think Antoine exhibit the spirit of what it means to be a Bronco, and while he may wasn’t able to finish on the field, he graduated a Bronco. I have to give him a met expectations.
Expectations When He Signed: Turner was one of the feel good stories of this class. He was someone who had overcome the odds and earned a D1 scholarship despite being homeless at different times in his life, including around the time he signed if I remember correctly. I believe the NCAA even bent the rules to allow Boise State to pay for a hotel and three meals a day until he arrived on campus. He was the type of person fans were rooting for to succeed. I figured he could become a rotation player for the team in his two years.
2014: Being a JUCO player, I expected Turner to jump into the rotation right away. Instead, I think he fell in and out of it over the course of the year. I can’t say whether that was due to his performance or that of others. Still, he seemed to do it all with a smile on his face.
2015: Unfortunately, it wasn’t a pure happy ending for Turner. I think he managed to get in a few games before he was suddenly absent from the sidelines. He was dealing with an academic issue. That issue ended up prohibiting him from finishing out his final season with the Broncos.
Overall Impact:Still, he managed to graduate, which is the most important thing for him. While his contributions on the field were minimal, he wasn’t exactly expected to set the world on fire during his tenure. I could see an argument being made for either meeting or failing to meet expectations, but since expectations weren’t too high to begin with, I’ll go ahead and say he basically met expectations.
Casey: 3 exceeded expectations, 4 met expectations, 6 failed to meet expectations.
Mike: 2 exceeded expectations, 4 met expectations, 7 failed to meet expectations.