The Broncos took the field for the first time since the bowl game that never happened. There were plenty of question marks that were worth keeping an eye on. Let’s take a look at the biggest takeaways from the spring game.
Hank isn’t ready...yet.
If you follow Boise State Twitter, you know that most of the talk around Boise State and the quarterback position has been on recent high school graduate Hank Bachmeier. Bachmeier was the second quarterback to take take snaps and faced off against the first team defense. He primarily played behind the backup offensive line and did not always have time to throw the ball. There were times that he seemed a bit rattled, but that is to be expected out of a kid that just graduated high school. Hank has plenty to work on before Fall Camp begins, but I wouldn’t count him out yet. It wouldn’t shock me one bit if Hank starts at some point next year. I’m not sure it will happen in Florida though.
Nobody stood out at quarterback.
All of the quarterbacks had their ups and downs in the scrimmage. Henderson was the most effective in moving the ball down the field, but he was aided by a strong running game and some electric plays from Khalil Shakir and Stefan Cobbs. Riley Smith showed off his arm strength in a great downfield pass to Cobbs, but struggled on intermediate throws. Kaiden Bennett looked like the most mobile of quarterbacks and threw a nice deep ball to John Hightower. But, he looked raw most of the time. I think it was clear that the Broncos need a healthy Chase Cord or an improved Bachmeier if they are going to win the Mountain West this season.
The Broncos will be just fine at running back.
Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren both ran the ball well in the scrimmage. Neither guy looked like a true home run threat, but both are difficult to tackle and run hard. I think we see a running back by committee this year, and one of the true freshmen will play (Keegan Duncan or George Holani).
Zeke Noa is really good...
Noa is the best linebacker on Boise State, and I don’t think it is particularly close. Noa is going to be a force in the middle, and Riley Whimpey will be a nice compliment on the outside. Brandon Hawkins also played well with the second unit. I think the linebacker unit will surprise a lot of people this year.
Stefan Cobbs will be the breakout star on offense.
I’m not sure if I would read too much into the rotation of wide receivers, but Cobbs was constantly targeted by whoever was playing quarterback. I was really impressed on two plays: one where he went up and high-pointed a deep ball from Smith down the sideline and another where he had to come back from an underthrown ball from Henderson. Cobbs is going to add to an already dynamic group of receivers.
The Broncos have never been this deep at receiver.
Cobbs, Shakir, Hightower, Akilian Butler, and CT Thomas all looked like starting receivers. That doesn’t include the injured Octavius Evans and some talented true freshmen that will be arriving on campus in July. All of these receiver are precise route runners and threats to go down field. Do you guys remember the days where Boise State only had one deep threat? Those days are long gone.
This team is fast...
This is the fastest squad in recent memory. If there is one takeaway from this game, it is that I expect to see a lot more no huddle. This team is too fast to not play uptempo. Shakir’s touchdown was the perfect example; he caught the ball in space and made guys miss. I expect a big season from the sophomore receiver. Also, John Hightower is still really fast and a dynamic deep threat. Bennett and Zach Matlock both connected on deep balls down the sideline to Hightower.
The offensive line better stay healthy
The first string offensive line was solid; they opened up holes in the running game and gave the quarterbacks plenty of time to throw the ball. The second team, not so much. The health of the offensive line will play a major part in how successful the 2019 Broncos are. This unit is experienced and has gone through their ups and downs, but I walked away feeling like this unit will be ready to go in August.
The new defense will allow a lot of flexibility.
I was interested to see how this new 3-4 formation would look, and I was impressed. There were times where Matt Locher and Curtis Weaver would both stand up and it almost looked more like a 2-5. I also saw more corner and linebacker blitzes, a nice change up from the conservative approach the Broncos have taken the past few seasons. There were not really any big surprises at who started in the secondary. But, the coaches changed it up a bit in the second half, allowing Evans and Chris Mitchell to play with DeAndre Pierce and Kekoa Nawahine. They also allowed Hawkins to play some linebacker with that group.
The defense is already scary, and they aren’t healthy.
I’m still not 100% confident in the secondary, but the starters played well on Saturday. The front seven were really good, and they made it apparent that they planned to get at the quarterback as much as possible. Nawahine and Pierce looked like what we saw two years ago; if they can play like that, they will be a huge help to Avery Williams and Jalen Walker. I was also intrigued by the tandem of Scale Igiehon and Sontane Lui. The two interior lineman were on the field together for the majority of the contest. Good luck running the ball against those guys.
Curtis Weaver is the best player on this team.
Weaver had a field day; the quarterbacks were very lucky that they couldn’t be hit, or they would be feeling the pain. Weaver looked like a force on the edge. He showed off his versatility in dropping back to defend the pass and rushing the edges.
Temper your expectations.
If this team is going to have a special season, they will need the defense to carry the load early in the season. It is going to take some time for the offense to find its stride. They are going to rely heavily on the big play ability of the wide receivers. That was on display Saturday, as Hightower, Shakir, and Cobbs all showed the ability to be explosive play makers.
Stand out players:
Hopper made a few nice grabs and some impressive route running. He was on the field with both units and seems poised for a big role this year.
Shakir looked 100% following the arm injury that ended his 2018 season. He looked dynamic every time he touched the ball. I think the coaches will be creative in how they get him touches this season. He also may have had the best play of the day.
An injury prevented Cobbs from playing as a true freshman, but if the scrimmage was any indication, he seems poised for a big year. He was very impressive.
Weaver was a force. Nobody on the second unit could block him. I think he will be a first round pick next season.
I kept a close eye on Noa. The Broncos need a hard hitting linebacker that can stop the run. Noa looked the part on Saturday. He had a strong finish, and he built on that momentum this spring.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along, but we aren’t done. In the next few weeks, we will be re-evaluating the quarterback race, projecting a depth chart, and continuing our interview series with past Broncos. Be sure to keep checking in, as we have you covered this off-season.