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Revisiting the 2016 Boise State Class: Running Backs

Let’s look at the two RBs.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a fun off-season series that Casey (of OBNUG), Zach, and Mike (both 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 2020 class was officially signed. Like every year, fans often tout a class as potentially one of the best on paper. 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 2016 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.

Anyway, each week, Casey, Zach, and Mike will look at a different position group from the class. While we will contribute one posts each week for the next ten weeks, the location of the post will change (one week on one site, the next week on the other) so readers of both sites can follow along. Each post will have all 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 2016 class had. It should be a fun and interesting study to see what kind of careers each player had and revisit some names that may have been forgotten.

This was the class that dubbed themselves “Dream Team 16” and was the first Boise State class to begin bonding on social media as well as a private group messaging app (which backfired when two flipped to Missouri as seemingly a package deal). It was the class that endured three coaching departures in the off-season, and nabbed a few late commitments at key positions.

Part two of this series features the two running backs. While neither of them were four-star recruit who was committed to the class for much of the year, both came in with a lot of talent and potential.

Alexander Mattison

Casey

Expectations when he signed - Mattison’s film was incredible coming out of high school. I think everyone felt he was special, and to see how well he had done academically, he was a very well rounded player. With Crockett leaving for Missouri, it was a huge boon to snag Mattison so late in the game. Honestly, it was surprising that Mattison got so little attention.

2016 Season - Despite being fairly deep at RB, Mattison still saw the field. With McNichols, Wolpin, Demas and Cory Young still on the roster, not to mention true freshman Robert Mahone, Mattison still had 368 yards and 4 touchdowns as a true freshman – a sign of things to come.

2017 Season - With McNichols off to the NFL and Young transferred, things opened up for Mattison, paving the way for him to lead the running backs. Mahone took a red shirt and Wolpin settled in a #2 with newcomer Drake Beasley ready to learn. Mattison kept the 1k rusher streak alive after rushing for 1,086 yards and 12 touchdowns as well as catching 28 passes for 284 yards and another score. Another impressive season for the star running back.

2018 Season - Mattison had cemented his place as the starter and was well on his way to putting his name among the Bronco greats. Beasley was no longer with the team, but Andrew VanBuren and Danny Smith both joined the ranks. Mattison earned First-Team All MW honors after rushing for 1,415 yards and 17 touchdowns and tacking on 27 receptions for 173 yards.

2019 Season - N/A - Mattison declared early for the NFL draft and was drafted with the 102nd pick in the 3rd round to the Minnesota Vikings.

Overall Impact - I can imagine anyone saying Mattison did anything other than exceed expectations, and that is saying something. I feel like his expectations were fairly lofty coming in, and following up Jeremy McNichols was no small feat either, but Mattison seemed to do it effortlessly.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: I think we all expected Mattison to be a very good back. The fact that he was a late addition and took the place of Damarea Crockett still boggles my mind. Boise State definitely got the better back.

2016 Season: Played as a true freshman and became the primary backup to Jeremy McNichols. Had limited carries, but was solid in his role.

2017 Season: Mattison was the primary back, but split time with Ryan Wolpin. He was recovering from an injury early in the season, but as his health improved and the offensive line found its way he became the primary back and had a very solid season. He barely played in the bowl game and sat out spring ball with another injury.

2018 Season: Mattison once again carried the load for the Broncos. He had one of the greatest seasons in Boise State history and nearly willed the team to another conference championship. He cemented himself as a legit NFL running back.

2019 Season: N/A

Overall Impact: This one easy, Mattison exceeded expectations. He had a great year and is widely considered one of the top 5 running backs in Boise State history.

Mike

Expectations when he signed

Mattison was an interesting story. A highly rated prospect who was still available late in the cycle after their highly rated RB prospect flipped. The coaching staff at the time said they liked Mattison so much, they were going to offer him as a DB. I expected him to be a solid multi-year starter for the Broncos.

2016 Season: He did not redshirt, instead playing in every game and was the backup running back in a fairly significant role. Even then, it was clear to the see the future was bright for Alex.

2017 Season: Mattison seemed primed for the feature back role like McNichols and Ajayi before him. He split time earlier in the year but took over in mid-October and never looked back.

2018 Season: This season was all Alex. He led the league in rushing with 1415 yards and added 17 TDs in a completely dominant junior campaign. He had a pair of 200 yard games and some highlight-reel hurdles over defenders. This special season turned him into a 3rd round draft pick.

2019 Season: NFL

Overall Impact:

Mattison came into the fold as a pretty well regarded recruit and was able to develop into an NFL-caliber running back in a few short years. He put up one great and one outstanding season during his time as a Bronco and due to that, he Exceeded Expectations.

Rob Mahone

Casey

Expectations when he signed - I think Mattison kind of stole the show in the 2016 class. Mahone had great film, but I think Mattison’s story and him coming on late took a bit of luster away from Mahone. I was reasonably excited for Mahone, but felt Mattison would be a starter.

2016 Season - Red shirt. With the depth of talent at the position and Mattison getting some play time, it made sense to keep Mahone’s eligibility intact.

2017 Season - Carried 35 times for 115 yards and a touchdown behind Mattison and Wolpin. Respectable as the 3rd running back.

2018 Season - Rushed 32 times for 128 yards. Mahone relinquished some carries to AVB, but Mattison carried the majority of the load for the running backs.

2019 Season - With Mattison gone, Mahone seemed primed to take the reins as the starter. Freshman George Holani came on strong through the season and ended up keeping the 1k rusher streak alive himself. Mahone had a strong season, rushing 89 times for 425 yards and 6 touchdowns. Mahone showed a lot of flash at times and provided vital leadership to a relatively young position.

Overall Impact - I feel like Mahone has met expectations. With Mattison coming in the same class, I’m not sure how many people felt like Mahone would be THE GUY. He’s been a solid running back for the Broncos and has one more season to show what he’s got.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: Mahone was not a highly rated recruit (at least not by Boise State’s current standards). I viewed him as a nice third down back who could have a role catching the ball out of the backfield.

2016 Season: Redshirted.

2017 Season: With the struggles of Mattison early in the season, it looked like Mahone would challenge Mattison and Wolpin for more carries. Ultimately, some ball security issues held him back and he was mainly used a third back. But he had a nice touchdown run in the Vegas Bowl.

2018 Season: Mahone had limited carries and shared the backup role with true freshman Andrew Van Buren.

2019 Season: Mahone had a great fall camp and earned the role of starting running back. He had an epic performance against Florida State. But he had some health issues and the emergence of George Holani led to him losing his job and his carries became limited.

Overall Impact: This remains to be seen. Mahone could have a very important role this season. But right now I will go with met expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed

I’ll be honest, I was never high on Mahone. He’s obviously way better than I could ever be, but I didn’t think he would become more than a solid backup during his college career.

2016 Season: Redshirted, as expected.

2017 Season: He played a backup role as the third-string running back and performed well in that spot.

2018 Season: He backup the primary backup to Mattison and spelled him well, although opportunities were limited due to Mattison’s durability and production that year.

2019 Season: He started the season as the starting running back and came out of the gate on fire, putting up 142 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State. However, he slowed down the second half of the season due to injuries and the emergence of George Holani.

Mahone has one season left to cement his Boise State legacy. He will likely begin the season as the second or potentially even third string RB behind Holani.

Overall Impact:

Mahone looked like he was going to prove my expectations of him wrong through the first few games of last season. And really, he did. He has the talent to shine, although he seems to have his career sandwiched between two premier talents im Mattison and Holani. Still, even if he splits time or is a backup once again, he will still Meet Expectations and there is nothing wrong with being a productive and reliable backup.

Running Totals:

Casey: 1 exceeded expectations, 1 met expectations, 2 failed to meet expectations.

Zach: 1 exceeded expectations, 1 met expectations, 2 failed to meet expectations

Mike: 1 exceeded expectations, 1 met expectations, 2 failed to meet expectations.