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Revisiting the 2016 Boise State Class: Tight Ends

Today looks at the two TEs in this class.

NCAA Football: Boise State at Colorado State Ron Chenoy-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.

Keeping the train going, two players will be reviewed today. One kept the trend of flipping a three-star TE alive, while the other was one of the longest-tenured commits in the class.

John Bates


Expectations when he signed - I wasn’t sure what to expect out of John when he signed, but a flip from a P12 school is always a plus.

2016 Season - Redshirt season. With the depth at the position, this wasn’t a surprise.

2017 Season - He had 3 catches for 34 yards. Not a huge impact, but we still had Jake Roh on the roster, along with Matt Pistone, Chase Blakley and Alec Dhaenens.

2018 Season - 10 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown. Solid improvement year over year and positioned himself as the starting TE. Pistone was still on the roster, but was the primary blocker. In a season where tight ends were not utilized much, John did well.

2019 Season - 22 catches for 273 yards and a touchdown, earning him All-MW Honorable Mention. While John hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers, he improves every season. He has one more year to make an impact and I’m confident he does.

Overall Impact - I would say John has met expectations, but I REALLY wanted him to exceed them. Part of that is TE use at Boise State just isn’t what it used to be, but hopefully we can get them more involved. John has been a solid contributor for the Broncos and I expect that will continue to be the case for his final season.


Expectations when he signed:

Bates was a late flip from Oregon State. He was regarded as a great athlete who could make an impact in the passing game. He was a tack star in high school.

2016 Season: Redshirted

2017 Season: Improved as a run blocker, but did not see a ton of action, as he was behind Jake Roh.

2018 Season: With Roh gone, Bates received a lot of attention in the preseason. The tight end position was not utilized like it was in 2017, but Bates had some solid games. His numbers did not match the hype he received in the preseason. But that was by no fault of his own.

2019 Season: Early in the season, Bates became a frequent target of Hank Bachmeier. After Bachmeier’s injury, Bates was not targeted as much. He grew leaps and bounds as a blocker.

Overall Impact: At this point, I will go with met expectations. But I think Bates could have a special senior season if Bachmeier stays healthy.


Expectations when he signed:

Bates was a great flip from Oregon State during the height of the recruiting season, the third TE flip in a row and second straight directly from the Beavers. He instantly looked like a future weapon in the passing game, but needed to add some weight.

2016 Season: To the surprise of no one, he redshirted.

2017 Season: Some were hoping for a breakout season but it didn’t come as he was low on the depth chart. He only recorded three catches, and oddly enough, they were all against Fresno State, spanning over two games.

2018 Season: A slow but steady increase. Bates started in about half the team’s games, tripling his catch total (10), and increasing his yards five-fold (155). He also caught his first touchdown.

2019 Season: John finally had his breakout year as the primary starter. He totalled 23 catches for 273 yards and another touchdown. His production was tied directly to games that Hank Bachmeier was the QB in, so his catches dipped the second half of the year.

Overall Impact: Bates has once season left and with others in the pass-game departing, he should be the #3 passing option as well as a primary blocker. All in all, he should be on the field quite a bit his senior season. It’s fair to say thus far he has met expectations.

Nick Crabtree


Expectations when he signed - I was really high on Crabtree. He was already nearly the size of Gronk as a true freshman, and the idea of having a tight end of that size was just awesome. It also put him in a position to maybe move positions...

2016 Season - Redshirt season obviously. With the depth at tight end, it made sense.

2017 Season - Moved to the offensive line, which makes sense because of how MASSIVE he is. He played in a reserve role, appearing in 4 games.

2018 Season - Nick appeared in 4 games in a reserve role this season as well.

2019 Season - Nick appeared in all 13 games in a reserve role as well as on special teams.

Overall Impact - I’m bummed as I was stoked on Crabtree and we haven’t gotten to see much of him. He failed to meet expectations, unfortunately, but played his role well. Reserve lineman are definitely necessary and hopefully he will see more action as a senior.


Expectations when he signed: From the first day he signed, it always felt like Crabtree would be line for a position change or would be more of a fullback.

2016 Season: Redshirted

2017 Season: Moved to offensive line and did not see any action.

2018 Season: Crabtree did not see the field.

2019 Season: Saw some limited action late in games.

Overall Impact: Crabtree recently graduated with his degree from Boise State. He has been a team player and switched positions. But he has not made an impact during games, so I will have to go with failed to meet expectations.


Expectations when he signed

Nick was one of the earliest commits in this class and never wavered from that. He possessed great size for a tight end and his strength seemed evident. There were some whispers that he could move to offensive-line, but if not, he figured to be a mauler as a run-blocker and had good hands and was a big target in the short passing game as he didn’t have the downfield speed. The other skills were there on tape.

2016 Season: Redshirted.

2017 Season: He did a semi-transition to offensive line but also came back to tight end a bit due to some injuries. He was on the field and made the key block on the spin-o-rama TD in the Vegas Bowl against Oregon.

2018 Season: He moved fully to the offensive line and played in blowouts.

2019 Season: He played in every game, but again in a reserve role.

Overall Impact: I could see him falling into one of two categories here. I didn’t expect him to be a future starter and while I did think he would get into more action, he’s done everything that’s been asked of him. He’s worked hard, switched positions, added weight, and when you are behind a perennial all-conference left tackle who left school early to become a second round pick, what else can you really do? I’ll say he’s met expectations.

Running Totals:

Casey: 2 exceeded expectations, 2 met expectations, 4 failed to meet expectations.

Zach: 2 exceeded expectations, 2 met expectations, 4 failed to meet expectations

Mike: 2 exceeded expectations, 3 met expectations, 3 failed to meet expectations.