Over the last few weeks, Danny and myself previewed the top ten players on the 2020 Boise State football team. Danny and I debated what criteria we would use to compile this list. We agreed that we would go with the players we think will have the biggest impact, not necessarily the best returning players. With that being said, here is our final five:
I think if we are strictly talking about the most important players on the team, you would have to put Ojukwu even higher. The offensive line was better when he was healthy last year and he earner the right to slide to left tackle. The junior offensive lineman will be the only returning starter and will be the leader of a young group. Ojukwu is poised for a big season and his play will be critical if Boise State is going to make its fourth consecutive championship game.
This is my boldest pick. Washington backed up Curtis Weaver last year and expecting him to jump up to the 5/6th most important returner for the 2020 team might be a bit of a reach. However, the ultra-athletic 6’3, 255 lb. Washington is slated to start at STUD end, a position that consistently produces stars at Boise State.
Washington finished with 4.5 sacks last season, including three in the final three games, and with the amount of hype he is receiving from teammates and coaches, he feels like a no-brainer to be a high impact player on the Boise State defense in 2020.
I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Hank Bachmeir is this team’s quarterback. Bachmeier showed what he is capable of against teams like Florida State last season. But he is only number four because he needs to prove that he has taken steps to play smarter. Learning when to slide and getting rid of the football will be critical to Bachmeier’s improvement. But his toughness and arm strength make him a special talent. Bachmeier will probably garner some votes for preseason offensive player of the year.
Kekaula Kaniho/Scale Igiehon
Hand up, I made a rather large error when I put my list together. Maybe it was due to a fear in spelling his name or just a foggy brain due to, you know, 2020, but I somehow missed the 6’2, 310 lb. Scale Igiehon. Instead of hoping everyone would miss my error, I decided to double up at the number four spot.
With the loss of Sonatane Lui, Igiehon is the big man in the middle for Boise State in 2020. Since the depth in the middle of the Bronco’s defensive line leaves a little to be desired, Igiehon will be as important a player as anyone next season. Luckily for Bronco Nation, Igiehon has shown flashes of dominance in the run game, and I expect in an expanded role the junior defensive tackle will become a difficult to spell household name by the end of the season.
Kekaula Kaniho comes in at number four on my list, but he is also my pick for the most exciting defensive returner on the 2020 Bronco squad. The senior Nickle had a ridiculous eleven tackles for a loss last season and is in the right place at the right time on seemingly every snap.
Kaniho optimizes the Nickel position for Boise State better than anyone since the most famous Nickel in Bronco history, Winston Venable. With his experience, playmaking ability, and knack for being around the ball, Kaniho is set up for a dazzling final season as a Bronco.
Holani was a huge surprise last season. We all knew that he was going to be a good player coming out of high school, but I did not think he would be able to pass Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren on the depth chart. If Holani can stay healthy, he will make a nice run at some Boise State records. Holani is also lethal in the passing game. His combination of vision, speed, and hands makes him one of the most lethal talents in the Mountain West.
Like everyone else, I was excited for the addition of Holani to the 2019 class. Also, like everyone else, I was pleasantly surprised when the true freshman running back led the team in rushing yards and extended the Broncos streak of fielding a 1,000-yard rusher to 11 in a row. Holani averaged around 15 carries a game last season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. With a probable uptick in touches, and another year of strength and conditioning, the 2020 version of Holani promises to be even better.
Scale Igiehon/Kekaula Kaniho
I went the easy route and put two people in this spot. Scale is a special talent, he came out of high school with a body type that was ready to contribute immediately. He may not have technically been a starter last season, but he was on the field for the majority of the game. Scale will be the most seasoned player on an inexperienced defensive line that has plenty of talent to run two-deep. I’m excited to see what Scale has to show this season, he will likely focus on taking the next step as a pass rusher.
Kaniho will be the leader on this defense. He will be entering his senior season and I will be shocked if he is not a team captain. His role on the field goes beyond his ability to make plays. His energy is contagious and his vocal leadership will continue to grow.
Jalen Walker has been my guy since the first time I saw him in action. He is arguably the best cornerback in the Mountain West, and with a full year as a starter under his belt, he should be even better in 2020. With Boise State replacing starters all along the defensive line, and at both safety spots, Walker’s demonstrated ability to blanket a team’s number one receiver will be even more important than in 2019. Walker had 10 pass breakups in 2019 and only one interception (a pick six), if the ball bounces a little better next season, Walker could be the highest drafted Bronco in the 2021 NFL draft.
There is not a doubt in my mind that Khalil Shakir is the most talented athlete on this football squad. Shakir will now assume the role of number one receiver with John Hightower off to the NFL. Shakir led the Broncos in receptions last season and did so while sharing the spotlight. Shakir can line up in any of the wide receiver spots, can play some running back, and is a proven wildcat quarterback. He could also see an increased role in the return game this season. The four star recruit has big things in store for his junior season.
There are many important returning players for Boise State, but I am a big proponent that the team will go as the quarterback goes. My faith that the 2020 Broncos will again compete for the Mountain West Championship title, and make a run at a Cotton Bowl birth, is entirely wrapped up in my belief that Bachmeier will take a leap in his sophomore season and put it all together.
The true freshman quarterback started his BSU career 7-0 despite taking an absolute beating. Injuries derailed the 2019 campaign for Bachmeier, but he showed the toughness and leadership ability that Head Coach Bryan Harsin preaches are among the most important traits in a Boise State quarterback. He has some minor areas of improvement to iron out, but the 2019 season showed that Boise State will be set at QB1 in 2020 and beyond.
Here is how our lists finished up:
Top 10 Returning Broncos
|10||Avery Williams||JL Skinner|
|9||John Bates||Avery Williams|
|8||Riley Whimpey||Riley Whimpey|
|7||Demitri Washington||John Ojukwu|
|6||Jalen Walker||Khalil Shakir|
|5||John Ojukwu||Demitri Washington|
|4||Hank Bachmeier||Kekaula Kaniho/Scale Igiehon|
|3||George Holani||George Holani|
|2||Scale Igiehon/Kekaula Kaniho||Jalen Walker|
|1||Khalil Shakir||Hank Bachmeier|
What do you guys think of our top players? What changes would you make?