Welcome to a fun off-season series that Drew (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 2021 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 2017 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, Drew, Zach, and Mike will look at a different position group from the class. While we will contribute two posts each week over the next month, the location of the posts will change. The start of the week will feature a post on OBNUG while the end of the week will see a post up on MWCConnection, that way 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. The impact 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 2017 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.
The 2017 recruiting class is in some ways a bridge between the two stages of recruiting during the Harsin era. The first few classes (which we have reviewed the past few years) were somewhat top-heavy, meaning some talented headliners and then more unheralded prospects filling out the rest of the ranks. The final three classes were a noticeable step up, possessing star-power and the back half of the class could be categorized as a high-floor. The 2017 class is right in the middle of that progression, taking a step forward in both overall talent as well as top to bottom depth. In fact, it was a strong class on paper at the time, even if it was immediately overshadowed by the 2018 class. To hear our thoughts on specific players from the class, read below.
Part Two will examine the two wide receivers in this class. One of these players remained committed through the coaching change and the other was a product of it. Both were perceived as talented players, with one skill set projecting well in the slot and the other on the outside.
Expectations when he signed - High. Oh, I have to write more? Okay, when CARTRELL Thomas first signed (and before we knew the legend of CT “Cold Titan”) I was sky high on the kid. His size was a little bit of a question mark, but hey...we did okay with Shane Williams-Rhodes and he put the Smurf in Smurf Turf. Thomas came from a lush recruiting area in Texas, showed some elite speed and ability to get open. Looked like a big time talent in a not-so-big body.
2017 Season - Along with Octavius Evans, we got to see CT (CCT?) as a true frosh and he definitely showed some major flashes of potential. Caught 15 passes for 121 yards (8.06 yard average) and also had a few carries out of the backfield. For a true freshman...solid work.
2018 Season - Catch numbers exploded with 41 and he showed some more of the deep threat we’ve become accustomed to right out of the gate with a 53 yard TD reception against Troy. Finished the season with 535 receiving yards and 3 TDs.
2019 Season - Somehow had the same number of receptions as 2018...became a big safety blanket for freshman QB Hank Bachmeier and a dependable “move the sticks” guy. Upped his TD count to 5
2020 Season - Statistically best year of his career with 17 YPC and really smoked some fools in the deep game. Lovely.
Overall Impact - Definitely has met and at times exceeded expectations. His speed and route-running make him a serious threat in the passing game but his size probably still holds him back a tiny bit on the 50/50 type balls. Love his attitude and work ethic.
Expectations when he signed: High. Thomas came out of an elite high school and had quite a few offers.
2017 Season: Played as a true freshman but had limited production. Felt like he should have redshirted.
2018 Season: He really started to look like a more complete player. Thomas started running a lot of different routes and became a reliable target for Brett Rypien.
2019 Season: Very similar to his sophomore season. It felt like Thomas was underutilized at time and some of that was due to the carousel at the quarterback position.
2020 Season: Thomas didn’t get the target that he deserved, but he proved to be Mr. Reliable on third down.
Overall Impact: Thomas has proven to be the Broncos most reliable threat on third down, he has a knack for finding the sticks. His overall numbers aren’t quite what I thought they would be, so I am going to go with met expectations.
Expectations when he signed: CT, or Cartrell as he went by when he signed, looked like a more well-rounded version of Shane Williams-Rhodes. I expected him to have a productive four years in the wide receiver corps, be used in a variety of ways, and be a starter for two to three years.
2017 Season: Thomas’ high school coach told me he would play as a true freshman and sure enough he did. Though his impact and production were limited, the potential was high and a sign of things to come.
2018 Season: And things did in fact come. CT stepped into a bigger role and with it came more production. Unlike SWR, he was a complete wide receiver and not just a bubble-screen or jet-sweep type of player. He morphed into a solid slot receiver and reliable target.
2019 Season: More of the same, Thomas emerged as a big-play wide receiver in addition to a reliable pass-catcher in the middle of the field. He fully arrived and proved to be a tough cover.
2020 Season: Lather, rinse, and repeat. CT has proven to be the model of consistency in his career for the Broncos. Perhaps not a game-changing WR1, but a steady second option in the passing game who is going to get the job done.
Overall Impact: I may be a harsh grader or I may be good at making predictions, but for CT, I’m going with met expectations, as he more or less became the very good player I expected him to be for Boise State.
Expectations when he signed - Sky high. Finally a receiver with some speed AND size (listed at 6’ 2”, although he shrunk at least an inch upon arrival. Had an SEC offer (Mississippi State) and again came from the fertile Texas recruiting grounds (also a great place to grow beets).
2017 Season - Played as a true frosh and had nearly identical stats to CT with 15 grabs for 131, but found the endzone twice and looked like he might be a real dangerous weapon for the next couple of years.
2018 Season - Whomp whomp. Evans had an injury-riddled season and only made 2 grabs for 12 yards...what’s worse, he appeared in FIVE games (as a decoy apparently) therefore killing the chance for a redshirt year in 2018. Having received the #1 jersey before the season...many thought this would be a true breakout. Injuries always make other plans.
2019 Season - Played in every game, thankfully but was not Hank’s go-to. After a highlight reel trucking of a Florida State defender in the Broncos’ opener, was a bit quieter as the year rolled on. Finished with 19 catches for 211 yards and 1 TD.
2020 Season - Only played in two games before being shelved for “non-injury” reasons. Still had 4 grabs and a TD.
Overall Impact - Unfortunately, Octavius hasn’t quite met expectations, but I’m certainly not putting that on him. He’s delivered on the promise he showed at signing (and as a true frosh) when he’s been healthy, but keeping him in that sweet spot has been challenging to say the least.
Expectations when he signed: Very high. Evans had size and a diverse skill set. He looked like a future WR1 and a reliable red-zone target.
2017 Season: Played as a true freshman and started to look the part late in the season. But like Thomas, he probably could have benefited from a redshirt.
2018 Season: Was injured for most of the season. Probably should have used a medical redshirt but he played in five games.
2019 Season: Evans settled into a reserve role and did some nice things. But it wasn’t the breakout season that we expected.
2020 Season: Evans left the team for personal reasons after two games, but has since returned.
Overall Impact: This is kind of to be determined. I’m really pulling for Evans as he has had to overcome a lot. At this point, I have to go with failed to meet expectations.
Expectations when he signed: Ocatvious was a great last-minute get when Eric Kiesau took over as the wide receiver coach for Boise State. He was a highly ranked recruit who was flying under the radar and looked like a major steal for the Broncos, with the potential to become their top target for years to come.
2017 Season: He did not redshirt, but he also didn’t play that much. It was a season before the new (now not new) redshirt rule and a good example of why the rule is beneficial for players and teams. Still, Evans got some reps, made some plays, scored two touchdowns, and should promise of things to come.
2018 Season: All signs were pointing in that promise coming. Coaches raved about him, he was given the sacred #1 jersey. Then, he was spotted in a boot around the time of fall scrimmage. He was “close to returning” for the first month of the season and when he got on the field for the Oklahoma State game, there was a theory he was getting time to heal for bigger competition. That proved to be false and his “not a season-ending injury” kept him out for the season in terms of production, even if he stood on the field for five games.
2019 Season: Evans was healthy but had gotten passed over on the depth chart. He appeared in every game as a reserve and was a productive reserve. He had the trucking a defender highlight Drew alluded to, but those moments were few and far between.
2020 Season: Evans stepped into a starting role and figured to be the #4 option in a very deep receiving unit. That was taking shape until he mysteriously was removed from the depth chart with no reason given other than “he’s not hurt”.
Overall Impact: While he still has one season left, it’s going to be hard for Evans to shed the label of failing to meet expectations. A poorly time injury, some mismanagement, and overall ineffectiveness have contributed, but he has not met the standard set for him.
Drew: 1 exceeded expectations, 0 met expectations, 3 failed to meet expectations
Zach: 0 exceeded expectations, 1 met expectations, 3 failed to meet expectations.
Mike: 0 exceeded expectations, 1 met expectations, 3 failed to meet expectations.