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Revisiting the Boise State 2018 Class Part 6: Defensive Line

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

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 2022 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 2018 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 2018 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 2018 recruiting class was a noticeable step up in their recruiting efforts. It saw the return of a few four-star recruits, as well as other promising three star players with some big offers to their name. To hear our thoughts on specific players from the class, read below.

Part 6 Defensive Line

This position encompasses the defensive tackles, defensive ends, and the hybrid end/outside linebacker position formerly known as STUD and now goes as the more common term of EDGE. The 2018 class had players who fit into each category. It has seen a few players end their careers early for two different reasons, one trying to bounce back and make something of his career in his last year, and one who has had a great and surprising career.

Keegan Freeborn

Drew

Expectations when he signed: Pretty high. The kid had the look of a Mike Atkinson 2.0…plus had the local flavor that Bronco fans like.

2018 Season: Redshirt

2019 Season: Lightly used

2020 Season: Coming on strong before being hurt against Air Force (curse them). Never was the same again.

2021 Season: DNP

Overall Impact: Sadly, Freeborn never had the chance to meet his full potential but it wasn’t for lack of trying. I still feel that he could have been a total stud for the Broncos…compact frame, strong as an ox, big heart—body just failed him. It’s a contact sport. Failed to meet expectations (crying emoji)

Zach

Expectations when he signed: Local kid with great size, The success with local kids had been spotty during that time, so my expectations weren’t super high.

2018 Season: Redshirted

2019 Season: Played in three games, saw very little action.

2020 Season: Was seeing quite a bit of playing time before suffering an injury.

2021 Season: Did not play because of an injury.

Overall Impact: Unfortunately, we will never get to know the impact that Freeborn could have had on this program. An injury plagued career limited his potential. For that reason, he failed to meet expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: Freeborn was a local recruit, which are always nice to secure. He wasn’t the most highly rated player but it seemed like he could become a significant depth piece at a position that needed it at the time.

2018 Season: He took a redshirt, which was always the plan.

2019 Season: Freeborn got his feet wet, playing in some games and while he didn’t make a huge impact, he took a nice step forward.

2020 Season: He was taking a big step forward, playing a lot and seemed on the verge of turning a corner before an injury wiped out his season (and all the depth at NT)

2021 Season: Freeborn was unable to play due to continuing injury issues.

Overall Impact: The injury bug comes and bites at the worst times but some get it worse than others. That has been the case for Keegan and although he can’t help it, he has failed to meet expectations thus far.

Scale Igiehon

Drew

Expectations when he signed: Very high. Broncos had been looking for a tackle that was actually built like a tackle for quite a while. This was Steve Caldwell’s parting gift.

2018 Season: Played quite a lot for a true frosh after dropping some lbs upon hitting campus. Earned legend status by sealing win against BYU.

2019 Season: Three starts and 38 tackles on the year.

2020 Season: Four starts in six total games.

2021 Season: Was poised for a huge season…he was one of the most talked about players out of spring ball and teammates young and old were announcing a huge breakout season…then he just vanished.

Overall Impact: This is one I wish we could have back. Scale showed flashes of the promise we all thought he had his first few seasons and appeared ready to grasp that brass ring. We may never really know what “personal issue” led to his departure, but at this point it doesn’t matter a whole lot. You can’t meet your expectations if you don’t finish (unless your not finishing in the NFL). Sad to say, this constitutes a failure to meet aforementioned expectations.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: Very high! Scale might be the most anticipated recruit on the interior defensive line in school history. He was expected to make a major impact!.

2018 Season: Played in 11 games as a true freshman and made one of the biggest plays of the season with a sack on Zach Wilson to win the game against BYU.

2019 Season: Started most of the season and had 38 tackles.

2020 Season: Had kind of a surprisingly unproductive season with only one sack.

2021 Season: Scale left the program early in the season for “personal reasons.” He never returned.

Overall Impact: Igiehon had a productive career. But it always seemed like he never really met his full potential. I thought he had an NFL ceiling. For that reason, he failed to meet expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: Scale looked like a massive recruiting pickup. He looked prime to play early, have a great career, and make Texas schools kick themselves for missing out on him.

2018 Season: He played in most of the games and was a solid backup who seemed destined to be a starter with the potential to be a star.

2019 Season: Scale became a starter and ate of blockers and made key tackles as well as anyone. They seemed to have found their anchor on their defensive line.

2020 Season: The pandemic season was an odd one indeed and maybe he was hurt or maybe things just didn’t work out how they should have. It seemed like a step back but let’s face it, it’s a mulligan year for sure.

2021 Season: In quite a strange twist of events, Scale decided to take a leave of absence from the program. That leave has now proven to be permanent.

Overall Impact: Scale was on the fast track to meet or likely even exceed expectations. But he really only had one truly good season and leaving before he could become a star means he has failed to meet expectations.

Scott Matlock

Drew

Expectations when he signed: Pretty high. You gotta love the local kids and Matlock’s overcoming of family tragedies was certainly inspiring. You always kinda wonder how small town Idaho ball will translate, but obviously we have some recent to semi-recent examples where it’s work out juuuuuust fine.

2018 Season: Redshirt season.

2019 Season: Played in 12 games, but didn’t post a whole lotta stats.

2020 Season: Honorable Mention All-MWC season. Had 2 sacks and 4.5 TFLs.

2021 Season: 2nd Team All-MWC season where he posted 7 sacks and 8.5 TFLs

Overall Impact: Big and getting bigger. Matlock seems poised for a huge senior season. He is the heart and soul of the Boise State D-line and I can’t wait to see what he does this year. Exceeded expectations.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: Local kid that was expected to grayshirt. Matlock seemed like a project, with a high upside.

2018 Season: Appeared in two games, but maintained his redshirt.

2019 Season: Played as a reserve, but you could start to see that the potential was there.

2020 Season: Became a full-time starter and made an impact in every game. Matlock played like a future star.

2021 Season: Matlock was one of the best lineman in the conference and should have a monster 2022 season.

Overall Impact: Matlock has become one of the most recognizable faces on the roster and is constantly being praised by his coaches and peers. He had a really good sophomore and junior season. A big senior season good propel him to a career in the NFL. He has exceeded expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: He was a grayshirt player. Really I did not expect him to really see the field much, if at all. But he seemed like the kind of player who would work hard and inspire others and epitomize what it meant to be blue collar.

2018 Season: He was a redshirt who played in a few games, which maybe was a sign of things to come.

2019 Season: More of the same, playing sparingly but playing.

2020 Season: Seemingly out of nowhere (at least outside of the practice field), Matlock burst into the starting lineup and played with absolute force. All of a sudden, he was one of the better players on the defense.

2021 Season: More of the same this past season. Matlock was in some ways a do it all player. He stopped the run, got after the quarterback, blocked a kick, and even scored a touchdown on offense, playing fullback in goal-line situations.

Overall Impact: Scott Matlock still has another season to add to his surprisingly awesome football career. He has exceeded expectations as well as anyone.

Kukea Emmsley

Drew

Expectations when he signed: Sky high. Kid was highly recruited out of the fertile Hawaiian recruiting grounds and he was a Bronco legacy (uncle played on The Blue).

2018 Season: Redshirt.

2019 Season: Whomp whomp. Whatever it was, Boise State wasn’t as in his blood as we’d hoped. He hit the transfer portal and (blows raspberry sound) he was gone.

2020 Season: Still gone.

2021 Season: He’s not coming back, is he?

Overall Impact: Well that was a bust. If they don’t wanna be here…they shouldn’t be. Doesn’t make it suck any less though. Failed to meet expectations.

Zach

Expectations when he signed: Pretty high. A lot of people thought he was going to become the next great Boise State STUD. I remember hearing some comparisons to Kamalei Correa

2018 Season: Redshirted

2019 Season: Played in one game and transferred to Northern Arizona University.

2020 Season

2021 Season

Overall Impact: I was shocked when Emmsley transferred. But it looks like he may be more of an FCS level talent. Sometimes recruiters miss and this is an example of that. He failed to meet expectations.

Mike

Expectations when he signed: Emmsley was a big-time get out of Hawaii, at least on paper. It seemed like only a matter of time before he would start piling up stats for the Broncos.

2018 Season: He redshirted, which wasn’t shocking but perhaps tempered expectations a bit.

2019 Season: In a completely shocking move, Emmsley played in one game and then ended up transferring to Northern Arizona. He played good but not great last fall (2021).

2020 Season: N/A

2021 Season: N/A

Overall Impact: Transferring early in his career and not making an impact in the short time he was with the team can only mean he has failed to meet expectations.

Running Totals:

Drew: 4 exceeded expectations, 2 met expectations, 12 failed to meet expectations

Zach: 5 exceeded expectations, 2 met expectations, 11 failed to meet expectations.

Mike: 5 exceeded expectations, 2 met expectations, 11 failed to meet expectations.