Welcome to a fun off-season series that Michael, Hunter (both of FKWG), 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 2023 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 2019 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, the four of us 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 FKWG 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 2019 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 2019 recruiting class was arguably the best in Boise State history and one of the best classes by a Group of 5 school ever. It was flooded with four-stars and other highly-rated players and seemed poised to make a big impact on the field for the Broncos. It definitely raised the ceiling for what the coaching staff could do on the recruiting trail. Perhaps more importantly, this class raised the floor for BSU recruiting as well, as not many players would be labeled as projects or under-the-radar types. But how has it translated on the field? To hear our thoughts on specific players from the class, read below.
Part 8: Defensive Back/Final Thoughts
Boise State usually takes a handful of defensive backs in each recruiting cycle, so it was a surprise that only two were taken in this class. However, the Broncos made them count with two talented players who played their college careers on the Blue.
Expectations when he signed: Medium high. Part of that may have been because his Rivals page said he was 6’2” and I was (and continue to be, I suppose) excited about DBs with length. He came in as a 3-star and seemed to be very talented, so I was hopeful to see what he could do.
2019 Season: Markel got into most of the games, despite not being listed as a starter. He had 13 total tackles, one forced fumble, and a pass defensed. Overall though, he really showed some promise.
2020 Season: Ironically, the shortened season has been one of his most productive so far. He started one game, but played in all of them. Statistically, he accounted for 17 tackles and three PDs.
2021 Season: Markel established himself as one of the starters in 2021 for four of the five games in which he played. In those games he had 21 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and one PD. His season was ended early, due to injury.
2022 Season: In an extremely unfortunate turn of events, Reed had his season ended early in the first game of the season after recording one tackle.
Overall Impact: He’s had bad injury luck, but when healthy, he’s a great corner. For now, he’s a “met expectations”, with the capacity to upgrade to “exceeded” in his final year if he can stay on the field.
Expectations when he signed: High. Just weeks before signing day, Markel flipped from Texas Tech to the promised land. A beautiful sight to behold.
2019 Season: Appeared in 11 games, forcing turnovers and being awesome.
2020 Season: Saw action in all 7 games, garnering his first start as well.
2021 Season: Started in 4 of 5 games before suffering a season-ending injury.
2022 Season: One of the Angel of Death’s 2 victims in the season opener against Oregon State/
Overall Impact: Today, Markel stands second on the google search rankings, only bested by the North Carolina baritone of the same name. Because his injury was so early, I think some forgot about it. I’d wager his absence could have been fortune changing for our squad. Obviously there’s some disappointment in back-to-back season injuries, but I think his playing time has proved he’s as capable as any corner we’ve had in recent history. Unless he manages another season-ending injury, I’d say “met expectations” with a slight chance to move up.
Expectations when he signed: Very high. Reed was a flip from Texas Tech and was clearly a Power 5 talent. Reed was expected to make an immediate impact and maybe be used in dime packages as a true freshman.
2019 Season: As expected, Reed was able to find a role on special teams and was used in obvious passing situations where an extra defensive back was needed. The future looked bright for Reed.
2020 Season: Reed had a similar role in the COVID shortened season. It looked like he was being groomed to replace Avery Williams.
2021 Season: Established himself as a starter. However, his season was cut short after suffering a significant knee injury.
2022 Season: Reed fought back to earn a starting spot. But once again had his season cut short after suffering a season-ending injury.
Overall Impact: Reed has been really good when he was healthy. Thanks to the COVID year and a medical redshirt, Reed still has two years of eligibility. It is tough to evaluate his impact, but I am going to go with met expectations.
Expectations when he signed: I liked Reed coming out of high school. He had height and length for the cornerback position, which isn’t always a guarantee for a recruit going to a Group of 5 school. I figured he was a good bet to play early in his career.
2019 Season: Markel played 11 games as a true freshman, showing a lot of talent and potential early in his career. Although he didn’t start, it was clear he had a role and found a way to make 13 tackles. It seemed clear the future was bright.
2020 Season: Reed was in the same role in 2020. He played in seven games and made one start. In many ways, he was a co-starter, often subbing in when the Broncos were in short-yardage and red zone type of situations. He was often up to the challenge
2021 Season: This was finally the year Markel would step into a full-time starting role. But unfortunately, injuries kept him from playing a full season. He only played in five game, but was still able to set career highs in tackles and tackles for loss.
2022 Season: Reed battled back from injuries and took the field as a starter in the opening game. However, he was struck once again by the injury bug and suffered a terrible, season-ending injury in the first-half after making a tackle.
Overall Impact: Markel has not gotten a chance to truly shine due to splitting time early in his career and being hurt later in his career. Thankfully, he will have another season to show how good he can be. Despite never having a true breakout season, I feel like Reed was exactly who he was billed to be as a player and for that, he meets expectations.
Expectations when he signed: High. On the field, he reminded me a lot of George Iloka and Lee Hightower. I thought he was going to be awesome. I was correct.
2019 Season: He didn’t start the entirety of his first year; just one game. He did, however, play in all 14 of them. He had a matching number of tackles, including .5 for a loss, and 3 PDs.
2020 Season: Played in six games and started all of them. Had an interception and a past defense to go along with 37 tackles.
2021 Season: Really broke out as a playmaker and pillar of the defense. He recorded 92 tackles, had three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
2022 Season: Despite a reduction in the total number of tackles, he increased his contribution in terms of game-changing plays, as most of his 4 interceptions came at high impact moments.
Overall Impact: Met expectations. I wish I could say exceeded, but that wouldn’t be entirely honest because I had very high expectations for him. However, he very much lived up to those expectations.
Expectations when he signed: Pretty high, 24/7 Sports had him as a 4-star guy. I don’t trust my ability to make guesses off of HS stats or tape, but he also had many interested P5 suitors. I took that as a good thing.
2019 Season: Played in all 14 games, including one start. Definitely a solid impact from a true freshman.
2020 Season: Started in all 6 games he was available and snagged a pick against the Rams.
2021 Season: Breakout season. JL made the leap to superstar in 2021. He executed a man against Oklahoma State (and many more over the days). He also returned a fumble for the *game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma State*. In my opinion, he had only Khalil Shakir as competition for best player on that squad. Major snub for 1st team all-conference.
2022 Season: No slump for JL in his final round with the Broncos. Single-handedly ended the Wyoming game with back-to-back interceptions, and really did just a little bit of everything. Easily 1st Team all-conference.
Overall Impact: I can’t hide that JL is one of my favorite Broncos of all time. Awesome leader and game changer on the defense. He will certainly be missed. Completely exceeded expectations.
Expectations when he signed: George Illoka 2.0. Illoka is one of my all time favorites and I was super excited for Skinner, who had the size and speed of the top safeties in college football.
2019 Season: Saw significant playing time as a reserve and had an important role on special teams.
2020 Season: Earned a starting role and proved to be a solid open field tackler. There was a lot of room for growth in pass coverage, where he struggled over the course of the season.
2021 Season: Skinner established himself as a star and even generated some NFL buzz. He proved to be one of the best defensive backs in the conference.
2022 Season: Skinner’s numbers went down some. But that can largely be tallied up to improved linebacker play. Skinner still had an excellent season, that was highlighted by two huge interceptions against Wyoming.
Overall Impact: Skinner was a three-year starter and eventually an NFL draft pick. He had an impactful career and became a fan favorite. He will always be the original #0. Skinner exceeded expectations.
Expectations when he signed: Skinner was a huge signing out of high school as the Broncos beat out multiple P5 offers and fended off late advances from Louisville. He was a huge safety with the speed to match it and appeared to have the best pro-potential of anyone in the draft class.
2019 Season: Similar to Reed, JL played a prominent backup role as a true freshman, playing in every game and starting one of them. He flashed his enormous potential on the field and made 14 tackles.
2020 Season: Skinner stepped into a starting role during the six games he played and although he was inconsistent, especially in pass coverage, he appeared to be a star in the making. He more than doubled his tackle total and secured his first career interception.
2021 Season: This was a true breakout season for JL. He worked tirelessly in the offseason and it paid off, as he became an all-conference player after 92 tackles and two interceptions. Also, he became known for his booming hits in the box and the open field, making ball-carriers think twice when coming his way.
2022 Season: Skinner didn’t have much to prove as an individual but wanted to come back in hopes of finishing his college career the right way. He worked hard to get better in pass coverage and did, posing a career-high four interceptions. His tackles were down, but as he described, it was the result of players in front of him making plays and the defense as a whole doing their job. For his efforts, he was first-team all-conference and was invited to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
Overall Impact: JL didn’t light the world on fire his first year, but he was able to make an impact on the field right away and got better every year. He capitalized on his potential, and while a case could be made that he met expectations since he was projected to be good, I won’t go that route. He became more than just a box safety and turned into a complete player, and for that, I will say he exceeded expectations.
Michael: 2 exceeded expectations, 4 met expectations, 10 failed to meet expectations
Hunter: 1 exceeded expectations, 5 met expectations, 12 failed to meet expectations
Zach: 1 exceeded expectations, 5 met expectations, 12 failed to meet expectations.
Mike: 2 exceeded expectations, 5 met expectations, 11 failed to meet expectations.
Michael: Revisiting the highly touted 2019 recruiting class has been an illuminating experience. Kind of painful, honestly. And not just because of how things went bad with Hank, but also because of how they went with some other huge gets (Kline, Duncan…). Overall, it’s contributed to my theory that the most successful Boise State teams tend to be the ones light on highly rated recruits, but heavy on guys that just work hard and want it more.
Hunter: This was my first year of doing this. It’s a small sample size, but I feel justified for always holding a healthy bit of skepticism when it comes to recruits. Football is a numbers game, and not everyone can be the superstar. That being said, it seems like some positions are easier to predict success than others. I will say that I’m optimistic about the recruiting classes we’ve seen from Avalos. His classes haven’t been as shiny as this 2019 class, but as we can see, stars only matter so much. It’ll be interesting to see what we get from the likes of Hunter Misa and Jayden Virgin this coming year.
Zach: Doing this the last few years has made me realize that maybe I put a little too much stock into recruiting. Every year, the majority of recruits fail to meet expectations. For the Broncos, it is about finding some diamonds in the rough that exceed expectations, in this class there weren’t any. But that can always change. Last year, when we talked about DJ Schramm he had not accomplished much. In 2022, he established himself as one of the best linebackers in the conference. Maybe someone in this class can have a breakout year in 2023.
Mike: I’ve done enough of these exercises to know that classes turn out more disappointing than uplifting. Maybe we should go back and do the 2007 class to feel better. 2019 was Boise State’s greatest recruiting class on paper and it basically turned out to be any other class. It had a very high number of (talented) players who didn’t even make it to the end of their first season. A few seemingly can’t-miss prospects ended up not working out, to the surprise of everyone. However, one player is now in the NFL and another ended up being the MWC Freshman of the Year, with a few more ending up being contributors. This is probably a case where it is better to get a couple of star players than getting a lot of average contributors.