The top 10 Boise State football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Jeremy McNichols, Jr.
After seeing a little bit of time as a freshman, McNichols roared as a sophomore, earning All-Mountain West honors while running for 1,337 yards and 20 touchdowns while catching 51 passes for 460 yards and six scores. Extremely quick and with great hands and the toughness needed to carry the load, the compact 5-9, 205-pound star showed just how special he could be over the second half of last year.
He missed the Utah State game, but he ran for 100 yards or more in each of the last seven regular season games he’s played in, highlighted by a 192-yard, two touchdown day against San Jose State. Outside of that game against the Aggies he missed, he scored at least once in every game, doing a great job around the goal line, while proving he could be a reliable midrange pass catcher who can keep the chains moving. He might not have rushed for 100 yards in the blow blowout over Northern Illinois, but he caught five passes for 96 yards and a score – he can do a little of everything.
2. WR Thomas Sperbeck, Sr.
A star in the classroom as well as on the field, Sperbeck was named to the Academic All-Mountain West team, while also taking All-Mountain West football honors catching 88 passes for 1,412 yards and eight scores. The 6-0, 175-pounder was good as a sophomore, catching 51 passes, but blew up last year highlighted by a phenomenal 20-catch, 281-yard day against New Mexico – that came after a 10-catch, 163-yard day against New Mexico.
Brett Rypien’s top target, Sperbeck is physical for his size and tremendous at route running and finding his way open. While he won’t have to do it all with several other good receivers returning, he’s a No. 1 guy to revolve the passing game around.
3. QB Brett Rypien, Soph.
With Ryan Finley transferring to NC State, it’s Rypien’s gig now. It was a quarterback battle and a concern going into the season, and then Rypien took over. The son of Super Bowl winner Mark Rypien, Brett Rypien was a great recruit for the program, and he dominated once he stepped in finishing with 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns with just eight picks, completing 64% of his passes. Air-tight at times, he hit 79% of his passes against Wyoming, threw for 503 yards against New Mexico, and bombed away for 469 yards against UNLV. While he might not be all that big at 6-2 and 199 pounds, he’s a sharp, accurate passer with a great command of the offense.
4. LB Tanner Vallejo, Sr.
The team’s third-leading tackler, the 6-1, 230-pound Vallejo came up with 57 tackles with a sack and eight tackles for loss, coming up with 15 stops against Air Force for his season-high. The Mountain West all-star missed the Poinsettia Bowl – being suspended for a violation of team rules – but now he’s back where he should be one of the team’s top hitters and the leader of another great D. A bigger stat-sheet filler two years ago, making 100 tackles with a few big performances, but the drop is a bit misleading – the numbers don’t match what he did for the defense. A pure hitter who doesn’t miss a stop, this is his defense to run.
5. LB Ben Weaver, Sr.
The main man on the weak side, Weaver is an academic all-star who can move. The team’s leading tackler came up with 68 stops with four tackles for loss and three picks, making 11 stops against Air Force with his three interceptions coming in three straight games. Extremely quick, he’s not a top pass rusher, but he gets in on every play.
6. TE Jake Roh, Jr.
More like a big wide receiver who can block a little bit, the 6-3, 229-pounder out of Arizona earned All-Mountain West honors catching 33 passes for 357 yards and a score. Steady more than sensational, his job is to keep the chains moving and be reliable underneath. While he can hit, he’s a route runner with good hands got for a few grabs a game. The talent and speed are there to come up with a few big plays, but he doesn’t stretch the field.
7. PK Tyler Rausa, Sr.
Rock-solid, Rausa hit 25 of his 30 field goal attempts with three of the five misses coming from beyond 50 yards. Even so, he nailed a 51-yarder against Virginia. One kick was blocked, but he connected on everything else inside 40 yards, all while showing off excellent range and reliability.
8. OT Mario Yakoo. Sr.
The all-star right tackle run blocks like a road grading guard, but can move just well enough to be fine in pass protection. A good backup early on, he got the starting job in every game but one over the last two seasons, turning into an anchor with 6-4, 329-pound size and the power to bury his man time and again. Potentially a guard, or even a left tackle, he’ll move around where needed.
9. WR Cedrick Wilson, Jr.
A JUCO superstar, the 6-3, 184-pound transfer, and the son of the former NFL receiver by the same name, should be an instant factor in the terrific passing game. He’s got the size to be a matchup problem, and he’s ultra-quick in the open field coming up with 1,045 yards and 17 touchdowns for Coffeyville CC last season. He won’t have to be the main man thanks to all the other weapons the Broncos have, but he’ll be dangerous.
10. S Chanceller James, Sr.
The playmaking nickelback and safety started in nine games, but he was still active enough to finish fourth on the team with 55 tackles. At 6-2 and 216 pounds he has ideal size to go along with great ranked, picking off a pass and breaking up six. Injured early in his career, it took a little while to find a role, but by last season he became a huge part of the secondary, topping out with ten tackles against Utah State.