When Bryan Harsin was trying to figure out how to keep his team engaged throughout the uncertainty surrounding whether Boise State would play this season or not, there was one voice he turned to for advice.
“I only need to talk to Mack Brown because he talks to everybody else,” Harsin said. “I’ll just say this because every other college coach in America goes to Mack Brown, they all talk to him. So I can go to him and I got a relationship with him and he is the best.”
Whether the advice Harsin gained from chatting with Brown was useful will become clearer Saturday when the Broncos open the Mountain West season hosting Utah State.
Even with a shortened preseason camp, and with significant questions along the line of scrimmage, the Broncos are again expected to be the class of the Mountain West. The Broncos have two solid quarterback options in sophomore starter Hank Bachmeier and Southern California transfer Jack Sears. They have a top running back in George Holani and talented pass catchers in Khalil Shakir and Octavius Evans.
Defensively, the Broncos are loaded at linebacker thanks to Riley Whimpey and North Carolina State transfer Brock Miller. The secondary should be solid with the trio of Kekaula Kaniho, Avery Williams and Jalen Walker.
The biggest questions for the Broncos will be on the line of scrimmage, where Boise State will be replacing four starters on the offensive line and must find a pass-rushing option after the loss of Curtis Weaver on defense.
“This is an unbelievable challenge for guys with just their discipline and their focus,” Harsin said. “And to me, if we can actually do that, these guys are going to be so much better for a lot of reasons, if we’re able to accomplish that and then go out there and execute on game day.”
For the second straight season, Bachmeier will be the starter when the Broncos open the season. He’s hoping for a much healthier sophomore campaign after missing six games due to injury during his freshman season. When he was on the field, Bachmeier went 6-1 as the starter, throwing for 1,879 yards and nine touchdowns.
If Bachmeier has any issues, the Broncos have options after Sears moved from USC. Sears appeared in just one game during his time at USC, but it was a memorable performance in 2018 when he went 20 of 28 for 235 yards and two TDs against Arizona State.
Holani was the Mountain West freshman of the year last season after rushing for 1,014 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes, three for touchdowns.
His rushing total extended Boise State’s streak with a 1,000-yard rusher to 11 straight seasons. It’s the second-longest streak in college football history, but Holani may be hard-pressed to extend it to 12 straight with the Broncos having just eight scheduled games. Holani had just three games a season ago where he topped 100 yards rushing.
OFF THE EDGE
One of Boise State’s biggest losses was the departure of Weaver, who had 13½ sacks and 18½ tackles for loss last season. The task of replacing him will fall to sixth-year senior Sam Whitney at first. Whitney hasn’t played since the end of the 2018 season, missing all last year due to injury. The Broncos also hope to get some pass rush help from Demitri Washington, who had 4½ sacks last year as a freshman.
ON THE DOCKET
Boise State did get one break in its Mountain West schedule. The Broncos won’t face San Diego State, but do have a challenging road slate that includes games at Air Force, Hawaii and a season finale at Wyoming on Dec. 12. The highlight of the schedule is the Nov. 6 home game against No. 12 BYU. It’s the one game from Boise State’s original schedule that the team was able to be keep.
After conversations with local health officials, Boise State has opted not to have fans in the seats at Albertsons Stadium to begin the season. There is a chance that could change as the season goes on.
According to school records, the smallest previous crowd for any game involving Boise State as a four-year institution came on Nov. 21, 1970, in a 41-7 road win over the College of Idaho. There were 1,300 fans in attendance.
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