The Broncos' season ended in disappointment with a no-contest cancellation for the First Responder Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 26, and now Bronco Nation is facing the next eight months without Boise State football.
Thanks to the early signing period in the middle of December, the Broncos' 2019 recruiting class is nearly complete. Bronco Nation has a pretty good idea of the new faces they'll see in 2019, except for a few key positions.
The Broncos will see multiple key players leave because of graduation or the NFL Draft, so we can see where some roster shakeups can happen with this early preview for the 2019 Boise State team.
Who's Leaving the Team
The Broncos will lose 18 players for 2019, including some key players on both sides of the ball. Multiple skill-position players will have room to move up in the roster with quarterback Brett Rypien, wide receivers A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster, cornerback Tyler Horton and STUD Jabril Frazier all graduating.
Frazier tweeted out on Dec. 28 that he has signed with an agent as he prepares for the Draft.
DT David Moa is also a senior but may be eligible for a medical sixth year of playing, thanks to new NCAA rules on medical redshirts
Punter Quinn Skillin and kicker Haden Hoggarth are also graduating.
Junior running back Alexander Mattison announced on Dec. 28 that he is foregoing his senior season to enter the Draft. He rushed for 1,415 yards this season and 17 touchdowns on the year, tied for fifth most in the country.
Junior middle linebacker Tyson Maeva announced on Jan. 3 that he will no longer be with the team, after being sent home early for the First Responder Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 26.
The starting senior-to-be made the announcement on Twitter, saying his "time at Boise State has been cut short by a decision I made and regret." Mavea was the second-leading tackler on the team with 61.
The full list of graduating players:
2019 Recruiting Class
The Broncos signed 15 recruits earlier in December during the early signing period. The class included four four-star recruits and 10 three-stars.
The class added two more quarterbacks - four-star Hank Bachmeier and three-star Kaiden Bennett - and ESPN's 19th ranked JUCO recruit tight end Austin Griffin. Griffin is the number one-ranked JUCO TE player, according to ESPN. However, he did not make the team to academic reasons.
Bachmeier is the 14th-ranked quarterback recruit, according to ESPN. He also received 13 offers from Power 5 schools, including Georgia and Washington State. Princeton and Yale also made scholarship offers.
Duncan was the highest-ranked player in Idaho, according to ESPN. He had 3,620 total yards and 51 touchdowns a senior. Holani was a top 25 running back by ESPN and had 1,172 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Broncos offered their scholarships sparingly, only offering 61 scholarships to recruits. Head Coach Byran Harsin still has three scholarships left and noted that one of them is reserved for a kicker.
Harsin noted that this is one of the most balanced recruiting classes that he's ever had. On paper, this class certainly does look the part.
The signees address much of the holes left by departing players but added new wrinkles to who might be starting on the Blue in 2019.
2019 Depth Chart Outlook
With eight months until the Broncos' first game, the depth chart will be mostly intact from the 2018 team, even with the highly ranked recruits joining the team.
The offense will be returning most of the starters with the entire offensive line and four wide receivers that combined for 1,413 yards and 12 touchdowns, with CT Thomas, John Hightower, Aklian Butler, and Khalil Shakir all returning. Octavius Evans will join that group next fall after playing sparingly this past season due to injuries.
Defense will see most of the lineup return with two of the top three tacklers, and seven of the top 10 tacklers on defense still on the roster next season.
Outside of those positions with depth returning much of the 2018 team, Boise State will have to find their next stars to lead them through a tough 2019 season.
Bronco Nation hasn't seen a season where they've had to replace both their star quarterback and running back, without knowing who would take over for sure since 2008, when Kellen Moore and DJ Harper, both unknowns entering that season, took over.
The two position battles that Boise States fans should keep their eyes on through this August are the quarterback and running back starters.
Position Spotlight: Quarterbacks
The offense already has two backup quarterbacks that are in play for Rypien's role leading the offense. Freshman Chase Cord and junior Jaylon Henderson both saw playing time this season.
Cord played more, using his legs for big running plays, but had a season-ending ACL tear in practice in October. That injury muddled up who would be the starting quarterback. Based on the last depth chart that he was in and playing time, Cord is the likely contender for the starting position. It depends on how he has healed from his ACL injury.
Coach Harsin did state that in a news conference on early signing day that Bachmeier and Bennett will be tasked with learning the team's playbook as soon as possible once they're on campus.
Bachmeier will see the opportunity to become the Broncos' next four-year starter if he succeeds during camp. His high school stats are eye-popping as a pro-style quarterback.
He had 10,001 passing yards, 124 passing touchdowns and only 21 interceptions as a three-year starter at Murrieta Valley in California. He ended his senior season with 32 passing touchdowns and 11 more rushing touchdowns.
His pocket presence and ability to throw on the run, and still hit deep targets, are what made his such a highly coveted recruit. It might also be what helps him earn the starting position.
Bennett, Boise State's other quarterback recruit, is slightly smaller but also posted huge numbers in Folsom, Calf., as a dual-threat quarterback.
In three years, two as a starter, Bennett racked up 8,912 passing yards, 121 passing touchdowns, and 38 rushing touchdowns.
The Broncos' offense under coordinator Zac Hill utilizes a combination of pro-style and spread concepts, so Bachmeier's style may fit better. Hill has shown that he will use mobile quarterbacks to mix up the tempo of the offense, either with Cord and Henderson in 2018, or with Montel Cozart in 2017.
Both recruits could see playing time in 2019 but have a lot to catch up on if they want to beat out Cord or Henderson.
Position Spotlight: Running Backs
The running game will introduce fans to fresh faces, but freshman Andrew Van Buren, who was the second-leading rusher this season with 163 yards, seems likely fill in Mattison's role on offense.
However, Van Buren was tied with wide receiver John Hightower for rushing yards on the season. Van Buren fizzled with only 55 yards in the last six games of the season. While he showed early flashes of becoming the next star running back, his performance down the stretch made his path a little less clear.
Unlike previous seasons, there is no heir apparent for the running back position. This leaves an opening for incoming Holani and Duncan to earn more reps and move into a starting role.
Both recruits posted monster seasons at their respective schools, so how they perform at training camps and learning offensive schemes will be what separates the two.
Running back Coach Lee Marks did seem keen on getting Duncan involved early, according to Dave Southorn on The 208 Podcast. If that holds true, we may see more of the Idaho product play on the Blue in 2019.
Just don't expect either of these freshmen to put up 1,000-yard seasons right of the gates. The last few Bronco star backs started playing elite during their sophomore years, where their skills grew during their junior years, that helped launch them into the NFL.
With Van Buren having limited playing time in the second half of the 2018 season and the talent coming in at this position, consider the starting position in 2019 a three-horse race until the end of fall training camp, with no clear leader. All three players could make a splash next season.
Bronco Nation will see new faces on the Blue next season, but the Broncos will be returning the bulk of the starters that led the team 10-3 record this season. There will be some key position battles to pay attention to until the 2019 season kicks off that will develop and change between now and training camps.
Boise State opens up the 2019 season with a neutral site game in Jacksonville, Fla. against Florida State on August 31.