Last season, Boise State saw a dramatic impact by true freshmen. Titus Young made his presence known in the very first game of the season, and despite some freshman mistakes throughout the year he was very difficult for WAC (and Pac-10) defenses to cover.
Austin Pettis was another Bronco frosh who became a big weapon in the passing game. Despite a slower start, Pettis was a game changer in the Fresno State matchup and late in the '07 season looked to have stickum on his hands as he became a fade route specialist.
After recruiting two stud running backs in the '07 class, many were surprised when Coach Pete said that one of the true freshman backs would play last year. After an impressive fall from both backs, D.J. Harper got the nod.
He proved early on that he was a great change-of-pace back that would be good in goal line situations and would keep defenses guessing when redshirt speedster Jeremy Avery was out and Ian Johnson got a rest.
Few imagined the impact that Harper would have so early, however, as he and Jeremy Avery were the only healthy backs when the Broncos hit the valley for the Fresno State game. Harper rushed for 153 yards against the Bulldogs and Bronco fans knew that Boise State's backfield was getting ridiculously crowded with talent.
Another frosh, Brandyn Thompson, was put in nickel and dime situations last season and got significant playing time against Hawaii. Thompson may line up opposite Kyle Wilson this year after the departure of Orlando Scandrick to the NFL. So, was last year an anomaly? Hardly. Boise State is recruiting bigger, faster, and stronger kids that will be hard to keep off the field.
This year will be a perfect year to groom some youngsters as the entire O-line from '07 is virtually gone, and several defensive stars are MIA. But who will step in? Let's go over the candidates...
At Wide Receiver, Boise State landed a couple of speedy players in Oaks Christian's Chris Potter and Vallivue's Van Drumgoole. Potter could be the next T.J. Acree or Vinny Perretta-like game changer.
But with Perretta back for his senior year, all-WAC first-teamer Jeremy Childs returning, and true sophs Titus Young and Austin Pettis back for more, it's hard to believe that either Potter or Drumgoole will fail to red or grayshirt this season.
My pick for true frosh WR in '08: No one.
Same goes for big Texas Tight End, Chandler Koch. With Fullback/TE Richie Brockel a possible all-WAC pick and Tommy Gallarda and Kyle Efaw potentially breaking through, Koch will probably be wise to take a redshirt year...unless, of course, he is that much better than Efaw or Gallarda—in which case, turn him loose.
My pick for true frosh TE in '08: No one.
With a young and lean Offensive Line, the Broncos may look to break in some youngbloods this year, especially since the '07 recruits look to be bigger than some of the current linemen on the roster. Tom Swanson out of Issaquah is already tipping the scales at close to 300 lbs,. and with his height of 6'7", he may be a good choice at tackle opposite Nate Potter.
At guard, Joe Kellogg is a top-70 player who is also packing some serious meat on his bones. Kellogg may come in and press for playing time with Faraji Wright and Brenel Myers having potential as well.
Former D-lineman Will Lawrence switched to the O-line this Spring and with a redshirt year behind him, he may be a more logical choice on the interior O-line. But as we've seen, some of these kids are just WAY too talented to keep off the blue.
My pick for true frosh OL in '08: Tom Swanson or Joe Kellogg.
The Defensive Line was somewhat disappointing in '07 despite the emergence of redshirt freshman Ryan Winterswyk (future NFLer, by my calculations) and the consistent play of Mike T. Williams. The interior D-line let too many backs squirt through and left too much to the linebacking corps, who also struggled last year.
Coming off redshirt years, a healthy Billy Winn and Jarrell Root should see significant time this season alongside seniors Joe Bozikovich and Sean Bingham. Prize DT recruits Greg Grimes and Darren Koontz may push for time, but Bishop Kelly DE signee Spencer Gerke will likely wait till '09 as Winterswyk and Williams should be solid this year.
Late Canuck pickup Michael Atkinson is my dark horse for PT this season—watch this video and you'll see why.
My pick for true frosh DL in '08: I'm taking the long shot, Atkinson.
In the Defensive Secondary, many are saying that George Iloka (who graduated early and has been with the team since Spring Ball) looks too good to keep off the field at safety. Iloka won't push sophomore Jeron Johnson out, but he may split time with Jason Robinson or be used in special packages or special teams.
Of course, the higher-rated '07 safety recruit out of Colorado, Tyler Jackson, hasn't hit campus yet, and he looks like a Marty Tadman-like gamer.
At CB, I doubt that Helix's Jamar Taylor will make an impact this year as redshirt frosh Antwon Murray will join JC transfer Garcia Day, true soph Brandyn Thompson, and sophomore Keith McGowan on the depth chart. Raphiel Lambert, a coveted recruit at both CB and RB, will likely make his presence felt in '09 as well.
My pick for true frosh DB in '08: George Iloka.
Big-time Linebacker recruit Byron Hout is probably already on campus, and fans are salivating thinking about him roaming the blue on defense. Hout may be good enough to push for PT this year as Derrell Acrey almost burned his redshirt in '06. From all accounts, Hout is a dominant force on defense, and he may have what it takes to come right in and make an impact.
With Acrey finally realizing his potential and JC transfer Daron Mackey likely stepping in, Hout will have to be particularly scary on D to come right in since Dallas Dobbs played so well last year, and Kyle Gingg and Tim Brady have been improving. Add Hunter White and Aaron Tevis into that mix and Hout will have a steep challenge. However, we've heard he is THAT good.
My pick for true frosh LB in '08: OK, we'll bite—Byron Hout.
Running Backs? Are you kidding me?! A grand slam breakfast at Denny's isn't this stacked. The youngsters will have to chill for at least one year.
I think that basically covers it for the 2008 season. Looking forward, it is hard to imagine that some freshman won't see the field as recruiting has picked up a LOT...
I still see a decent chance that five true frosh could play, but realistically I say that two to three will be that good. Whatever happens, it is always fun to see the future of the program—and sometimes, the future is now.