Steve Caldwell had one recruit to worry about signing Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean it was a restful National Signing Day eve for Boise State’s defensive line coach.
A year after USC gave 11th-hour offers to four of the Broncos’ eight defensive line commits, the Trojans offered Highland High (Pocatello) defensive end Aisa Kelemete on Tuesday night.
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“This year was just as stressful, maybe even more because you’d put all your eggs in one basket,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t dream we’d have any problem. I was like, ‘Oh no, not again.’”
But as he promised, Kelemete signed Wednesday morning with the Broncos, who officially welcomed 19 newcomers — including five who enrolled in December and one returning from a church mission.
It ended a whirlwind recruitment for Kelemete, who initially committed to Boise State in July, then flipped to Washington State in December and re-committed to the Broncos last month on his official visit.
“We didn’t give up. He kept saying we should keep in touch, and it was just awesome, one of the best visits I’ve ever had. He let us know this was now his family,” said Caldwell, who lost only one commit to USC in 2016. “But I’m not ever relaxed until they send that signature. He could’ve signed at 7 a.m., and we woke him up at 7:15. He was like, ‘Coach, I told you not to worry.’”
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said of the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kelemete: “This guy is a beast.”
Holding together this Boise State recruiting class was not too different from most years, in which Power Five schools try to swoop in at the last minute.
In addition to Kelemete, quarterback Chase Cord (Peoria, Ariz.) drew late attention in January from Baylor, wide receiver Cartrell Thomas (Lancaster, Texas) from Utah, and cornerback Jermani Brown (Midlothian, Va.) from Michigan State and Virginia.
Harsin said offensive line coach/co-offensive coordinator Scott Huff’s “finest work” was keeping lineman Isiah Moore (Mesa Community College) in the fold after heavy interest from West Virginia, Arizona and UCLA.
“These last 10 days have been a battle. There were quite a few offers,” Harsin said.
BSU held together a class that Harsin said “met our needs.” Only offensive lineman Sean Seawards flipped to UCLA in the past four weeks. Two commits did not sign, with offensive tackle Mike Young (Queen Creek, Ariz.) not qualifying academically, and defensive back Quentin Brown (Conroe, Texas) flipping to Tulane.
Boise State’s needs included a trio of wide receivers, helping add talent to a group that lost two of its top three to graduation, and three offensive linemen, two of which came from the junior college ranks, with only one junior on the roster.
The defensive line is full of youth, so the Broncos added four linebackers (including returning missionary Riley Whimpey) and five defensive backs. After finishing with seven interceptions last season, playmaking was a focus on defense. Three of the four high school safeties and cornerbacks signed played offense, and the other, safety Kekaula Kaniho (Kahuku, Hawaii), had six interceptions last season, returning five for TDs.
“Those guys coming in have that edge,” safeties coach Gabe Franklin said.
On offense, the Broncos added productive skill players, starting with Cord, who set an Arizona state record with 137 career touchdown passes. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior.
“Really, really, really excited about this kid,” co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Zak Hill said.
Only one running back signed, but a tough few months for Drake Beasley was Boise State’s gain. The La Canada (Calif.) High back did not play as a senior after his transfer from Loyola High was deemed solely athletics-motivated. He had offers from UCLA, Colorado, Pitt and more before his senior year after he rushed for 1,647 yards as a junior.
“We’re really getting a great player. I feel he doesn’t just have a chip ... he’s got a big old boulder on his shoulder right now,” running backs coach Lee Marks said.
At receiver, speedy Damon Cole (El Cerrito, Calif.) scored 19 touchdowns as a junior, and Cartrell Thomas (Lancaster, Texas) had 1,205 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, both mentioned by coaches as possible returners. Six-foot-3 Octavius Evans (Center, Texas) had 66 catches for 862 yards last season and is one of the team’s biggest sleepers.
“He’s kind of an intriguing young man, a very, very humble, hard-working, blue-collar. He’ll fit into this program great,” first-year receivers coach Eric Kiesau said. “He’ll walk into a room, and you’ll go, ‘Wow, that’s a freshman?’”
A signing day mostly free of drama let the staff relax a bit and savor in addressing what it had set out to accomplish.
“We feel good about where we are right now,” Harsin said.
STRANGE TALES OF RECRUITING
Harsin had a few stories to tell about putting together this class. Among them: Spilling a bowl of gumbo on himself when eating at defensive back Tyreque Jones’ house, taking Evans sledding for the first time, seeing Cord’s bedroom plastered with the letters he’s received from Boise State coaches, and when he visited Texas linebacker Breydon Boyd, the first thing he showed Harsin was his knife collection.
LUI, KNIGHT PUT ON SCHOLARSHIP
Harsin said the team has placed sophomore defensive tackle Sonatane Lui and junior tight end Jake Knight on scholarship. Lui joined the team last January as a walk-on and played in 12 games last season, making 10 tackles. Knight, a Rocky Mountain High graduate, transferred from Auburn’s track and field team in 2015, redshirted, and had two catches for 56 yards in 2016.
NEWS AND NOTES
Sophomore DeAndre Pierce will work this spring as a safety, Franklin said. ... Pierce played last season as a true freshman at cornerback, nickel and safety. Redshirt freshman Jalen Walker will move from safety to cornerback. ... Harsin said wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and offensive linemen Garrett Larson, Mason Hampton, Archie Lewis and John Molchon will miss spring practices after postseason surgeries. ... The staff was already at work Wednesday making offers to 2018 recruits. Harsin expects to sign two running backs in the next class.
MOUNTAIN WEST CLASS RANKINGS
60. Boise State
65. Colorado State
68. San Diego State
74. Fresno State
79. San Jose State
82. Utah State
101. Air Force
103. New Mexico
66. Boise State
71. San Diego State
81. Fresno State
92. New Mexico
Not ranked in the top 100: Utah State, Nevada, San Jose State, Colorado State, UNLV, Hawaii, Air Force
60. Boise State
73. Colorado State
79. San Diego State
98. Air Force
101. Fresno State
103. San Jose State
117. Utah State
121. New Mexico