The Boise State football team’s depth at wide receiver will be tested this season, as coach Bryan Harsin said Monday that junior Akilian Butler tore an ACL against Washington State and will miss the rest of the 2017 campaign.
Butler went down early in the second quarter in the Cougars’ end zone. He was carted off soon after.
This season, Butler had two receptions for minus-1 yard, and a rush for no gain. The speedy Dallas native has seven career receptions for 45 yards and six carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. He was the team’s punt returner to start last season but had issues with ball control, and Cedrick Wilson took over.
Because Butler played as a true freshman in 2015, he has a redshirt year available. He will be able to use the redshirt for this season because he was injured so early.
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So, what about that other key injury?
In the 47-44 triple-overtime loss Saturday, the Broncos also lost junior quarterback Brett Rypien for the final three quarters after he took a hard shot on a sack and hit his head on the turf. Harsin didn’t clarify Rypien’s status for Thursday’s game against New Mexico.
“We’ll know throughout the week,” Harsin said. “What happened to Brett? He got hit, it was a free hitter. A protection issue.”
Rypien was 7-of-8 passing before he was hurt. He spent the rest of the first half with his helmet in his hands, then returned for the second half in sweats. He and junior tight end Chase Blakley were among Harsin’s group of “questionables” for Thursday.
Should Rypien be unavailable, senior Montell Cozart will be the starter. Cozart’s backup would be true freshman Chase Cord, a situation that is hardly ideal, especially with a running threat like Cozart being at risk of taking a big hit.
“We’re preparing it in the way that Chase Cord is playing,” Harsin said. “... If something happens, he’s got to go in there and play. You’re talking about a redshirt guy you hope you can redshirt, but you’ve got to have ready.”
Cord, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Phoenix native, offers a strong build and some mobility, a bit of a mix of Cozart and Rypien. Harsin said he will see a good amount of work in practice. Cord was the backup to Cozart on Saturday after Rypien’s injury but did not play.
“He was over there bouncing around, jumping up and down, I don’t think he quite knew exactly what to do in that moment,” Harsin said. “He knows the plays, he’s been in the meetings.”
A UNIQUE CHALLENGE
Boise State knew the turnaround from Saturday’s game at Washington State to playing New Mexico was going to be one of the toughest in recent memory. Plus, the shift from facing the pass-heavy Cougars to the option-based Lobos is as different as it gets for the defense.
Washington State was No. 3 in the nation in passing offense in 2016, New Mexico was No. 1 in rushing offense.
So far, the defense has been outstanding, forcing six turnovers and creating nine sacks with eight starters who came into the season without having made multiple starts.
“It’s difficult, but it’s college football,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “... We prepared for this all offseason.
“Going into (Monday’s) practice, we have a good base on the things we need to get done and understanding of what we’ll face. With the youth and inexperience, we have a lot of work cut out for us in a very short amount of time.”
The Broncos will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On a normal week, the team doesn’t practice the day before a game.
New Mexico at a glance
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Head coach: Bob Davie (28-37, sixth year; 63-62, 11th year overall)
This year: 1-1 overall; lost to New Mexico State 30-28 on Saturday
Some on Twitter have semi-jokingly used the “Throwbos” nickname after the run-heavy Lobos have gone to the air way more this year than last. New Mexico has thrown for 476 yards in two games after averaging just 107 yards per game in 2016. Boise State DC Andy Avalos said “there’s an added dimension there” with QBs Lamar Jordan and Tevaka Tuioti passing a combined 56 times. Still, the Lobos are going to run it: They have 435 yards on the ground, led by senior Daryl Chestnut (13 carries, 108 yards).
Defensively, the Lobos lost a lot of experience, and it shows in the pass defense, allowing 337.5 ypg in the air. However, the rush defense has been strong, allowing just 107 yards thus far. New Mexico, which runs a similar base defense to Boise State, employs an above-average amount of pressure and tends to leave cornerbacks on islands. Boise State took advantage of that last year with five TD passes and 391 yards from quarterback Brett Rypien.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jake Rothschiller, S: The senior is not your typical size for a nickel, at 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, but he’s a playmaker. A former walk-on, he is on pace for a career year. Through two games, he leads the team with 14 tackles, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He also has recovered a fumble and has a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“He is an amazing, amazing guy,” coach Bob Davie said.