Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin and sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols have the same opinion of where the budding star can take the next step in his game.
“Some of my runs, I just need to get more downhill and make a statement instead of running outside and running out of bounds,” McNichols said. “I’m going to work on that going into this bowl game.”
McNichols has rushed for 1,244 yards and 18 touchdowns and ranks third on the team with 46 catches for 364 yards and five more scores. He’s tied for the national lead with 23 total touchdowns.
He’ll enter the Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl against Northern Illinois with a Mountain West-record 11 straight games with a rushing touchdown and a seven-game streak of 100-yard rushing performances.
He could be even more effective next year as he learns to provide the more direct pounding of the defense that coaches want.
“As far as his consistency, he did a very good job,” Harsin said. “He did some things numbers-wise and production-wise that you can look at statistically and go, ‘That’s very good,’ and I still think he has a long ways to go when it comes to how physical and what type of running team we want to be.
“He knows that. We all know that. That goes for everybody on our team about playing more physical and more dominant.”
Harsin and offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz pointed McNichols and the offense in that direction in the regular-season finale at San Jose State with more plays with the quarterback under center or in the pistol formation. That allowed McNichols to take the handoff with a head of steam.
“We probably will go more under center so we can be more physical in the run game,” McNichols said.
McNichols was named second-team All-Mountain West despite his lofty stats because the position was loaded in the conference this year. The first-teamers were Offensive Player of the Year Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego State and Tyler Ervin of San Jose State.
“All-conference is good,” McNichols said. “You’ve just got to come back stronger next year.”
CONCUSSIONS DERAILED MVPS
Senior safety Darian Thompson — a two-time defensive MVP of the team and All-Mountain West pick — will return to the lineup for the Poinsettia Bowl.
He missed the final two regular-season games because of concussion symptoms that lingered after the New Mexico game. The Broncos went 1-1 without him.
McNichols, the team’s offensive MVP, missed the Utah State game in October while dealing with a concussion of his own sustained the week before against Colorado State. The Broncos lost their only game without McNichols.
Concussions are one of the hottest topics in football and likely will generate even more discussion after the release of the movie “Concussion” later this month.
But Thompson and McNichols say they aren’t overly concerned about the effects of the hits to the head.
“You do play the game of football,” Thompson said. “It’s physical and things like that happen. When you do get one, it’s a long process.”
Thompson had experienced a concussion before. After the New Mexico game, he spoke to the media because he hadn’t reported his symptoms to the training staff yet.
“Usually when I get dinged, it wears off,” he said Thursday. “It’s really no big deal. But the next day, it was still kind of lingering around.”
McNichols’ injury was more obvious. He took a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit at the goal line and was down for a while.
He changed helmets after the concussion. He now wears the Riddell SpeedFlex, which has the U-shaped imprint on the top front. A handful of Broncos wear the helmet, which was engineered with flexibility in the shell. It’s one of 14 five-star helmets in the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings system. The SpeedFlex has the third-highest rating.
“The scariest thing is you just don’t know when those symptoms are actually going to go away,” McNichols said.
Thompson was named an honorable-mention All-American by SI.com on Thursday.
▪ When: 2:30 p.m. MT, Wednesday, Dec. 23
▪ TV: ESPN