Boise State cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose was beaming Wednesday afternoon.
“Christmas came early for me,” he said.
That goes for a lot of the Broncos’ coaches, especially not knowing what the day would bring. After all, it was the first ever day of its kind — a December signing day for all 2018 recruits.
When all was said and done, 19 new additions inked letters of intent to join the Broncos next season. And a lot of those early gifts will need the novelty bows they put on cars in commercials because of how big the newcomers are.
The four interior linemen in the class average a shade more than 300 pounds, and nine of the signees stand at 6-foot-3 or taller.
“We got bigger, and we got really good football players,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “There’s not a lot of guys you would consider ‘developmental’ guys. These guys are ready to play football, and they’re ready for college.”
It is tough to start anywhere else but with the biggest guy in the class — Scale Igiehon, a 6-foot-3, 334-pound nose tackle from Austin, Texas. Five players on Boise State’s current roster check in at more than 300 pounds, none bigger than 319 pounds.
Joining Igiehon on the defensive interior is Rocky Mountain High’s Keeghan Freeborn (6-1, 300), who primarily was an offensive lineman for the Grizzlies, but coaches see him as a disruptive defensive force for the Broncos.
“We’re always talking about playing the triple option. You’ve gotta have two big guys in those (inside) gaps, and that’s two big guys,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said.
The two offensive linemen, Garrett Curran (6-5, 288) and Kekaniokoa Gonzalez (6-2, 291), won’t need to worry much about adding weight, either.
“When our strength staff gets a hold of those guys, and really everyone coming in, their bodies are going to change, that’s for sure,” offensive line coach Brad Bedell said. “But I think they have a really good starting point, and that just helps us.”
Ambrose was more than happy to add two cornerbacks listed at 6-1 and 6-2, respectively, in Californians Chris Mitchell and Tyric LeBeauf. Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Andy Avalos picked up a trio of lengthy linebackers, all expected to enroll next month (Brandon Hawkins, DJ Schramm and Phillip Mills).
Six-foot-5, 245-pound STUD end Demitri Washington should fit nicely at the versatile end/linebacker spot, while defensive lineman Kukea Emmsley (6-4, 230) fits the bill on the edge.
“That’s the eye candy when you see a guy, ‘what does he look like?’ ” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “There’s parameters we’re looking for that are ideal, but that’s not everything. The intangibles, that’s just as important. Boise State has done well with guys that are a little undersized ... but we did a good job finding a lot of guys with that size you like.”
The lone tight end the Broncos added, Coeur d’Alene’s Cole Ramseyer, has the frame (6-4) to get much bigger. He is listed at 216 pounds, but tight ends coach Kent Riddle said “we’re not overly concerned about that at this point.”
A pair of powerful running backs joined the fold in Danny Smith and Andrew VanBuren, who check in at 210 and 215 pounds, respectively.
“Take a look at the two running backs we brought in, holy cow,” Hill said.
But the guy with the most gifts under the tree, the one who will have the most new toys to work with, would be wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, who added an eye-popping five signees.
With the ultra-productive Cedrick Wilson graduated and two receivers leaving the team during the season, it was necessary to replenish the ranks and try to increase the talent level.
John Hightower will arrive next summer from Hinds (Mississippi) Community College, a 6-3 target who also was a sprinter on the track team. The Broncos got a late-afternoon addition in 6-4 Texas receiver Cameron Thomas, who was previously an Oregon State commit.
Khalil Shakir is perhaps the top-rated recruit in the class with a half-dozen Power Five offers, a versatile option who rushed for more yards than he had receiving as a senior. Stefan Cobbs was one of the Dallas area’s best players, with a ton of jaw-dropping catches, and Kiesau said “we needed the speed” from Californian Billy Bowens.
“We had the chance to really change the face of the room. ... They all bring different strengths to our unit,” Kiesau said.
Of course, the position group most notably lacking any new additions is quarterback.
The Broncos had a commitment from Draper, Utah, passer Zach Wilson for six months, but he decommitted last week. Wilson has yet to sign anywhere, but Boise State has moved on. The staff recently offered Gilbert, Ariz., quarterback Brock Purdy, but he will not sign anywhere until February’s signing period.
Hill said the hope is to add two scholarship quarterbacks to next season’s roster to join senior Brett Rypien and redshirt freshman Chase Cord.
“We’re in the process of seeing our options, looking at some possible transfer options and the (junior colleges) as well,” Hill said. “... We want to make sure we don’t rush too quickly into anything. We were put in a position where we lost a guy late and we’re trying to recover from it.”
In addition to the two quarterbacks, expect the Broncos to also look at adding another tight end and offensive lineman in February, and any other attrition will affect the team’s needs.
But after a stressful few weeks that included preparing for a conference championship game Dec. 2, then the Las Vegas Bowl two weeks later, the coaches were able to rest and enjoy locking down most of the class early.
“Once (Wednesday) came, you exhale,” Kiesau said. “Now I can get my dry cleaning done, because I haven’t had the last month to do anything.”