Mention the recent history of players in his position, and you will see Alexander Mattison’s eyes light up.
Going into his junior season, the Boise State running back had a solid sophomore year, but there’s an expectation he can handle more.
“We see big things coming for him this year with the experiences he had last season,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “Going into this one, our expectations is that he’s going to be the guy, the workhorse, and we’re going to load him up.”
Mattison rushed 212 times for 1,086 yards and had 28 receptions for 284 yards in 2017. Consider this, however, when looking ahead to 2018 — his predecessors, Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols, had 397 and 351 touches on offense, respectively, as juniors.
“I’d never heard those numbers before now, but it’s exciting to know I could possibly touch the ball that many times,” Mattison said. “... Whether it’s more, whether it’s less, I’ve got to make sure I make the most of any opportunity they give me.”
Listed at 5-foot-11, 211 pounds, Mattison has the size and the intelligence to handle being that back who can carry an offense when necessary. But a key will be if he can handle the rigors of that many hits.
Mattison missed a portion of last year’s fall camp that contributed to a slow start, and a foot injury that limited him the final two games of 2017 restricted him during this year’s spring practices. But he’s fully healthy as Boise State opened fall camp Friday, and aware of what is expected.
“He is in the training room every single day, taking care of business,” running backs coach Lee Marks said. “It’s a little rehab, but more like ‘prehab.’ Like, ‘I need to take care of my body, drink water, eat healthy, get enough sleep so I can be running efficiently and not trying to play catchup.’ He’s done a really good job of getting himself ready for fall camp.”
And the Broncos sure could use a motivated, healthy Mattison fresh out of the gates come September. In the first month last season, he had 166 yards rushing as the team started 2-2. He had four 100-yard games the rest of the way, including a monster 242-yard showing at Colorado State. But Boise State still had some troubles getting consistent rushing performances.
Boise State’s 3.78 yards per carry ranked 102nd nationally, its worst average since 2003. And the 143.5 yards rushing per game were the worst in 20 seasons.
“Are we capable of it? Yes. Can we be better? Absolutely. Is it a point of emphasis? From the beginning,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “And I think Alex can do it. I think he’s really, really good, and those guys up front, they’re really good as well.”
Suffice it to say, with Mattison back, along with four starters on the offensive line who had at least seven starts in 2017, it’s an area that could improve.
“For it to be Boise State football, you want to have that run game to hang your hat on,” Hill said. “… That’s a big focus for us. Having an O-line that’s been together is going to be very beneficial.
“We’re going to lean on the run game, especially early, and test our guys up front and have some fun with it.”
Stretching Boise State’s run of 1,000-yard rushers to 10 straight seasons would sure help the Broncos toward their big goals, and certainly would aid senior quarterback Brett Rypien. It could put Mattison on the same NFL track as those impressive juniors before him, too.
But the mindset is simple, regardless of what lies ahead.
“I expect nothing less than to dominate on the field,” Mattison said.