Boise State Football

Who has the edge and which players to watch as Boise State opens the season at Troy


When the Broncos run the ball

Boise State struggled to get a consistent rushing attack last season, averaging 143.5 yards per game, the lowest in 20 seasons. With four starting offensive linemen back, a downhill running game has been a major focus.

Junior running back Alexander Mattison missed most of last season’s fall camp but has been healthy this August. He rushed for 1,086 yards last season and should increase that number in 2018.

“Anytime he’s healthy, he’s been an unbelievable player ... having him in the backfield is going to be a huge thing for us,” senior quarterback Brett Rypien said.

Troy should be a major test, especially at home. The Trojans were No. 7 nationally against the run last season, though only one defensive line starter is back.

Advantage: Push

When the Broncos pass the ball

Boise State’s passing game got off on the wrong foot last season, but it got better as the year went on, with Rypien throwing 16 touchdowns to four interceptions the last 10 games. Rypien has stressed that he needs to start strong, but it remains to be seen whether he can, especially after losing WR Cedrick Wilson and TE Jake Roh.

“He’s very experienced. He looks relaxed in the pocket,” Troy cornerback Marcus Jones told the Montgomery Advertiser. “(We’ll) come up with a good scheme to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. As a secondary, we have to go through our progressions and stay with our man.”

Rypien should be helped with an experienced line, which improved greatly after allowing 13 sacks the first month last season. The Trojans were No. 7 in the nation with 3.23 sacks per game. Troy was 52nd nationally in pass efficiency defense, but ranked 15th with 17 interceptions. Players responsible for 13 of those return.

Advantage: Push

When the Trojans run the ball

Troy averaged 149 yards per game last season, just a tad better than Boise State. The Trojans were 1-2 when rushing for less than 100 yards. They lose top back Jordan Chunn (47 career TDs), but the Broncos are aware of their power style with most starting linemen back.

“They progressed very well as the year went on, their run game really showed down the stretch ... how physical they can be up front,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.

Boise State returns all three defensive linemen from a squad that was No. 17 nationally against the run, holding seven teams to less than 100 yards, including Troy in last season’s opener.

Advantage: Boise State

When the Trojans pass the ball

Troy was an efficient passing team in just about every game other than last season’s opener against Boise State. QB Brandon Silvers completed 63.9 percent of his passes on the year but was 17-of-33 at Albertsons Stadium. Silvers is gone, but the top two receivers are back.

“We played bad on offense and we have to come out and get respect,” Troy offensive coordinator Matt Moore told the Montgomery Advertiser. “That is our thing for this week. We have to go out there and fight for respect.”

The Broncos return all four starting defensive backs and players responsible for 30 of the team’s 34 sacks last season.

Advantage: Boise State

Special teams

Both teams have excellent return units – Boise State got two punt-return touchdowns from Avery Williams in 2017 (one against Troy), and Troy had three kickoff-return TDs from Marcus Jones.

Boise State was 49th nationally in punting average, while Troy was 106th. After hitting both field-goal attempts in last season’s opener, the Trojans made just 9-of-17 the rest of the way.

“Boise dominated us last year in special teams,” Troy coach Neal Brown said. “Huge emphasis this week on coverage for us. ... I just want to play sound football on special teams and be in position where we could win the field-position battle.”

Advantage: Boise State



CT Thomas, WR

The speedy sophomore had 15 receptions for 121 yards as a true freshman, 11 of those receptions coming in the second half of the season. He’s listed as a starter at one of the Broncos’ three receiver spots and could see some work at punt returner in certain situations.

“He’s done a good job, he’s continued to improve every single day, building his practice habits, being more disciplined that way – I think that’s only going to continue to help him in his development,” Rypien said.

0903 Sports BSU vs Troy 23
Boise State defensive end Sam Whitney (53) hits Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers (12) to force a fumble recovered by the Broncos during the season opener Saturday. The Broncos forced three turnovers. Kyle Green

Sam Whitney, STUD

For good reason, Curtis Weaver and Jabril Frazier get the attention at Whitney’s position after racking up 11 and six sacks, respectively, last season. But Whitney had seven tackles, including a sack and forced fumble in 2017 against Troy. He started five of the first seven games before a season-ending injury.

“Very physical in the run game … he’s a very good switchup to those guys, 400-pound bencher,” STUD ends coach Spencer Danielson said. “He can rush the passer, but he’s a stout run defender. That’s what gave him the starting spot – he’s going to set edges. When you do that, you usually win.”

Riley Whimpey, LB

A depth chart is hardly set in stone, but it was telling that Whimpey, a sophomore, was listed as the Broncos’ starter on the weak side. That is where Leighton Vander Esch thrived last season, though it could be a team effort to replace the first-round pick. Whimpey (17 tackles as a true freshman) was impressive in the second half of the preseason.

“He just started playing faster. Riley plays fast, and when he plays fast, he’s dangerous on the field,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “ ... Things just really clicked for him the last (two weeks).”


Kaleb Barker, QB

Named the Trojans’ starting quarterback Monday, Barker backed up the prolific Brandon Silvers last season. The junior has attempted just 17 passes in his career, but has rushed 30 times for 282 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s athletic, he can run ... but at the same time, he can throw the ball,” Boise State senior cornerback Tyler Horton said.

Blace Brown, CB

A 6-foot, 186-pound junior, Brown has been one of the nation’s most productive cornerbacks. He has 11 career interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown last season against Boise State. A torn ACL in the regular-season finale was expected to keep him out until midseason, but he’s listed as a co-starter.

“Blace is probably our highest-regarded NFL prospect ... plays with great instincts, has really good size for a corner,” Troy coach Neal Brown said. “He’s made a lot of big plays in some of our biggest games.”

Marcus Jones had three kickoff returns for touchdowns as a true freshman last season for Troy. He’s one of three players on the Trojans’ roster with a kickoff return score. Troy Athletics photo

Marcus Jones, CB/KR

A lightning-quick 5-9, 174-pound sophomore, Jones intercepted two passes last season, running one back for a 100-yard touchdown. He also had 45 tackles, but his biggest impact was returning kicks – he had three touchdowns in 2017, two in one game against Coastal Carolina.

“He’s our best all-around football player on our team, probably our hardest worker,” Neal Brown said. “One of the most dependable guys we have ... really sets the standard for us in practice.”



4 Brett Rypien, 6-2, 202 (Sr.)

10 Chase Cord, 6-2, 206 (RFr.)

9 Jaylon Henderson, 6-1, 211 (Jr.)

Running back

22 Alexander Mattison, 5-11, 211 (Jr.)

34 Robert Mahone, 5-10, 204 (So.)

31 Skyler Seibold, 6-1, 207 (Sr.)

Wide receiver

82 Octavius Evans, 6-1, 199 (So.)

16 John Hightower, 6-2, 183 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

6 CT Thomas, 5-8, 171 (So.)

81 Akilian Butler, 5-10, 192 (Jr.)

Wide receiver

7 A.J. Richardson, 6-0, 209 (Sr.) OR

8 Sean Modster, 5-11, 189 (Sr.)

Tight end

86 Chase Blakley, 6-4, 239 (Sr.)

85 John Bates, 6-6, 246 (So.)

47 Matt Pistone, 6-3, 244 (Jr.)

5 Garrett Collingham, 6-4, 229 (Jr.)

Left tackle

76 Ezra Cleveland, 6-6, 309 (So.)

69 Austin Dixon, 6-6, 289 (So.)

Left guard

77 John Molchon, 6-5, 310 (Jr.)

68 Jake Stetz, 6-2, 296 (RFr.)


67 Garrett Larson, 6-4, 298 (Jr.)

71 Donte Harrington, 6-2, 306 (So.)

Right guard

79 Eric Quevedo, 6-4, 295 (Jr.)

66 Isiah Moore, 6-4, 292 (Jr.) OR

65 Zachary Troughton, 6-6, 322 (Sr.)

Right tackle

78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 295 (Sr.)

70 John Ojukwu, 6-6, 297 (RFr.)

Defensive end

91 Durrant Miles, 6-6, 261 (Sr.)

93 Chase Hatada, 6-3, 253 (Jr.) OR

45 Kayode Rufai, 6-4, 255 (So.)

Nose tackle

98 Sonatane Lui, 6-1, 305 (Jr.)

57 Emmanuel Fesili, 6-2, 319 (Jr.)

Defensive tackle

55 David Moa, 6-3, 275 (Sr.)

54 Matt Locher, 6-2, 269 (Jr.)

40 Jabari Watson, 6-1, 253 (So.)

STUD end

8 Jabril Frazier, 6-4, 238 (Sr.)

99 Curtis Weaver, 6-3, 266 (So.)

53 Sam Whitney, 6-2, 233 (Jr.)

Weakside linebacker

44 Riley Whimpey, 6-1, 218 (So.)

48 Bruno DeRose, 5-11, 233 (So.) OR

33 Tony Lashley, 6-1, 233 (Sr.)

Middle linebacker

58 Tyson Maeva, 6-0, 228 (Jr.)

25 Benton Wickersham, 6-2, 230 (So.)

56 Joseph Inda, 6-0, 231 (Sr.)

Nickel/strongside LB

28 Kekaula Kaniho, 5-10, 185 (So.)

9 Desmond Williams, 5-11, 205 (So.)

41 Will Heffner, 6-2, 225 (Jr.)


14 Tyler Horton, 5-11, 197 (Sr.)

15 Jalen Walker, 6-0, 174 (So.)


26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 197 (So.)

15 Jalen Walker, 6-0, 174 (So.)


10 Kekoa Nawahine, 6-2, 207 (Jr.)

21 Tyreque Jones, 6-2, 197 (RFr.)


4 DeAndre Pierce, 5-11, 174 (Jr.)

32 Jordan Happle, 5-11, 199 (So.) OR

5 Evan Tyler, 6-2, 191 (Jr.)


96 Haden Hoggarth, 6-0, 195 (Sr.)

46 Joel Velazquez, 6-0, 224 (So.)

Kick returner

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 197 (So.)

34 Robert Mahone, 5-10, 204 (So.)

22 Alexander Mattison, 5-11, 211 (Jr.)


49 Quinn Skillin, 6-4, 189 (Sr.) OR

46 Joel Velazquez, 6-0, 224 (So.)

Punt returner

26 Avery Williams, 5-9, 197 (So.)

6 CT Thomas, 5-8, 171 (So.)



7 Kaleb Barker, 6-1, 206 (Jr.)

3 Sawyer Smith, 6-3, 219 (So.)

Running back

26 B.J. Smith, 5-9, 203 (Jr.)

9 Jamarius Henderson, 5-11, 214 (So.)

5 Jabir Daughtry-Frye, 5-7, 173 (So.)

Wide receiver

80 Deondre Douglas, 6-1, 202 (Sr.)

83 Luke Whittemore, 6-2, 190 (RFr.)

Wide receiver

6 Sidney Davis, 5-11, 218 (Sr.) OR

1 Traveon Samuel, 5-7, 175 (Sr.)

Wide receiver

15 Damion Willis, 6-4, 199 (Sr.)

13 Tray Eafford, 6-1, 198 (So.)

Tight end

17 Sam Letton, 6-2, 223 (Jr.)

42 Gabe Hill, 6-2, 241 (Sr.)

10 Richard Hallman, 6-2, 205 (Jr.)

Left tackle

79 Austin Stidham, 6-5, 295 (RFr.)

64 Gerald Bell, 6-4, 300 (So.)

Left guard

78 Kirk Kelley, 6-4, 332 (Jr.)

77 Travius Harris, 6-2, 335 (RFr.)


57 Deontae Crumitie, 6-3, 304 (Sr.)

65 Dylan Bradshaw, 6-2, 292 (So.)

Right guard

54 Tristan Crowder, 6-4, 336 (Jr.)

70 Zach Banner, 6-5, 321 (Jr.)

Right tackle

69 J.L. Gaston, 6-4, 295 (Jr.)

75 James Peach, 6-5, 300 (Jr.)

Defensive end

20 Jarvis Hayes, 6-4, 241 (Jr.) OR

40 Antione Barker, 6-3, 265 (Jr.)

52 Rasool Clemons, 6-5, 250 (Jr.)

Defensive tackle

48 Marcus Webb, 6-3, 279 (Jr.)

94 Travis Sailo, 6-2, 296 (Jr.)

58 Travon Mathis, 6-2, 269 (RFr.)

Nose guard

90 Trevon Sanders, 6-2, 327 (Sr.)

96 JT Bryant, 6-0, 296 (Sr.)

95 Will Choloh, 6-0, 289 (Fr.)


47 Hunter Reese, 6-1, 224 (Sr.)

21 Kevin Nixon, 6-1, 222 (So.)

49 Antonio Showers, 6-1, 250 (Fr.)

Will linebacker

2 Tron Folsom, 6-2, 209 (Jr.)

31 A.J. Smiley, 6-3, 229 (Jr.)

Mike linebacker

38 Carlton Martial, 5-11, 216 (RFr.) OR

25 Justin Whisenhunt, 6-1, 222 (So.)

44 KJ Robertson, 6-1, 232 (Fr.)


35 Tyler Murray, 6-1, 209 (So.)

10 Will Sunderland, 6-4, 196 (Jr.)

32 Shon Spralling, 5-11, 186 (RFr.)


14 Terence Dunlap, 5-11, 184 (So.) OR

18 Blace Brown, 6-0, 184 (Sr.)


8 Marcus Jones, 5-9, 174 (So.)

27 Jawon McDowell, 6-0, 179 (Jr.)

Cat safety

12 Melvin Tyus, 6-0, 207 (Jr.)

22 Kyle Nixon, 6-1, 201 (So.)

Free safety

5 Cedarius Rookard, 6-1, 205 (Sr.)

22 Kyle Nixon, 6-1, 201 (So.)


98 Tyler Sumpter, 5-10, 221 (So.)

Kickoff returner

8 Marcus Jones, 5-9, 174 (So.)

1 Traveon Samuel, 5-7, 175 (Sr.)


98 Tyler Sumpter, 5-10, 221 (So.)

Punt returner

24 Cedarius Rookard, 6-1, 205 (Sr.)

8 Marcus Jones, 5-9, 174 (So.)