Boise State returns a veteran-laden football team, but some targeted recruiting in areas of need placed many 2015 newcomers in position to earn immediate playing time. Here are five newcomers who could make an impact this year:
The Broncos were recruiting the 6-foot-2, 206-pound sophomore receiver for the 2016 recruiting class when they lost senior Troy Ware to injury in the spring. They decided to offer Cottrell a scholarship for 2015 since he was academically eligible to leave Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College after one season.
Cottrell went the JC route because he didn’t receive Football Bowl Subdivision offers out of high school. His family assured him he could reach his goals if he started his career at a two-year school.
“ ‘It might be a long, grueling run, but it’ll pay off in the end,’ ” they told him.
“Because ultimately I wanted to go D-I. That was my ultimate goal,” he said.
Teammates and coaches have praised Cottrell for the way he acclimated to the program and quickly made plays. He has a redshirt year available but won’t use it this fall unless he gets hurt.
“He has executed his assignments for the most part,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “He has made plays when he’s had opportunities to make plays. He’s got a great approach and attitude to each and every day. ... The guys, this summer, when they were around him, they thought, ‘This guy really fits.’ This is a dream (for him), and he’s acted that way ever since he’s been here.”
The Broncos might not have had a spot for Cottrell if not for Ware’s injury, Harsin said. They definitely wouldn’t have signed him when they did, he said.
“When we lost Troy, that was one of our guys that had size,” Harsin said. “We needed to have somebody in here who has length. Austin has that. If we didn’t have him in here, we wouldn’t look the same. ... He’s going to be a contributor this year.”
Cottrell came to Boise State with meager stats from his past two years. He made 12 catches in nine games for Scottsdale last fall, and 15 catches as a high school senior in Arizona the year before.
“I had a lot of maturing to do on the field,” he said. “You’ve got to learn how to play fast, play smart, things like that.”
Off the field, he appears to have plenty of maturity. He made a seamless transition to a new team and has learned the offense enough to fulfill his assignments in practice. He credits his teammates for the quick adjustment.
“They treated me like family as soon as I came in,” he said. “There was no awkwardness.”
Stanford’s second-leading rusher last year should play a significant role in Boise State’s backfield this year. He left the Cardinal in search of a place to showcase his skills for NFL scouts — and he landed in the same competition for playing time as his younger brother, redshirt freshman Cory Young.
The Broncos must replace NFL draft pick Jay Ajayi, and their leading contender to start at tailback is a true sophomore with 17 college carries (Jeremy McNichols). Kelsey Young adds a little veteran savvy to the mix.
“He’s got real reps in there, and he’s played,” Harsin said. “We thought what we saw from him was pretty good.”
The transfer from Texas A&M and Butler Community College likely will serve as a backup at safety and nickel. He also should be an active special-teamer.
The Broncos have four true freshmen competing for playing time at cornerback. Horton has impressed coaches with his humility, work ethic and knowledge of the defense. The Broncos only have three scholarship corners who were on the team in the spring, so freshmen were getting quality snaps from the first day of practice.
“(Horton) has been very competitive at practice,” Harsin said. “He’s a guy that has gone out there and gotten some reps with the twos and has made plays, has done that consistently.”
The Broncos likely will play two of the freshman cornerbacks, with Darreon Jackson also creating a buzz. The other contenders are Donzale Roddie and Ladarryl Blair.
“That was one of the big things in recruiting at that position, that you’re going to have an opportunity to come in here and play right away,” Harsin said. “They’ve been competing that way.”
The Broncos might have enough depth at wide receiver to redshirt Butler, but his name has surfaced repeatedly in interviews with players and coaches. He’s a freshman from Texas.
“He’s like my little protege,” senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes said. “I think he’s going to be a really good ballplayer.”