The Boise State football team’s tailback competition likely won’t be decided until after the season opener against Washington, running backs coach Lee Marks said Sunday.
The physicality of tailback play is difficult to replicate in practice, where the team rarely tackles. The backs will get a chance to show what they can do Friday in an open scrimmage at Albertsons Stadium (6:30 p.m., free).
“After the first game, I think we’ll know,” Marks said. “It will be good to see them all get an opportunity. When the real bullets are flying, that’s when we’re really going to see who that guy is for us.”
The top contenders are sophomore Jeremy McNichols, known as “The Weapon” last year for his hybrid role and listed as the starter going into fall camp, and senior Kelsey Young, the transfer who was Stanford’s second-leading rusher last season with 331 yards.
Junior Devan Demas, the team’s fastest player, senior Jack Fields and redshirt freshman Cory Young also are fighting for snaps.
“Everybody’s hungry,” Demas said, “just trying to be the best. We’ve got a great group, so it’s going to be a good year.”
McNichols provided a huge spark during the Broncos’ nine-game win streak to finish last season. He gained 314 yards on 32 offensive touches and scored two touchdowns.
But that was in a specific role with a limited number of snaps per game. This season, he’s trying to execute the entire playbook.
Player spotlight: A.J. Richardson
Richardson, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, was a highly touted recruit with two major question marks attached: health and academics.
He signed as part of the 2013 recruiting class, joined the team in January 2014 after rehabilitating a knee injury and redshirted last season while academically ineligible to play.
With all that behind him, he’s competing for a spot in the Broncos’ receiver rotation for 2015. He led the team with seven catches and was second with 52 receiving yards in the Spring Game.
“I’m just thankful to be here, really,” Richardson said Sunday in his first media availability since joining the program. “I’m going out there competing every day.”
Wide receivers coach Junior Adams said Richardson’s hands are his greatest asset.
“A.J. catches the ball,” Adams said. “He’s got these big ol’ hands.”
Broncos in the NFL: DL Tyrone Crawford
The Dallas Cowboys moved former Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford inside to tackle for the fourth game of last season. From then on, he was a force.
Crawford finished the season with 29 quarterback pressures, the second-most on the team. ProFootballFocus.com ranked him 14th in pass rushing production among tackles in the NFL.
Crawford returns to that role in 2015, and his spot is considered a critical component of Rod Marinelli’s defense.
“There’s a history to it, a long history in this defense,” Marinelli told 105.3 The Fan, according to FoxSports.com. “Walking into it, you better expect expectations. ... That has to produce for us. It demands so much, as you walk on the field, you’ve got to say: ‘This is my field. I’ve got to be the motor.’ And he’s doing a good, solid job so far, but it’s day to day.”
Crawford is considered one of the Cowboys’ top practice players, according to DallasNews.com, in part because he always hustles. Coach Jason Garrett said Crawford has been a “victim of how good of a player we think he is” because the Cowboys have moved him around.
“If you can get guys settled into some of these positions, where they are doing the repetition and the skills and the techniques over and over again, that’s when they really thrive,” Garrett said, according to DallasNews.com.