Bronco Beat

One is NFL caliber. The other, ‘a beast.’ Boise State’s RB commits are off to big starts.

Ed Croson recently attended a UCLA football practice, and three coaches, in his words, “kept bugging me.”

Not that Croson, in his ninth season as head coach at Chaminade Prep in West Hills, Calif., didn’t want to talk to them. But the Bruins’ staff wanted to talk about running back Andrew VanBuren, who committed to Boise State back in August.

“They’re still on him, so is pretty much the whole Pac-12,” Croson said. “... but he’s excited about Boise State. They saw something in him that a lot of others are starting to see.”

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound VanBuren has 767 rushing yards on 120 carries with 14 touchdowns. He also has a 62-yard touchdown catch for Chaminade (5-1), whose only loss has come to St. John Bosco, ranked by MaxPreps as one of the top 10 teams in the nation. On Thursday, he rushed for 312 yards on 39 carries, scoring five touchdowns against Serra.

A backup his first two seasons, VanBuren has taken over as the feature back after starter T.J. Pledger, an Oklahoma commitment, transferred to IMG Academy in Florida.

“I think he could be an NFL free safety,” Croson said of VanBuren. “In a lot of ways, he fits even better than (Pledger). Andrew is more disciplined, bigger, good in pass protection. He can catch. Since he’s that No. 1 back, we don’t play him a lot on defense, but still will put him at safety in critical spots.”

VanBuren is one of two verbal commitments at running back for Boise State’s 2018 class, along with Centennial High (Peoria, Ariz.)’s Zidane Thomas.

In his first four games, Thomas had 781 yards on 62 carries (12.6 yards per carry) with nine touchdowns for the No. 1 team in Class 5A. On Sept. 14 against Pinnacle and Oklahoma QB commit Spencer Rattler, he rushed for 334 yards.

“We won 23-20 on a last-second field goal. In the 2-minute drill, most people would think we’d pass, we just gave it to Zidane,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said of Thomas, who still has Utah and Iowa State expressing interest. “He’s the strongest kid and the fastest kid on our team. He’s very quiet, very humble, but on the field, he’s a beast.”

Thomas (5-10, 205) and the undefeated Coyotes host a game at 7 p.m. MT Friday that Taylor said “feels like a playoff game.” The foe is St. Thomas Aquinas High from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Twelve current NFL players went there, most of any high school in the nation. The game will stream on

“Zidane’s from Florida, he moved out here in eighth grade, so this will be really special for him,” Taylor said. “He’s the kind of kid that plays big in big games.”

With Boise State on a bye week, it will give coaches a chance to go out and recruit, which coach Bryan Harsin said “is our No. 1 thing we spend time on.” He cannot comment on specific recruits, but said it has gone well, that “there’s been a good vibe that way.”

“There’s been some guys that have done well,” Harsin said of the current crop of commits.

Here’s a look at how the Broncos’ other known commitments have fared:

LB Phillip Mills, 6-3, 220, Paloma Valley High (Menifee, Calif.): Averaging 9.5 tackles per game and has nine tackles for loss, including a sack, plus an interception and a fumble recovery

LB Brandon Hawkins, 6-3, 210, Georgetown (Texas) High: Has 46 tackles in four games, including three sacks, with a blocked field goal and a safety.

QB Zach Wilson, 6-3, 200, Corner Canyon High (Draper, Utah): Has thrown for 1,509 yards (completing 58.1 percent) with 14 TDs and five INTs with 550 rushing yards and six TDs

Check out Wilson’s highlights from the first five games here.

LB DJ Schramm, 6-1, 215, Clovis West High (Fresno, Calif.): Stats not available, but has been key for 3-1 Bulldogs

NT Scale Igiehon, 6-2, 327, Del Valle (Texas) High: Had 19 tackles (11 for loss) in his first three games, including three sacks

DE/LB Kukea Emmsley, 6-4, 230, Kapolei (Hawaii) High: Stats not available for Emmsley and Kapolei (3-5), which allows 15.5 ppg

NT Keeghan Freeborn, 6-1, 310, Rocky Mountain High: Ankle injury suffered in opener has slowed him down thus far

C Kekaniokoa Gonzalez 6-2, 286, Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.): Has helped Monarchs to 5-0 start, 408 ypg and 44.4 ppg

TE Cole Ramseyer, 6-4, 230, Coeur d’Alene High: Has 16 catches for 227 yards and two TDs for Vikings (3-2) and a sack on defense

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn