2021 Boise State Football Offensive Preview
The big question is who will start at QB?
New coach, same offense?
Boise State enters the 2021 season with high expectations, along with some significant question marks. They have the players in the skill positions that could prove the best offense in the Mountain West if they can put it all together under new offensive coordinator Tim Plough and head coach Andy Avalos. The COVID shortened year didn’t help a unit that only returned five starters, and the defense and special teams had to bail the offense out of a lot of trouble as they struggled to put together complete games.
With the exit of Bryan Harsin to Auburn, former defensive coordinator Andy Avalos returns to Boise as head coach after two years at Oregon. He brings offensive coordinator Tim Plough, who consistently had a top 10 offense in his four years at UC-Davis. The Broncos are looking to combine a new coaching staff with returning most of their starters to produce a better product than they did in 2020.
You are wondering why the offensive line is first? The answer to that is this is likely (hopefully) the most improved group on offense. 2020 saw the Broncos replace two 1st team All-MW and two 2nd team All-MW linemen. With that, Boise State struggled with consistency upfront, and it showed in the performance of the groups behind them.
This season the Broncos are returning four starters along the offensive line, led by Senior guard Jake Stetz and Junior tackle John Ojukwu. The added year of experience together should help with consistency and help clear the way as the Broncos bounce back from their worst yards per game average since the mid-90s.
The Broncos don’t have the best quarterback in the conference, but I think it would be safe to say that they have the best 2-deep with Hank Bachmeier and Jack Sears. Bachmeier began the last two seasons as the starter until injuries limited his playing time. Last year Sears, who transferred in from USC in 2020, stepped up and played well until he was also derailed with injuries and illness himself.
While in games, Bachmeier played well but still has some growing to do. Completing 61% of his passes with a 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio isn’t a bad line by any means, but he continues to hold onto the ball longer than he should and takes unnecessary hits in doing so. Jack Sears played exceptionally well when he was in the field, completing 85% of his passes with three touchdowns in his limited time.
With an additional year of experience, both quarterbacks should continue to take steps forward and make improvements in their game. The production will be there from the position, but the biggest factor after that will be health since both have struggled to stay in one piece on the field.
This group has been the strongest unit on offense for the last ten years, producing a 1,000-yard rusher in 10 of the previous 11 years. With the shortened season, that streak was likely to end anyways, but the running game was never able to have the full impact that the Broncos have been accustomed to. Injuries hit this group as well, with George Holani missing most of the season with a knee injury.
Holani, who was the MW 2019 Freshman of The Year, is likely the primary back for the 2021 season and will have Oregon transfer senior Cyrus Habibi-Likio joining Andrew Van Buren behind him. Van Buren was the leading rusher last season, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, and somehow led the MW with 8 TDs. He did have a breakout game against Hawaii with 113 yards and two touchdowns. Habibi-Likio saw the field pretty sparingly at Oregon but figures to see a lot of action as the staff could look to ease the load for Holani.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Junior Khalil Shakir returns at wide receiver/running back/potential kick returner and the Broncos will continue to use him all over the field. With Seniors Octavius Evans and CT Thomas also returning, the wide receiver group is stacked with experience and production. Tight ends lost John Bates to the Washington Football Team in the NFL draft but returned sophomore Riley Smith who started five games last year.
.@king_khalil2 lands on the Maxwell Award Watch List, presented to the 𝙢𝙤𝙨𝙩 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙥𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙚𝙧 in college football!
— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) July 19, 2021
With a likely shift towards a more open offense, it would seem the Broncos will use fewer two tight end sets, giving more opportunities to the receiver core to spread the field and open more holes in the running and short passing game. Shakir will continue to be used all over the field and will be a great option to take the top off the defense as well.
Last season was an anomaly. Short prep time, COVID protocols, and an inexperienced team lead to a reasonably successful season as a team, but painful for the offense. Finishing dead last in rushing yards per game and 9th in total offensive yards per game isn’t the showing that anyone was expecting. If the offensive line takes a step forward, Bachmeier and Holani can stay relatively, and the team can adjust to the new offensive scheme, this could be a high-powered unit that provides the excitement that fans are used to seeing.
The West Division has improved almost from top to bottom, and the top of the Mountain division is still top-heavy, but the Broncos are still the favorites to win the Mountain West Championship. A lot of pieces need to fall into place, but the Broncos have a track record of being excellent in the first year of a new head coach (Harsin 12-2 and Peterson 13-0, both winning the Fiesta Bowl), the Bronco faithful are excited about the 2021 season.