The Star-Tribune is taking an early look at each of Wyoming’s opponents in the order they appear on the Cowboys’ 2019 schedule. Next up is Boise State.
LARAMIE — Boise State has an unenviable task this season.
Brett Rypien has been one of the faces of Mountain West football in recent years. A four-year starter at quarterback for the Broncos, Rypien is the league’s all-time leading passer. With his 13,578 career passing yards, the three-time all-league selection and reigning MW Offensive Player of the Year also owned the FBS passing record among active players.
But Rypien is a former Boise State quarterback now.
His stats could’ve been even better if the Broncos’ First Responder Bowl matchup against Boston College wasn’t canceled because of inclement weather last season, but that’s where his illustrious collegiate career ended. It leaves Boise State needing to answer the question that’s getting the most attention around the league this offseason: Who replaces the most productive signal caller the conference has ever seen?
The Broncos will have that answered by the time they host Wyoming at Albertsons Stadium on Nov. 9, but the competition rages on among a handful of candidates heading into fall camp.
Chase Cord may be the favorite after playing in four games as Rypien’s backup, but his redshirt freshman season was cut short with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept him out of spring practice. That gave Bryan Harsin and the rest of the Broncos’ coaching staff a chance to get an extended look at Jaylon Henderson, Riley Smith and true freshmen Kaiden Bennett and Hank Bachmeier.
Henderson spent most of last season backing up Rypien once Cord went down, Smith is coming off a redshirt year, and Bennett and Bachmeier both enrolled early to get a head start on their collegiate careers. If the spring was any indication, Bachmeier may be Cord’s stiffest competition for the starting job.
The headliner of Boise State’s 2019 recruiting class, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bachmeier made such a strong impression in his first spring with the Broncos that he ended up splitting first-team reps with Henderson. The four-star prospect was ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 6 pro-style quarterback coming out of the California prep ranks.
There are other significant pieces Boise State has to replace, too.
The Broncos have to find another go-to running back with Alexander Mattison off to the NFL. Mattison was a workhorse for the Broncos as the MW’s leading rusher, but Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren, who combined for 66 carries last season, return to run behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.
They’re also losing their top two receivers in Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson, but they’re not exactly green out wide. John Hightower, CT Thomas and Akilian Butler are all back after combining for 97 catches and 11 touchdown receptions a season ago.
Even if it takes some time for Boise State to sort things out offensively, the Broncos should be able to lean on their defense even with a new coordinator in place in Jeff Schmedding, who was originally hired as the team’s co-special teams coordinator before being promoted once Andy Avalos took the same position at Oregon.
The Broncos have more than half their starters back from a defense that allowed just 22 points per game last season. Headlining the group is all-league edge rusher Curtis Weaver, who finished second in the MW in sacks and tackles for loss last season.
Defensive tackle David Moa and linebacker Riley Whimpey are returning from injuries to add reinforcements. Cornerback and return man Tyler Horton is gone, but Avery Williams could be emerging as the Broncos’ next all-league caliber defensive back after finishing fifth on the team with 49 tackles last season.
If the Broncos find those answers on the other side of the ball, they’ll have a good chance to push for a fourth straight double-digit win season and stay near the top of the MW standings.