Jeremy McNichols will get the majority of carries for Boise State in 2016 so long as he stays healthy. While 2015 was a very successful season, 2016 may be an even better one for the player nicknamed “The McWeapon”.
McNichols has been working harder than ever in the off-season, and focusing on every area of his game, which includes blocking, reads, and all the other things that happen when he doesn't get the ball.
It's no surprise that he is effective catching the ball as well. He spent three years of his high school career as a wide receiver. This also means he didn't take the hits that are associated with the running back position which can certainly help with durability.
The real mystery when looking at the roster isn’t who will start, but rather, who will be the player to step up to become McNichols trusted backup? Most likely it will take a group effort, and with a total of eight running backs on the roster, that leaves seven candidates for the job.
The only senior is Devan Demas. He's not the biggest player at 5-8, 174 lbs, but he is the fastest clocking a 40 time of 4.38. When Demas came to Boise State there were high expectations. However, he has not lived up to what many thought he could be as a Bronco.
Maybe it's the reality that this will be his last season on the blue. Or, maybe it's the fact that last year after fumbling against Utah State at a critical moment in the game he never carried the ball again during the season. Whatever the motivating factor, it seems to be working in 2016 as Demas has looked good in camp, and seems focused.
Other returning backs are redshirt junior Ryan Wolpin, redshirt sophomore Cory Young, and redshirt freshman Jake Shaddox.
Wolpin runs with serious attitude, and although he only rushed 25 times last season, he averaged 6.2 yards-per-carry. Most of that was against Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl where he gained 90 yards on 15 carries. He should get his chance to prove himself this season, and don't be surprised if he impresses.
Cory Young took a backseat to his big brother Kelsey last season, but he will be looking to make a namefor himself in 2016. He carried the ball only 17 times in 2015, and gained just 90 yards for his efforts. Another player with high expectations when he came to Boise State, Young has three more seasons to prove his worth. However, with some talented freshman behind him, this season may be crucial for him to show what he can do. He definitely has the talent to step up.
Redshirt freshman Jake Shaddox looked good in the spring game, but he has his work cut out for him if he wants to see the field in 2016 as a running back. He may have to prove himself first on special teams, but if he does get to carry the ball it will be very interesting to see what he can do.
The last three players on the roster are all true freshmen. Local product Jake Roper out of Rocky Mountain High School had an impressive high school career. A little undersized at 183 lbs, he may benefit from a redshirt season.
Robert Mahone comes to The Blue from Prosper, Texas, and at 5-10, 209 lbs, has plenty of size to play early. He has looked good in fall camp, and will likely be battling fellow true freshman Alexander Mattison for the opportunity to play.
Mattison also has good size at 5-11, 206 lbs. From what has happened so far this fall may have the edge right now. However, Boise State fans should be excited for both of these running backs. If both players stay healthy, and continue to improve, they could become a very effective duo for the Broncos in the future.
Overall, there is a lot of great potential in this group of running backs. But, potential is just that until realized. The most intriguing story of 2016 when it comes to running backs is which player, or players, will step up to be an effective compliment to The McWeapon.
Devan Demas, 5-8, 187 lbs, Houston, Texas
Ryan Wolpin, 5-8, 189 lbs, Trabuco Canyon, Calif.
Jeremy McNichols, 5-9, 212 lbs, Long Beach, Calif.
Cory Young, 5-10, 195 lbs, Norco, Calif.
Jake Shaddox, 5-11, 211 lbs, Redding, Calif.
Alexander Mattison, 5-11, 206 lbs, San Bernardino, Calif.
Robert Mahone, 5-10, 209 lbs, Prosper, Texas
Jake Roper, 5-10, 183 lbs, Boise, Idaho