#41 - Ian Johnson(5-11, 194), the only returner from last season who saw significant playing time is expected to step in as the featured back as a sophomore. Just a sophomore in '06, Johnson possesses the rare combination of talent and instinct that could make him better than any Bronco back before him. Should that be the case he should easily eclipse his 663 yards and 4 TD's from the nation's 19th ranked rushing attack and 1st in the WAC. Ian showed flashes of vision, instinct and that HIT-THE-HOLE so crucial in a successful runner. Late in the season, however, he didn't seem to be much of a factor. Expect very good things from Ian in 2006. He knows the offense, he's got the tools; quicks, he hits the hole (rather than dancing to it), vision/instincts and enough lateral movement to get to the outside. With a great offensive line and anticipated emphasis on running between the tackles don't be surprised to see more and more comparisons to Forsey. However Ian likely will not shoulder as much of the load as #36 did in his time.
#33 – Jon Helmandollar(5-11, 227), who missed the 2005 season for personal reasons, returns to the team for 2006 as a junior. He returns eager to prove himself and to add to his 231 yards and the impressive 14 TD's (primarily Red Zone touches) from 2004. #33 had a nose for the end zone and a knack for smashing, twisting, diving or whatever for the goal. Spring ball is catch-up time for Jon both mentally in preparing for a grueling offseason and physically for that same reason. He exhibited more power than finesse in 2004 and many are hoping for more of the same in 2006. Keep your eye on #33 because if he comes back TD-hunting he'll be a force on short yardage and in the Red Zone.
#35 – Brett Denton(5-9, 191), the understudy and now senior is showing he's ready to take charge of his role in 2006. Playing behind several contributing RB's in 2005, #35 has paid his dues (less than 30 yards and 0 TD's) and now is the time. Several see Brett as the next Carpenter, the role player who defenses can only guess what he'll be asked to do next. So far this spring Denton is seizing that spot and should that continue to the fall he'd likely be Boise State's specialized running back. The offense needs that type of guy and Brett fits it. Denton surely isn't Carp, but look for a guy who gives 110% and will play anywhere and do anything to contribute.
#24 – Max Davis (5-10, 171), the new guy as a freshman out of McCall, has caught this author's attention and likely the coaches too. The skinny on Davis; well he's skinny for one and a little less than six feet. The low-down; the kid is quick and he hops around amongst those monsters in the middle like a rabbit. Sure he may put on good weight and perhaps more speed, but for now he's just plain slippery. He won't get good yards on even half his carries, but just give him a chance to slip through a tackle and the secondary will be trying to cut him off. Don't expect much playing time, perhaps a role guy (especially if he has good hands) and a change of pace type back.
Well that's the top four so far as the remainder of spring ball is yet to come. However these guys will be getting nowhere unless the hog mollies on the line don't open the holes and the unsung battlers in #34 – Lau and #30 – Lose taking out that last lineman or the first linebacker they come across. But the Bronco backfield may not yet be complete.
That's right, there's a new guy or two to look forward to come fall ball. Jarvis Hodge is in the current recruiting class and could burn his redshirt year if needed. Hodge is a 5'9" tailback out of Phoenix who rushed for 1000+ yards his last two seasons. Another may be a yet-to-be-signed junior college RB; the rumor mill has a highly qualified candidate in mind. But, until signed a rumor is just that.
Well what does all this mean for the Bronco faithful and the many who have an interest in our success or failure? Will there be a continuation of success on the Blue? The answer while not definite by any means is YES. With the continuity in the program and more inside running the Broncos have a solid 1-2 punch in #41 and #33. They have another key contributor in #35 and one or two more waiting in the wings. The keys to success are few, but very important.
Thanks for reading this fan's opinion.