Seventeen seniors head the Boise State football team this fall, many of whom have been starters since their sophomore season, when they produced an 11-1 season as the second youngest team in America. The same group that fell to 9-4 last year despite all that experience is back this fall for Boise State. As sophomores, many of these players started when Boise State put together a perfect regular season and a Top Ten national ranking, only to lose to Louisville to spoil the perfect season and drop out of the top ten. The 2002 recruiting class at Boise State numbered 18, but Alex Guerrero (who played as a true freshman and is now with the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL) and three others are no longer wearing the blue.
So that leaves this group of 14, and Boise State, at a crossroads. Will the 2005 season be more like the great sophomore season or similiar to their performance last year? Coaches and everyone connected to the program have always known their potential. They have had it within them to take the Bronco program to heights unseen (as they began to do in 2004). They have also presided over Bronco starting lineups that were inconsistent, made costly mistakes and thus ended last season with the worst Bronco record since 2001.
You cannot truly evaluate a recruiting class until they are done playing. For this group, the jury is still out and they can collectively best be described with a question mark next to the Boise State 2002 recruiting class. Will their senior year bring them praise from the critics who have so lambasted them, or will those critics have the last word? Here is what the 2002 recruiting class has done to date:
Middle linebacker Korey Hall is the star of the group--he led the Broncos with 106 tackles last year and has NFL scouts salivating. Hall was All-WAC each of the past two years for Boise State. He also recorded 5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and three pass breakups last season. Hall was named the nation's 10th best inside linebacker by The Sporting News. In 2004 Hall had 85 tackles, 8.5 for loss, four sacks and three interceptions. Those three picks all came against Oregon State, the first of which turned around a game that had Boise State behind 14-0 at the time. In 2003 Hall earned Honorable Mention All-WAC with 92 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks. Hall ranks 15th all-time at Boise State in tackles with 283. He also has eight sacks, 21 tackles for loss and five interceptions.
Wide receiver Drisan James was 2nd team All-WAC last year with 34 catches for 518 yards, an average of 15.2 yards per catch. James also had 70 yards rushing on seven carries. He moved into the starting lineup midway through the 2004 season and earned Honorable Mention All-WAC with 40 catches for 568 yards and one touchdown. He played as a redshirt freshman, and grabbed five passes for 74 yards.
Quinton Jones was selected as a punt returner to the 2005 Second Team All-America list by The Sporting News and received Honorable Mention by SI.com. Jones finished second in the nation with a 20.86 punt return average, returning 22 punts for 459 yards and three touchdowns. The three scores tied Maurice Drew of UCLA and Willie Reid of Florida State for the national lead. Jones also returned 30 kickoffs for 741 yards (24.7 average). He set a school record of a 92-yard punt return against Hawai'i and then matched it against Boston College in the MPC Bowl. Jones set another school record with 151 yards in punt returns in the bowl game.
Jones, who also is inserted into the offense to take advantage of his great athletic ability, had 2 rushes for 53 yards and a touchdown. As a cornerback on defense, Jones had 16 tackles and three pass breakups.
In 2004, Jones played running back, wide receiver and returned kicks for the Broncos. He gained 277 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns and caught six passes for 70 yards and another touchdown. He also had 21 kickoff returns for 440 yards, a 21.0 average that was ninth in the WAC. Jones played in two games his freshman year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Quarterback Jared Zabransky was 202-342 for 2,562 yards last season. Zabransky threw 18 touchdown passes but had 16 interceptions. "Z" was fourth in the WAC with a passing efficiency rating of 130. In 2004, Zabransky was 206-327 for 2,927 and 16 touchdowns, and his uncanny running ability enabled him to pick up 326 yards on 130 carries with 13 touchdowns. After his great sophomore year, he was named 2nd team All-WAC and Honorable Mention All-America by Sports Illustrated. Z finished first in the WAC and 13th in the country with a 146.99 passing efficiency rating. Zabransky also finished second in the WAC and 17th in the country in total offense with 271.1 yards per game, was second in the WAC in passing at 243.9 yards per game and sixth in touchdowns. He set a school record with an 85-yard touchdown run against Hawai'i.
In 2003, Z was 11 for 23 for 180 and a touchdown as a backup quarterback. He also gained 78 yards rushing on 16 carries with a touchdown
Heading into his senior year, Zabransky is fourth in Bronco career total offense with 6,335 yards, fourth in passing with 5,669 yards, fourth in completions with 419, sixth in touchdown passes with 35, fourth in 200-yard passing games with 16 and fifth in career rushing touchdowns with 25. For his career he's 419-692 (60.5%) with 32 TD passes and 29 interceptions and a 136.04 passing efficiency rating.
Gerald Alexander has been the starting cornerback for the past two seasons. He will play safety this season for the Broncos. Last year, Alexander led the team in pass breakups with 13 and was sixth in tackles with 50. He had 2 tackles for loss and one interception. Alexander led the WAC and was 16th in the nation with five interceptions in 2004, and fifth in the WAC in passes defended with 1.08 per game. He was fourth on the Broncos with 53 tackles, 2.5 for loss. He also saved the Broncos' perfect regular season with a block of the potential game-winning field goal by San Jose State. In 2003, Alexander was a backup cornerback with 20 tackles, one for a loss and an interception. In his career, Alexander has totaled 123 tackles, 5.5 for loss, seven interceptions and 23 pass breakups.
Running back Jon Helmandollar originally signed in 2002 but did not join the Bronco program until January of 2003. After a redshirt year, Helmandollar exploded on the scene with 14 touchdowns (third most in Bronco history). He had 43 carries for 232 yards and finished sixth in the WAC in scoring despite limited play. He set a school record with five touchdowns against Louisiana Tech. That was the second highest total in the NCAA that season. Helmandollar sat out last season for personal reasons.
Mike C. Williams is the starter at right defensive end. Williams totaled 24 tackles, four for loss, three sacks, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup last season. In 2004, he was 8th on the team with 40 tackles and was credited with 2.5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. As a redshirt freshman, Williams was in on 30 tackles, with 3.5 being for loss.
Legedu Naanee had 34 catches for 483 yards as a starting wide receiver with six touchdowns last season. He also had four rushes for 25 yards. Naanee is currently listed as a backup receiver for the Broncos. He played backup quarterback in 2004 as well as tight end and wide receiver. Naanee caught four passes for 45 yards and had four rushes for 79 yards. Bronco fans will remember his play on a fake punt when he took the snap and sped 33 yards against Oregon State. In 2003, Naanee was 1-5 passing for 27 yards, had three rushes for four yards, caught a pass for four yards and had seven tackles on special teams.
Ryan Keating was supposed to start at right guard this season until he was carried off the field Thursday with a broken leg. Keating was a backup offensive lineman in both 2003 and 2004 and started two games at right tackle last season.
Jared Hunter came to Boise State as a linebacker, but was converted to tight end after the 2004 season. Hunter caught two passes for 31 yards in 2005, including a catch for 23 yards against Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl. He platooned at the "SAM" linebacker and played special teams in 2003 and 2004. Hunter had nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss and blocked a punt his sophomore season. In his redshirt freshman year, Hunter recorded three tackles before breaking his leg in the seventh game.
Mike Dominguez is the starting long snapper and backup defensive left end for the Broncos. He had nine tackles with 4.5 of those being behind the line and 4 sacks in 2005. Dominguez was a part-time starter at defensive end in 2004 and had 13 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a sack. He also played as a true freshman with 13 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks.
Tony Volponi is the backup left tackle this fall for Boise State. He was a backup offensive lineman each of the past three years.
Ryan Putnam originally signed in 2002 but did not join the Broncos until January of 2003. He played backup tight end last season and had four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.