The 2002 recruiting class at Boise State seemed like a good class at the time. We BroncoCountry people sat in Buster's and marveled at the recruiting videos we watched. The ultra-hard hitting of Scott and Bean, the athleticism of Altieri, the relentless perseverance of linemen Miller and the Cavender twins, the sweet touch of quarterback Taylor Tharp that made us think of the initials RD had Bronco fans excited.
Yet despite this potential of what we felt was an amazing class of Broncos, just seven of them have penetrated the starting lineup. That's not many when you consider that they are now juniors. You could say it's because of the outstanding 2002 class before them--that many have been unable to break into the starting lineup because of the many seniors on the Bronco team. That would, however, be a cop-out. After the first season in school history of being ranked in the nation's top 15 in 2002, the following recruiting class should have been so good that there's no way you could hold them down.
If they are just "waiting their turn", how is it that Tad Miller did it? The Cavender brothers certainly have had their share of starts as well.
You see, for a class to be considered as one of the best in history, its members should be starting at this point in their careers. They're upperclassmen.
That said, the ones that have earned starter status have all made incredible contributions.
The Cavender brothers have lived up the their potential, showing the same toughness they did in their recruiting videos. Tad Miller is ferocious and dependable. Austin Smith started last year and has seen considerable punt return duty as well.
Now is the time, however, for the other members of this class to step up and be counted. For Boise State to elevate to the next level in this pivotal year, they need the 2003 class of Broncos to live up to their potential the coaches and the rest of us all saw at Buster's that day. They need to play like the upperclassmen that they are--now is their time.
My challenge to this class would be to push yourselves, and the teammates ahead of you. Come together as a class--cheer each other on, for next year is your final year at Boise State. You will be at the top of the class and will be the leaders of the team. No time like the present to get ready for the future.
The class began with 24 new Broncos (Jon Helmandollar originally signed in 2002). Five have left, and another five transfers have used up their eligibility. Here is what the members of the 2003 class have done to this point:
Derek Schouman has played from the outset at Boise State. He's been the starting tight end since midway through his freshman year. The Sporting News named him as the nation's 18th best tight end. He started 11 of 12 games last season with 16 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. In 2005, Schouman missed five games due to injury but still finished with 15 catches for 284 yards. As a freshman, "Schou" made headlines with 17 catches for 272 yards and four touchdowns.
Jeff Cavender has been a versatile performer on the offensive line for Boise State. He started at right tackle as a redshirt freshman, moving to center last year, where he was due to start once again this fall. The unfortunate injury to Ryan Keating made it necessary for Cavender to move to right tackle, at least until Keating recovers. Cavender was part of a line in 2004 that helped Boise State finish second in the nation in scoring at 48.9 points per game, fourth in total offense (492.7 yards per game), 14th in rushing (229.8) and 20th in passing (262.8). The Bronco offense set a school record that season with 49 rushing touchdowns.
Brother Pete Cavender also suffered an injury during summer conditioning that will keep him out for the entire year. He started nine games at right guard last season, and was a part-time starter at right guard his freshman year. Pete is another key reason why the Broncos have been so successful rushing the football.
Tad Miller is one of several graduates from Bishop Kelly High School in Boise on the Bronco roster. Miller has started 24 consecutive games at left guard, where he will set up shop again this season. Barring injury, Miller will likely be named to the all-WAC first team this season.
Lawrence Bady was a junior college transfer in the 2003 class. He had 59 career catches for 1,192 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran the ball 20 times for 154 yards and two scores. Bady tied the Bronco school record with a 98-yard catch.
Austin Smith is listed on the Bronco depth chart as the backup cornerback. In 2005 he was a starter at safety, and was fifth on the team with 51 tackles. Smith had four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. He also recovered a fumble and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown that turned the game against Idaho. Smith returned 13 punts for 62 yards last fall. In 2004, Smith was a part-time starter at cornerback and took over on punt returns after an injury to Chris Carr. He finished the year 10th on the team with 36 tackles, with three sacks, four tackles for loss and one pass breakup. Smith was also third in the WAC and 25th in the nation with a 12.2 punt return average.
Antwaun Carter was yet another JC Transfer in the 2003 class. He was fast and strong, and the Broncos used him often in short yardage situations. Carter had 75 carries for 278 yards and seven touchdowns and one reception for nine yards.
Dan Gore is listed as the starting left defensive tackle on the Bronco depth chart. Gore has been a backup the last two years, totaling six tackles.
Taylor Tharp has been a backup quarterback since coming to Boise. Last season, he was 21-37 playing in eight games, throwing for 271 yards and a touchdown. Tharp helped rally Boise State to a 70-35 win over Idaho. It was 28-21 when he entered the game. He also played the entire second half against SEC-power Georgia and was 5-7 for 53 yards.
Josh Bean is the backup "Mike" linebacker for the Broncos. He has served as a backup since coming to Boise State. Last season, Bean had 18 tackles, one behind the line while in 2004 he played both linebacker and on special teams, totaling nine tackles.
Mark Onibokun was another JC Transfer in this class. He played both offense and defense in his career. Onibokun had 12 catches for 126 yards and three rushes for 11 yards for Boise State.
Chrisean Christopher was another JC transfer for Boise State. He played one year (2004), making 13 catches for 197 yards (15.2 yards per catch), including an acrobatic grab against Nevada that was one of the top ten plays of the year.
Mike Altieri is listed as a backup "Sam" linebacker on the Bronco depth chart. In 2004 and '05, he's played backup linebacker and special teams, accounting for 12 tackles, including one for loss.
Mike T. Williams will be a backup at right defensive end this fall. He redshirted in 2004, then appeared in all 13 games last season, mainly in passing situations. Williams had eight tackles, 2.5 for loss and four pass deflections.
Brett Ralph transferred from Wyoming and while coaches had high hopes for him, he was plagued by injuries and has left the program. In 2003, Ralph had five catches for 27 yards and carried the ball once for four yards.
Jeff Biederman--Will be a backup right guard as he was last year. He played briefly as a center after moving to offense in 2004 and then redshirting. As a defensive lineman, Biederman had two tackles in five games his freshman year before going down with a season-ending injury.
Ian Smart will be a backup defensive left tackle this year. He was credited with two tackles last year and one in 2004.
Sherm Blaser has been a backup tight end for Boise State. He originally committed in 2000, went on a church mission, and signed again in December of 2002. He caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown last year. In 2004, he also had four receptions for 65 yards and had a catch for 2003 as a freshman. Blaser is injured and could miss the entire year.