When a recruiting class is signed, you hear that we won't really know how
good it is until four or five years in the future. As that window narrows and the players near
graduation, the picture becomes clearer. As has become tradition, this is the
time of year when we take a look at each of the
By all accounts the 2002 recruiting class was better than every one before it. On BroncoCountry, we've speculated about the classes since then, and the consensus has been that each class was better than the previous one. Is that in fact true?
Of course, one member of the amazing 2003 class has already graduated, beginning his Bronco career starring as a true freshman and ending it by giving Bronco Nation a performance they will never forget in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. We are talking about Derek Schouman, #91, one of the best tight ends to ever don the blue and orange.
As a freshman, Schouman had 17 catches with 272 yards and four touchdowns, emerging early as a strong blocker and great receiver. He caught the game-winning touchdown in the 2003 Fort Worth Bowl. As a sophomore, he missed five games due to an injury but still caught 15 passes for 284 yards. In 2005, Derek had 16 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. He was named as the nation's 18th-best tight end by The Sporting News that season.
Named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference last year, "Schou" finished fourth on the team in receiving with 21 catches for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to his senior season, Schouman was named to the John Mackey Award Watch List, an honor given annually to the nation's top collegiate tight end. He put a punctuation mark on his Bronco career by leading the team with ten receptions in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, including a clutch catch in the final minute of regulation, an instrumental first down in overtime and a fourth-down catch to put Boise State in position to win the game with a two-point conversion. Schouman was chosen by the Buffalo Bills in this year's NFL Draft.
Lawrence Bady, who came in
as a junior college transfer, caught 29 passes for 726 yards and four
touchdowns in 2003 and then grabbed 30 for 466 yards and a touchdown his senior
year. Bady set the all-time school
record for the longest non-scoring play with a 98-yard reception against
Antwaun Carter, too, was a JC transfer, giving the team much-needed inside running strength. Carter rushed 75 times for 278 yards and seven touchdowns in 2003 and followed that up by piling up 440 yards and 10 touchdowns on 100 carries the next year.
Jon Helmandollar also signed a
letter of intent in 2004 and promptly bulled his way for 231 yards and an
incredible 14 touchdowns on just 46 carries that fall. Included was a record five touchdowns against
Chrisean Christophersm had 13
catches for 197 yards in 2004 and helped the Broncos earn a WAC Championship
and a Liberty Bowl appearance.
Christopher was scheduled to
start his senior year and was deemed to be one of the go to receivers for
Those players from the 2003 class are finished. The following have a final chapter to write, the pages of which will be filled this season.
Named to the preseason All-WAC team by Blue Ribbon Magazine and CollegeFootballNews.com...
(2006) Started all 13 games for the Broncos at right guard to run his consecutive starts streak to 38. Miller was instrumental in the Broncos finishing the regular season second in the nation in scoring (39.69 ppg), second in the nation in rushing touchdowns (39), sixth in the nation in rushing (214.15 ypg) and 10th in the nation in total offense (420.62 ypg), while leading the WAC in rushing and finishing second in scoring and third in total offense...Named to The Sporting News Preseason All-WAC team...
(2005) Started all 13 games at left guard to run his consecutive starts streak to 24 games... Helped the Broncos finish ninth in the country in scoring (36.08), 19th in rushing (202.46) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (36)...Named preseason second-team All-WAC by Athlon Sports...
(2004) Started all 12 games at left guard for the Broncos as a freshman... Helped the Broncos finish second in the nation in scoring (48.9) and fourth in total offense (492.7), while ranking 14th in the country in rushing (229.8) and 20th in passing (262.8)...Helped the offense set a school record with 49 rushing touchdowns...
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos.
Cavender is poised to start at center this fall for the Broncos, returning to the position he manned as a sophomore. Jeff was named preseason All-WAC by The Sporting News and CollegeFootballNews.com. Cavender enters the season with 38 consecutive starts.
(2006) Named second-team All-WAC, starting all 13 games at right guard. He was part of the group that helped the Broncos finish the regular season second in the nation in scoring (39.69 ppg), second in the nation in rushing touchdowns (39), sixth in the nation in rushing (214.15 ypg), and 10th in the nation in total offense (420.62 ypg), while leading the WAC in rushing and finishing second in scoring and third in total offense...
(2005) Started all 13 games at center helping the Broncos finish ninth in the country in scoring (36.08), 19th in rushing (202.46) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (36)...
(2004) Started all 12 games at right tackle for the Broncos as a freshman...Helped the Broncos finish second in the nation in scoring (48.9) and fourth in total offense (492.7), while ranking 14th in the country in rushing (229.8) and 20th in passing (262.8)...Helped the offense set a school record with 49 rushing touchdowns...
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos...Earned the starting right tackle spot during spring practice.
Pete Cavender (6-2, 293,
(2006)Missed the season after suffering an injury during summer conditioning.
(2005) Cavender started nine games at right guard for the Broncos... Helped the Broncos finish ninth in the country in scoring (36.08), 19th in rushing (202.46) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (36).
(2004)Started at right guard for part of the season, while splitting time with senior M.J. Ansel...Helped the Broncos finish second in the nation in scoring (48.9) and fourth in total offense (492.7), while ranking 14th in the country in rushing (229.8) and 20th in passing (262.8)...Helped the offense set a school record with 49 rushing touchdowns.
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos...Moved to center in spring practice where he moved to No. 2 on the depth chart.
Austin Smith (5-9, 173,
Smith is a contender at strong safety this fall.
(2005) Started all 13 games for the Broncos at safety...Finished
fifth on the team with 51 tackles...Also had four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks,
five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
2004) Part-time starter at defensive back, while taking over punt return duties after Chris Carr's injury...Finished 10th on the team in tackles with 36, while also getting three sacks, four tackles for loss and one pass break up...Finished third in the WAC and 25th in the country in punt returns with a 12.2 yard per return average with a long of 41 yards.
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos
Mike T. Williams (6-4, 245,
Mike T. gained an inch and 25 pounds since signing with
(2006) Co-starter at right defensive end...Finished the regular season with 18 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and one pass breakup. Williams had one of the key plays in the Fiesta Bowl win with a forced fumble and recovery early in the game that resulted in a 14-0 Bronco lead.
(2005) Started all 13 games at right defensive end for the Broncos, finishing with 24 tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks, one pass breakup and one fumble recovery. Named preseason second-team All-WAC by Athlon Sports.
(2004) Started final 10 games after missing the first two...Finished eighth on the team with 40 tackles, while recording 2.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss.
(2003) Started all 14 games at defensive end for the Broncos...Totaled 30 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. Holds defensive line position records in the weight room in the vertical jump (34.5 inches in spring 2004).
(2002) Redshirted during the 2002 season, his first with the Bronco program.
Many college football players are trying to impress the professional scouts in their senior season. Josh Bean already has an offer in hand. Bean was selected in the second round of this year's Canadian Football League Draft by the BC Lions, the 16th player chosen.
(2006) Backup linebacker and special teams standout for the Broncos...Finished season with 18 tackles and one fumble recovery.
(2005) Backup linebacker and special teams player for the Broncos...Named Special Teams Ironman for the Broncos...Finished the season with 18 tackles and one tackle for loss.
(2004) Backup linebacker and special teams player for the Broncos...Finished the regular season with nine tackles, including three solo tackles.
Ryan Putnam (6-2, 248,
(2006) Mainstay in the tight end rotation...Finished with six catches for 77 yards and one touchdown.
(2005) Backup tight end for the Broncos who serves as the Broncos' primary run blocker...Caught four passes for 41 yards with a touchdown.
(2004) Backup tight end for the Broncos who was primarily used as a run blocker...Holds tight end position record in the weight room in the back squat (575 pounds in spring 2003).
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos...Joined the Bronco program in January of 2003 and competed in spring drills...Originally signed with Boise State in February 2002.
Taylor Tharp (6-2, 206,
(2006)Backup quarterback for the Broncos...Completed 11-of-13 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown...Had a quarterback rating of 151.48.
(2005)Backup quarterback for the Broncos...Played in eight games...Completed 21-of-37 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown...Helped rally Boise State to a 70-35 win over Idaho going 4-of-8 for 75 yards and touchdown in relief of starter Jared Zabransky.
(2004) Backup quarterback for the Broncos...
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos.
Dan Gore (6-5, 296,
(2006) Second on the depth chart at right tackle after moving from the defensive line during fall camp...
(2005) Backup defensive tackle for the Broncos...Finished with
three tackles...Had tackles against
(2004) Backup defensive tackle for the Broncos...Finished with
three tackles...Had one each against
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos.
Sherm Blaser (6-3, 240,
Blaser looks to be back strong and will see a lot of action at tight end this fall.
(2006) redshirted after a foot injury.
(2004) Backup tight end for the Broncos who saw significant playing time...Finished with four catches for 65 yards.
(2003) One of three Broncos who played as a true
freshman...Finished with one catch for five yards against
Mike Altieri (5-11, 224,
(2005) Special teams player and backup linebacker for the Broncos...Finished with 11 tackles, including seven solo, and a tackle for loss.
(2004) Special teams player and backup linebacker for the Broncos finishing with one tackle...
(2003) Redshirted for the Broncos.
Jeff Biedermann came in at 6-3, 290 and is close to that now at 293 pounds. He started his Bronco career on the defensive line, playing in five games as a freshman (with two tackles), then redshirted after a move to center and is currently the backup offensive guard.
Several other players left the team well before their four years were up. Ashlei Nyong-Dunham, Duran Cooley, Quincy Lever, Brett Ralph, Dallas Bernstine and Anthony Scott either did not play at all or left early. It is likely this group that increased recruiting concentration on academics, character and the team player mentality. Had all of the above been here for four years, the 2003 class would have benefited greatly. As it turned out, their places were quickly snapped up by subsequent recruiting classes.
In summary, the 2003 class, while outstanding, still has
much to prove to top the 2002 class. Hall,
Alexander, Quinton Jones, Lau, James, Naanee, Zabransky, Browning, Dominguez, Guerrero,
Mike G. Williams—that class is going to be tough to beat. There are eight players on NFL rosters from
that list. The '02 class was largely
responsible for delivering two undefeated regular seasons in three years and
The 2003 recruiting class already has four pros from the group—Schouman, Bady, Christopher and Bean. But that's a long ways from eight. However, if you're impressed by the 2007 Bronco offensive line, the '03 class deserves a good deal of the credit with three of the five starters and four of the top eight. Williams' hard-nosed Fiesta Bowl play should continue into this fall on the defensive line. Blaser and Putnam will be keys to the tight end picture this year. Bean will once again be a special teams demon and a hard-hitting linebacker. Smith has a shot at starting but in any case, will be a huge contributor in the Bronco secondary. Tharp, meanwhile, is in a battle for the honor of becoming the new Bronco signal-caller this year.
It is going to take an incredible 2007 campaign for this class to match the one before it. When your class is diminished by players leaving or being dismissed from the team, the overall quality is decreased. The ones who have stayed are going for their fourth WAC Championship rings and already own Fiesta Bowl rings and memories. The question going into this fall is: can the 2003 class close the deal?