Boise State football coach Andy Avalos found himself in a unique position after taking over at his alma mater this year.
Most new coaches inherit at least a portion of a recruiting class and have to make some tough decisions about which existing commitments to honor. No players were verbally committed to the 2022 class when Avalos was hired in January — although the staff did have to make some decisions about previous scholarship offers — which meant he got to shape it how he wanted.
The result is a recruiting class that is ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West and No. 54 nationally by 247Sports. That’s 13 spots higher than the Broncos’ 2021 class, which ranked No. 67 in the country. With a couple of additions, Boise State could be looking at a top-50 class when the dust settles after early signing day next Wednesday, according to 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman.
“If you look at Boise State’s class, there’s a number of guys with Power Five offers,” Huffman told the Statesman. “Boise State has really carved out a niche over the years of beating Pac-12 schools for a lot of these players. If you look at this class, there is a number of guys that were coveted by Power Five programs, but they found that right fit at Boise State.”
Recruits found that fit partially because of Avalos’ personal approach and partly because of his reverence of Boise State’s history and tradition, Huffman said.
“If you look at the guys in this class, they were 2 or 3 years old when Boise State beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl,” Huffman said. “In their lifetime, they’ve only known Boise State to be a premier program. I think he has done a good job of not just focusing on one or two guys that made it to the NFL, but talking about the last 20 years of Boise State football.”
Most of the 17 verbally committed players in Boise State’s 2022 class are expected to sign Wednesday. Huffman sat down with the Statesman this week to preview the class.
What impact has former NFL player Jeron Johnson had on the recruiting trail since Boise State hired him to coach cornerbacks in January?
I think he’s done a great job in Southern California, where he’s from. The commit Boise State was able to get early on from Dionte Thornton, a top 100 safety out of Lawndale High School, was big. He’s a big, physical, athletic kid who really had some Pac-12 schools kicking the tires during the summer. Boise State’s biggest fish left in this class is four-star linebacker Dishawn Misa.
Where does Jeron Johnson come in? Before he came over to Boise State, he was the defensive backs coach at Eastside Catholic High school in Washington — a program that has won four of the last six 3A state titles in Washington. Misa spent a year on the defense Johnson was helping coach and has helped win two titles himself. There was no state playoffs his junior year (because of COVID-19), and then he helped his team win the league and make it to the state semifinals as a senior.
With Johnson having connections at Eastside Catholic, he’s able to carve out another familiar face. One of the reasons Misa is so interested in Boise State is that Avalos offered him at Oregon, offered him at Boise State and then took over the recruitment himself. Now you’ve added Johnson in there. Those connections Johnson has not just in California, but in Washington as well, are really paying huge dividends.
— Dionte Thornton (@DionteThornton) December 8, 2021
What can you tell us about Misa and where he’s leaning toward signing?
Misa is an interesting player because he started as a freshman at Eastside Catholic, but he was overshadowed. On that same defense, the No. 1 2021 player in the country, JT Tuimoloau, was a sophomore. So Misa was always overshadowed on his own defense. Tuimoloau ended up being the consensus No. 1 in the country by 247Sports. You had Sam Adams II, who is now at the University of Washington. You had Ayden Hector, who is at Washington State. On that defense, you also had Hayden Harris, who is now at UCLA. So Misa never was the star of that defense, but he was one of the most steady players year after year. He is one of the best open-field tacklers that I’ve seen in the state of Washington in three years. He just never got the attention.
He’s a soft-spoken kid. He doesn’t really have a huge social media presence. He’s not a guy you’re going to see tweeting a bunch of inspirational quotes from Drake every Friday before a game. He just goes out and plays ball. He had a shoulder injury that kind of slowed him down in the spring of his sophomore year and that carried into his junior year where he was banged up with a knee injury. He came back his senior year and was healthy as he’s ever been, and he looked the best he ever has.
His decision is down to Utah, Colorado, Boise State and UCLA. He has visited Boise State, Utah and Colorado. He’s supposed to visit UCLA soon and I anticipate he’ll make a decision by early signing day. He’s already committed to play in the 2022 Polynesian Bowl. I put a crystal ball prediction in on Boise State for Misa, and I still like the Broncos’ chances to get him.
Pass rusher Jayden Virgin recently earned a fourth star from 247Sports. What should Boise State fans know about him?
A year ago this week, I was down in San Diego and had a chance to go see him play at a camp, and he had no offers at the time. I remember watching him work out as a tight end and thinking this kid is an elite pass catcher. It took him a couple months to get any offers and I was starting to doubt myself, but then I saw him at the Sacramento State camp and he just went off and got seven or eight offers. Some schools like him as a linebacker or edge guy. Others like him at tight end. But what they all agree on is he’s a great football player.
The most productive dual threat running back in North Texas is Landry Award finalist @AshtonJeanty2 of @LSHSRangers — @BroncoSportsFB commit rushed for 1843 yards & 31 TDs with 42 receptions, 803y & 10 more TDs — Landry Award 6:30 tonight TXA 21 pic.twitter.com/GuLzm7LKmz
— Bill Jones (@CBS11BillJones) December 6, 2021
Running back Ashton Jeanty was also bumped up to a four-star recruit. How does he compare to Boise State running back George Holani?
He’s a completely different back than Holani, who is a little bit more of the thunder. Jeanty is the lightning. He’s 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds. He’s a well put together kid, but he’s more dynamic. Where Holani is going to be your workhorse back, Jeanty becomes your change-of-pace back, but a guy who I think can still get 10 to 15 carries a game.
He’s going to be more of an open-field guy — the guy where when you need a big chunk play, he’ll get you 12 or 15 yards. He’s not going to be the guy in the fourth quarter that you’re going to use to wear down the defense, but you’re going to use him to spark the big play. You see the production he’s had this year in the state of Texas, playing really good football. He’s got good speed. I think by the summer he’ll be a sub 11-second guy (in the 100-meter dash).
After a great phone call with @VintagePlough @AABroncoHC I’m blessed to receive an offer from Boise State University! With the being said I am 100% COMMITTED. I wanna thank everyone that has helped me get to this point. @coachfrankmaile #CavemanFB #PALA #OFFA #BL22DBLUE pic.twitter.com/uCmMdSmW9x
— Maddux Madsen (@MadduxMadsen) July 6, 2021
What stands out about quarterback Maddux Madsen?
When you look at Madsen, you don’t look at him like he’s going to go out and ruin your season and destroy dreams. So what did he do this year? He went out and he ruined some seasons and destroyed some dreams. Corner Canyon (High School) has been a hotbed in Utah the past few years, but he was one of the most difficult players for them to figure out how to stop. He’s not the biggest and he doesn’t have the biggest arm, but the kid is a winner. The kid has got something to him that allows him to play with confidence like he’s 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. He just goes out there and makes plays, and what I love about him is that confidence.
Linebacker Kaeo Akana is being courted by Power Five teams. Will he sign?
What I love about players from Hawaii is that when they come over, they have an edge to their game. We’re seeing it more and more with these Hawaiian players the last couple years because they didn’t play football at all in the 2020-2021 school year, so there’s an even bigger hunger for these guys to play and an even bigger chip on their shoulder. When you watch Akana play, you can see it.
— Kip Akana (@KipAkana) November 29, 2021
What I like about him is he has positional versatility. ... He can play any linebacker spot. If they need him to drop back in coverage, he can do that. If they need him to stop the run or get into the backfield, he can do that, too.
He’s still weighing his options on where to sign. I look at it like if a school like Utah is recruiting a linebacker, that’s a guy I want to buy stock in, because Utah does such a great job of identifying guys and then developing them. Utah and Nebraska are both trying to flip him from Boise State, but that shows you the respect level for Boise State as a program.
Who is an unheralded recruit that could stand out in this class?
A guy that I really like in this class, who I don’t think gets enough attention, is tight end Austin Terry out of Tumwater High School. His teammate Ryan Otton is an All-American and the Otton name is big at Tumwater, but Terry has been the other tight end opposite Otton, and he’s been part of the reason that they’re the favorite to win another state championship. They won a state title two years ago when Terry was a sophomore, and they were undefeated and the No. 1 team in 2A in the shortened spring season.
He can play either side of the ball, and he’s a kid who’s just a football player. He’s been a big part of why Tumwater is the premier 2A team in Washington the past few years. I think he’ll be able to soar even more at Boise State because they’ll utilize his pass-catching skills better.
How much do you expect Boise State to hit the JUCO ranks and transfer portal?
I think you’re seeing more of a reliance on JUCOs, but you’re also going to see more of a reliance on the transfer portal. I think Boise State is going to bring in four or five guys from the portal that we don’t even know about right now.
But they are hitting the JUCO ranks. One of their most recent commits, Cortez Hogans, is a kid that plays at one of the top JUCOs in the country (Snow College). He’s already used to the region and the weather, and I love guys that wear goggles. He’s got a look like “don’t take me serious because I have my glasses or goggles on,” and then he goes out and rips offensive linemen’s heads off as he’s getting to the quarterback. The expectation is for him to come in and be able to play right away. When you’re recruiting JUCOs, you’re not recruiting from a depth standpoint. You’re recruiting from an instant impact standpoint.
BOISE STATE 2022 RECRUITING CLASS
CB Dionte Thornton, 6-3, 185, Lawndale (California) High
OT Kage Casey, 6-6, 250, Clackamas (Oregon) High
TE Austin Terry, 6-5, 230, Tumwater High (Olympia, Washington)
LB Kaeo Akana, 6-3, 205, Theodore Roosevelt High (Honolulu, Hawaii)
WR Keenan McCaddy, 6-4, 180, Moanalua High (Honolulu, Hawaii)
OT Roger Carreon, 6-5, 295, Jal (New Mexico) High
DL JJ Talo, 6-3, 250, Kearns High (Salt Lake City, Utah)
LB Jayden Virgin, 6-3, 220, Mt. Carmel High (San Diego, California)
OT Hall Schmidt, 6-7, 300, Peninsula (Washington) High
WR Zamondre Merriweather, 6-2, 200, Valencia (California) High
QB Maddux Madsen, 6-0, 185, American Fork (Utah) High
LB Jake Ripp, 6-3, 215, Los Gatos (California) High
LB Gavin Hambrick, 6-2, 220, Apple Valley (California) High
RB Ashton Jeanty, 5-9, 195, Lone Star (Texas) High
P James Ferguson, 6-1, 175, Pro Kick Australia
OT Tyson Molio’o, 6-4, 295, St. John Bosco (Bellfower, California)
DE Cortez Hogans Jr., 6-3, 265, Snow College (Palatine, Illinois)