By Stubbs Zanelli / @StubbsZanelli
Let’s play some word association.
When someone says Boise State football, what comes to mind? It’s more than likely either their now legendary blue turf field or their upset win over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl. What doesn’t come to mind is the fact that Boise could be in the process of cementing themselves as the newest Running Back University.
Yes. You read that right. Boise State is becoming the new RB-U and Jeremy McNichols is poised to add to that reputation.
McNichols, or ‘The Weapon’, as the Boise faithful called him, is going to hear his name called sometime this weekend in the NFL Draft, more than likely between rounds four and seven. But don’t let his day three selection fool you, McNichols has all the skills to join his Bronco predecessors as a possible Pro Bowl selection someday.
There will be many who doubt him, however. This is nothing new for a Boise State running back to have to deal with. There is the obvious lack of competition in the conference he competed in, his size or apparent absence of track star speed. However, these are things that were once said about Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi.
Martin was too small and lacked breakaway speed. All he did was rush for the second most yards in the NFL in 2015 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ajayi had his detriments too, his knees wouldn’t last and he fumbled the ball too much to be a true RB1 in the league. He ended last season fourth in the NFL in rushing yards and participating in the Pro Bowl on behalf of the Miami Dolphins. Per 888sport, both teams are now good bets to reach the playoffs in 2017.
But none of these “deficiencies” kept McNichols from embarrassing his peers during his junior and senior campaigns. Scoring 53 total touchdowns in his final two seasons at Boise State, saying he had a nose for the end zone is quite an undersell. Add in his over 3,000 yards rushing and nearly 1,000 yards receiving in those two years combined, you begin to understand why some are confident 'The Weapon' is going to prove the doubters wrong at the next level.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com describes McNichols as a running back who can “contribute on all three downs and could find early work in a committee before challenging for starter reps." Sound like anyone familiar? Jay Ajayi, perhaps?
Give Ajayi credit, he sounds more convinced than anyone that McNichols is primed and ready to contribute on football's biggest stage and he's down to help him get over the hump. Per Dave Southorn of the Idaho Statesman:
“For starters, he’s a hungry kid. That desire, regardless of wherever you get drafted, it’s going to propel you in the league. He has that fire inside to be great. His skill set, he showed it this last season. He was the workhorse, you could count on him catching the ball. Early in his career he did special teams. It won’t be hard for him to find a niche. Really, he’s got the skills, and being his brother, I’m trying to help with all the off-field stuff, the politics, the attention, just trying to educate him on those things so he doesn’t make mistakes I’ve seen others have made and that I’ve made.”
Nothing will be handed to McNichols, however. He will have to earn his keep in the league. You may see him on special teams and he may not be starting on Week One, but health permitting, you’re eventually going to see McNichols toting the rock for an NFL franchise. And just like with Martin and Ajayi before him, people are going to wonder where this “diamond in the rough” came from.
He came from the place where sometimes the field is more notable than those playing on it. The place where hook-and-ladders, statue of liberties and upset victories overshadow even the brightest of stars. He came from Boise State University, or as it should be known as, Running Back U.
A writer and politican of all things college football and college basketball from Boise State to UCA and beyond.