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NCAA waiving eligibility last year because of COVID gives Boise State more experience

Posted at 3:15 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 17:19:55-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise State Broncos continue their preparation as they get ready to play their first game at Central Florida next Thursday, September 2.

That game will be televised on ESPN at 5:00 p.m. as fans will get their first official look at the program under new head coach Andy Avalos, but the team will look pretty familiar to fans.

Because of how the pandemic impacted college football last year the NCAA waived eligibility and allowed seniors from a year ago to return, Boise State brings back seven of those players including Nickel Kekaula Kaniho who has started in the secondary since he was a freshman, that was back in 2017.

"When you talk about game day experience and having those guys, Kekaula for example has played 40 plus games," said new Boise State safety coach Kane Ioane. "That type of experience from a guy you know is going to be ready on game day is invaluable."

The other players returning include linebacker Riley Whimpey a defensive captain, Joel Vasquez the punter, Jake Stetz and Uzo Osuji on the offensive line and wide receivers Octavius Evans and C.T. Thomas.

"I’m not chasing stats, I’m not chasing individual things honors and stuff like that," said Thomas. "I just really came back because a lot of us seniors feel we have unfinished business and I don’t like the way we went out last year."

Thomas has grown up at Boise State too and his two-year-old daughter is proof of that, but he has also endured a tough start to fall camp when he tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time, and that test came back the day after Thomas got vaccinated.

"I told them to use me as an example, I can’t tell anybody to get the vaccine but you don’t want to miss a whole another week," said Thomas. "I just put those things in perspective and I think we are moving to a higher number of percentages of people who are vaccinated."

That is important this year because the Mountain West announced that they won't reschedule or postpone games because of the coronavirus, if a university can't field a team they will have to forfeit plus missing key guys in a given week could also put teams at a competitive disadvantage.

However, Thomas is showing leadership and that's what this new coaching staff expects to get out of these super seniors who are back to give it another go at Boise State and to help this new coaching staff get this program off to a good start.

"I think that is a huge advantage," said Ioane. "We can really point to these older guys and say hey young freshman when you come in watch how these guys handle their business watch their purpose, prep and development."

As for on the field, who knows if this will translate to an advantage because every team in college football was able to bring back players from a year ago.

The two notable players the broncos lost were Avery Williams and John Bates who are both in the NFL.