George Tarlas

Borah High graduate George Tarlas runs down the field for Weber State during an FCS playoff game against Kennesaw State on Dec. 7, 2019.

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BOISE — Wednesday’s early signing period actually kicked off Tuesday afternoon for Andy Avalos in the Boise State football team, with Australian punter James Ferguson-Reynolds signing his National Letter of Intent at 1 p.m. MST, which was 7 a.m. Wednesday in his hometown of Geelong, Australia.

By the time Hawaiian safety Keenan McCaddy signed his letter 21 hours later, the Broncos had 22 signed to their class of 2022.

The 22 players are the most signed by Boise State on the first day of the early signing period since it began in 2017. The first year, the Broncos signed 19 players on the first day. In each of the last three years, they signed 15. The class includes 10 offensive players, 11 on the defensive side of the ball and one on special teams. It also turned out to be a pretty efficient recruiting effort.

“We only offered 73 guys over the course of the year up to this point, and we’re able to sign roughly 30% of those in the early signing period,” Avalos said. “We want to continue to identify the needs, of course. That’s what recruiting is about, building a team.”

Boise State filled its need up front, on both sides of the ball, with the signing class including five offensive linemen and nine players who will play in the front seven of the defense.

“That was a huge point of emphasis coming in, especially returning a lot of guys in the secondary,” defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said about the additions to the defensive front. “We’re always looking at the tape, always looking at the intangibles, but once you find those guys, it’s who fits this place from a mentality standpoint. I believe we found those guys.”

Among those guys is an EDGE rusher who local high school football fans are familiar with. Former Borah High standout George Tarlas, a transfer from Weber State, signed Wednesday, one day after committing to the Broncos. But first Tarlas, who is originally from Greece, pulled a prank on the Boise State coaches.

During a recruiting visit with Avalos, Danielson, defensive line coach Frank Maile and EDGE coach Stacy Collins, Danielson asked Tarlas where the Broncos stood. With a straight face, Tarlas told them that he was probably going to go to a larger school and it probably wouldn’t work out with Boise State. After a few tense moments, Tarlas’s wife, Brittney, was unable to hold in her laugh, revealing the prank.

“I just had barely ordered a chocolate cake, it’s getting prepped, it’s coming and he tells us he wants to go to a big school, to go to the NFL,” Maile said. “I was like ‘This is going to get awkward now. I’ll be eating this cake and you just told us you aren’t coming.’ He quickly told us he was kidding and everyone started laughing. But I was like ‘Don’t make this awkward now. Nothing’s ever ruined chocolate cake, but you might do it now.’”

Tarlas, a three-time All-Big Sky Conference selection, will have one year of eligibility remaining. During his Weber State career, he had 117 tackles with 17 sacks to go with two interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

“I had a Big Sky coach text me last night to thank me for getting him out of the league, because they hadn’t blocked him in three years,” Collins said. “With his physicality, his maturity, you’ve seen him do it on Saturdays, he’s going to be an instant impact. It’s always nice to get a local guy to come back.”

Joining Tarlas on the defensive line will be edge rusher Jayden Virgin, from San Diego, Deven Wright, a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, JJ Talo from Kerns, Utah, Braxton Fely, from Orem, Utah, and Cortez Hogans, a transfer from Snow College, which played in the NJCAA championship game this season.

The linebacking group is led by Dishawn Misa, who with a four-star 247 composite ranking, is the highest rated player in the class. ESPN ranks the Tacoma, Washington, native as the No. 5 inside linebacker in the nation. He picked Boise State over UCLA, Utah and Colorado.

“He just loves football,” said Danielson, who will be his position coach. “He’s not really huge into the recruiting process, he got tons of offers, but wanted to find the right fit for him and his family. He believes he has and we believe he’s just the perfect fit for this place. He’s going to come in here and push the competition in that room.”

Boise State also added California linebackers Gavin Hambrick and Jake Ripp and had two additions in the defensive backfield, McCaddy and Dionte Thornton, from Carson, California.

Offensively, the Broncos added quarterback Maddux Madsen, from American Fork, Utah. Madsen committed to the Broncos in July, shortly after Katin Houser decommitted and committed to Michigan State.

“Quarterback recruiting is never going to be smooth,” offensive coordinator Tim Plough said. “It’s different from any other position, because you got to get into it so early. For us to be caught in the spot we were, we were always aware of Maddux and knew about what he was and what he was capable of. Then he came to campus and did a camp and when we saw him perform live at the camp, you stopped thinking about his height and started noticing his heart and what makes him a special player.”

But half of the offensive players in this class come on the offensive line. After Boise State struggled at times this year with that position, the Broncos bring in five linemen.

The class is highlighted by Washington State transfer Cade Beresford, who started eight games at right tackle for the Cougars this season. His brother Jack, who was a freshman defensive lineman for Washington State, also has announced his commitment to transfer to Boise State, but he didn’t sign Wednesday.

Other linemen signed by the Broncos include Roger Carreon, who 247Sports ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in New Mexico, Kage Casey, who 247Sports ranked the No. 7 recruit in Oregon, Hall Schmidt out of Gig Harbor, Washington and Tyson Molio’o, who attended St. John’s Bosco High in California, the same school as running back George Holani.

“Sometimes the deck gets thrown around and we just need guys to get through practice to be able to bang up and have human bags,” offensive line coach Tim Keane said. “But we recruited each of these guys because we feel like we’re going to be able to add value not only to the O-Linemen, but the program in general.”

Running back Ashton Jeanty, who ran for 1,843 yards and had 810 receiving yards this season for Lone Star High in Frisco, Texas, also signed on Wednesday.

“His versatility, the way he runs the ball, is explosive,” running backs coach Winston Venable said. “He has great lateral quickness, is able to make guys miss. There’s so many things that guy does well. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can line up at receiver. He really fits the bill as far as being the versatile running back we’re looking for.”

Boise State also signed Austin Terry, a tight end from Tumwater, Washington, as well as wide receivers Zamondre Merriweather, from Valencia, California, and Prince Strachan, a native of The Bahamas, who did not start playing football until moving to Florida in 2019.

Boise State coaches think they found a hidden gem in Strachan, who was not ranked by any of the major recruiting websites. They feared the secret might have gotten out in late November when a 52-yard touchdown reception by Strachan was featured on the “You Got Mossed” segment of ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. But the Broncos were still able to land the receiver.

“It was a wild last week or two, trying to make sure we could hang on,” said Plough. “Once he went viral like that, it was like ‘oh gosh.’ But the connections and relationships we had made early on, that’s what got us to the end with him. He’s a guy that cares about family and being somewhere where people are going to care about him.”

Ferguson-Reynolds signed Tuesday afternoon, becoming the third Australian that Collins, who is the special teams coordinator, said he has signed during his coaching career. He played Australian Rules Football before turning his attention to American football late in 2020.

“The nice thing, as you go through the rugby style, is you’re able to change the launch point,” said Collins. “Anytime you’re punting the football, the more you can change the launch point, the more you can cause problems. It’s harder to block a punt.”

The early signing period will run through Friday, with the regular signing period scheduled to begin on Feb. 2.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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