Riley Whimpey

Boise State linebacker Riley Whimpey (44) wraps up UConn running back Zavier Scott (10) during a game at Albertsons Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018.

The Idaho Press is counting down the 20 most important players for the Boise State football team in 2019. Next up on our list is No. 14, Riley Whimpey:

Not many could have stepped in for a first-round NFL Draft pick and held their own at linebacker as a sophomore.

Riley Whimpey was doing just that until an ACL injury ended his 2018 season early.

The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Whimpey played in nine games for the Broncos last season and was leading the team with 55 tackles when he went down with the season-ending knee injury against BYU. Whimpey, playing in place of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, had 3.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery.

He was improving as the year went on and was a force for the Broncos on defense before the injury. Now he’ll be counted on to return to form for a Boise State defense that lost three linebackers since the end of last season in Tyson Maeva (dismissed), Desmond Williams (transfer) and Will Heffner (transfer).

It’s unclear, though, if Whimpey will be back by the start of the season. He missed spring practices while rehabbing and most ACL tears take 9-12 months to return from. He suffered the injury on Nov. 3 of last year, meaning he would be less than nine months removed when fall camp starts around Aug. 1. The opener against Florida State on Aug. 31 would be just short of 10 months.

Linebacker will be a key position for the Broncos this season, especially with the departure of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Andy Avalos. Maeva is also a loss as he was third on the team in tackles last season, but was shown the door for a violation of team rules.

The Broncos don’t have a ton of proven depth at linebacker. A healthy and productive Whimpey will be a big key for them this fall.Boise State’s 20 Most Important Players in 2019{/span}

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No. 20: Chase Hatada

No. 19: DeAndre Pierce

No. 18: Octavius Evans

No. 17: John Bates

No. 16: Kekaula Kaniho

No. 15: Joel Velazquez

{span class=”print_trim”}No. 14: Riley Whimpey

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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