Has Andy Avalos Turned Boise State’s Blue Turf Into Linebacker U?

Is blue starting to become an attractive color for linebackers and edge rushers? Andy Avalos and Boise State have won over some Power Five recruits.

Linebackers targeted by Power Five programs are starting to buy into the concept of “bleeding blue” by pivoting over to Group of Five power, Boise State, instead. Already in the last two recruiting cycles (including the 2024 one), three linebackers and one versatile defender who were being recruited by Power Five schools have instead picked the Broncos.

How is it that the famed blue turf is suddenly attractive to linebackers who have big-time powers pursuing them? And are signs indicating this is the new “Linebacker U” and becoming the new destination for defenders? It starts with a rare advantage the Broncos have in attracting LBs, including ones who can rush.

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Boise State’s Andy Avalos’ Linebacking Connection

In most instances, a recruit often commits to a four-year university once they feel relatable to their future coach. It has proven fruitful for coaches who formerly played the game in recruiting their specific position of expertise.

Head coaches who once played quarterback at a high level will likely appeal to blue-chip QBs, as the latter will see a connection brewing. The same instances apply to coaches who were once cornerbacks, as they’ll appeal to natural CBs while on visits.

But for Andy Avalos, here’s the advantage he has in persuading fast-rising young linebackers on the recruiting trail: He’s a rare head coach with a linebacker past.

Avalos spent 2000-2004 manning outside linebacker and working his way to captain. So advantage one: He has an edge in relating more to a highly-touted LB prospect in his attempt to sway him on the recruiting trail. Advantage two: One look at who Avalos has coached and it becomes another strong selling point to choose him and the blue turf.

Here are the notable linebackers, including from his previous stop at Oregon that he’s been able to help mold:

  • Troy Dye, Oregon, fourth-rounder to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2020 NFL Draft
  • Curtis Weaver, Boise State, fifth-rounder to the Miami Dolphins in the 2020 NFL Draft; played a hybrid edge/OLB position under Avalos
  • Tanner Vallejo, Boise State, sixth-rounder to the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft
  • Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State, first-rounder to the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft

Avalos additionally got the chance to coach up future top-five pick Kayvon Thibodeaux briefly while in Eugene. His LB past, plus LB production with his aforementioned past pupils, in all likelihood has played a role in pilfering these talents the last two cycles.

Who Avalos & Boise State Have Lured In and Who They Beat Out

The list of players that Avalos and Boise State have plucked away after from Power Five teams is as good as any.

Chase Martin, Class of 2023, Thousand Oaks High

Martin wasn’t just a top 100 California prospect, but the three-star became one of the hottest late-blooming prospects his senior year as the Lancers were putting together an undefeated regular season. This old school hit near the goal line was one reason why Martin became coveted.

But Martin had Baylor (whose head coach Dave Aranda attended college near Martin’s high school at Cal Lutheran) and Washington State make a late beeline for him. In the end, a December 9, 2022 visit to Boise sealed it for the three-star LB.

Wyatt Milkovic, C/O 2023, Basha High of Chandler (Arizona)

Milkovic was the state of Arizona’s No. 19 overall prospect. Avalos and Boise State first got on him on April 2, 2022. He was described as a defender who was “as physical as they come” by renown recruiting expert Tom Lemming. But he was also responsible for Basha pulling off the upset over the state’s No. 1 Chandler High with this game-sealing pick.

Milkovic had a trio of Power 5 schools in Iowa State, Colorado, and California on him before Boise’s official offer. Of the three, the latter school had former high school state champion head coach from Arizona Charlie Ragle running point on his recruitment. But Avalos and BSU ended up snatching the prized LB.

Clay Martineau, C/O 2024, Oregon City

Now, we get to Avalos and BSU’s latest prized verbal commitment—the state of Oregon’s No. 5 overall prospect, according to 247Sports.

Martineau ended up turning down a sudden charge from northern Pac-12 universities Washington and Washington State, as both offered immediately after the Northwest Showcase held at Western Oregon University, according to 247Sports National Recruiting Director Brandon Huffman. Boise State also took advantage of the fact that in-state P5 programs Oregon and Oregon State didn’t offer Martineau. Defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson was also instrumental in luring in Martineau. Furthermore, Martineau shared this quote with Ron Counts of the Idaho Statesman:

“If I want to be a linebacker, Boise State felt like the place to be.”

Roman Caywood, C/O 2024, Corner Canyon of Draper (Utah.)

While not a natural linebacker and listed as an “ATH” for athlete, the 6’4″, 220-pound Caywood counts as a prized defensive verbal commit for Avalos and BSU.

And Caywood made his choice following a June 16 visit to Washington State according to 247Sports’ Blair Angulo, but Boise ended up winning out. Caywood cited Avalos’s past history with working with edge rushers as what helped persuade him to choose the blue.

Could More Top-Tier Recruits Follow to Boise State?

Avalos and BSU may not be through just yet.

Three-star LB from Chapparal in Temecula, California, Blake Lowe was offered on June 6. Lowe checks in as California’s No. 100 overall prospect.

Le’Kell McGowan is another being targeted by Boise State. The edge from Clear Falls High in League City, Texas, visited the Broncos on June 19. Washington State and Big 12 newcomer BYU are two of his other offers.

Regardless, Avalos has helped make blue look like an appealing color for prospects who once played his position.

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