A first look at USC transfer Malachi Nelson at the Spring Game

Photo by Brian Myrick / Idaho Press

We finally got our first taste of Bronco football since 2023 at the Spring scrimmage game on April 20.

This year, 7,137 fans came and saw the annual offense vs. defense contest on The Blue, and boy was this a good year to watch.

We didn’t just see Bronco football for the first time since the LA Bowl, we got to see how some of the new offseason additions mesh with the team.

Among the many new recruits, transfers and walk-ons, there was one guy that everyone was looking forward to seeing in a Bronco uniform for the first time: Redshirt freshman quarterback Malachi Nelson.

Nelson transferred from the University of Southern California (USC) late last year and he’s been all the hype and more since he arrived on campus. So is this first look in the public eye a flattering one?

Yes, it is. Nelson had a surprisingly good look to him out on the field during his snaps, and blue and orange suits him well.

“You gotta think he’s the only guy in that quarterback room that had to learn a completely new offense,” head coach Spencer Danielson said. “From where he’s at right now in the spring game from where he was at on practice one, there’s been a lot of growth and development.”

Backing up his coach’s words, Nelson was the most productive quarterback as he completed 9-16 passes for 137 yards and had the only touchdown pass of the day. 

The USC transfer’s style of play is more on the gunslinger side of things. He aired out 20 plus yard passes on multiple occasions, extended plays outside of the pocket, and completed a couple of fifty-fifty balls to receivers like sophomore Prince Strachan, who is also coming into his own.

“In the offseason camp he was working … he’s in the meeting rooms all the time getting extra film in … Once he got [the playbook] down, he was on the money,” Strachan said. “He’s fitting in for sure.” 

Overall, Nelson was the most confident quarterback in the game, and we can only wonder what a competition between him and redshirt sophomore quarterback Maddux Madsen (who didn’t suit up due to last fall’s injury) may look like once fall camp starts up.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the next best one was redshirt junior Colt Fulton, who threw 7-12 and 50 yards. After him, we got to see redshirt freshman CJ Tiller back in action, however he didn’t see many passing opportunities, especially once the defense locked in.

In terms of the defense’s performance today, it was immaculate. The defense started the day shaky, giving up a  20-3 advantage, but they bounced back and shut down every drive in the final three quarters.

Redshirt senior edge rusher Gabe Hunter had the highlight play on defense, where he intercepted CJ Tiller in the first quarter.

“Gabe Hunter’s had a really good spring,” Danielson said. “We trust Gabe, and it’s been cool to see him grow and develop. You track back to 2022, I mean he made a big time pick to win the game against Utah State right here on the blue.”

On top of that, the defense as a whole got after the quarterback in the backfield. The edge rushers accumulated six sacks, which is a lot for a normal game, but when you consider the fact that the quarters were only seven minutes, it’s beyond impressive.

“We’re a defensive school, we feel like, so we got dang near the whole defense returning and our confidence is high as a group,” redshirt junior Andrew Simpson said. “That’s the kind of mentality we’re going into this season with, and we know that we can have a really elite defense.”

Overall, they definitely looked elite, as they stopped the offense on 12 of 16 drives, and accumulated 47 points in the process, to the offense’s 29.

With the expansion of the College Football Playoff, there seems to be more urgency in the building for Boise State football. 

Looking forward, Bronco football will have some time off. Players will go home to see their families, take a break, but it’s clear to the team that this is no vacation from football.

“In a blink we’ll be playing our first game, so for me I’m just gonna go back home and train the hardest I’ve probably ever trained,” Simpson said. “We know to go somewhere we’ve never been, we’ve got to do things that we haven’t done before.”

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