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A pair of former Boise State players will compete to carry the ball for the Atlanta Falcons this season.
The Falcons have moved two-time Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year Avery Williams from cornerback to running back, the team announced Thursday.
Atlanta also signed former Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols on Thursday. The 26-year-old spent last season with the Tennessee Titans, and the Falcons are the fourth NFL franchise he has played for.
McNichols was picked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was released before the season began, and he ended up spending his rookie year with the San Francisco 49ers before signing with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. He spent the 2019 offseason with the Jacksonville Jaguars and joined Tennessee in 2020.
The past two seasons with the Titans were the most productive of McNichols’ pro career. In 2020, he posted 204 rushing yards and a touchdown and caught 12 passes for 55 yards. He finished last season with 156 rushing yards and caught a career-high 28 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.
In three seasons at Boise State (2014-16), McNichols racked up 3,205 yards and 44 touchdowns on the ground and caught 103 passes for 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Williams posted 1,175 rushing yards as a senior at JSerra Catholic High in California, and he walked on at Boise State as a running back in 2016. He moved to cornerback the following season, but Williams excelled as a punt and kick returner in college.
He was named a consensus All-American after returning two punts, a kickoff and a blocked punt for touchdowns in 2020. Williams finished his college career with nine special teams touchdowns, and the Falcons picked him in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Falcons used Williams primarily as a return man last season. He averaged 21.3 yards per kick return and 7.6 yards per punt return and he’ll continue in both roles this year, according to a press release from Atlanta. He’ll also compete for carries in a backfield that doesn’t have a clear No. 1 running back.
Former wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson led the Falcons with 618 yards and six touchdowns on the ground last season. He’s back and the Falcons signed former Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams in March, but neither is considered a top-end starter. Qadree Ollison, Caleb Huntley and former BYU running back Tyler Allgeier are also on the roster.