2013 Boise State football preview: Every position preview, projected depth chart

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2013 Idaho Statesman

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Be sure to grab Sunday’s newspaper for our annual Boise State/college football preview section. The theme this year: speed. It includes a two-page graphic illustrating the mechanics of speed — as broken down by Boise State strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha. There’s also a three-page cover story on Boise State’s philosophy on speed. On the cover: Ebo Makinde.

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Here are my nine position preview blogs, all in one place. At the bottom is my full projected depth chart:

QUARTERBACKS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
16 Joe Southwick, 6-1, 202, R-Sr.
9 Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 202, R-Jr.
8 Nick Patti, 5-10, 196, R-Fr.
15 Ryan Finley, 6-3, 186, Fr.
14 Richard Hoppe, Fr.

Projected depth chart
Quarterback: Southwick, Hedrick, Patti

Storyline: Southwick shook off a rough first two months as a starter to throw nine touchdown passes against no interceptions in the final four games. He also began to use his legs, rushing for season highs of 25 and 39 yards in the last two games. He added a strong spring, led the team through summer player-run practices and has been hot in fall camp. “He’s bigger, but he’s still moving pretty well — maybe even better than he was this time last year,” quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said. “And then really Joe’s consistency has shown. Day in and day out, he’s been pretty crisp.”

Keys to success: Southwick’s improvement in the red zone and on the deep ball should translate into a higher-scoring offense. He struggled in both those areas last year — particularly red-zone passing. Wednesday morning in 7-on-7 drills in the red zone, he was throwing TD passes to all areas of the field like he knew exactly what was going to happen.

Reason for concern: Backup quarterbacks Hedrick and Patti have little experience running the offense in game situations. They’re improving, but there’s still a wide gap between them and Southwick. “Grant has really grown into more and more we’re feeling better about putting him in the game,” Smith said. “… Both those guys we feel are going to be good players here. Both of them we could put in the game and feel confident both those guys can operate some things. Joe, being the starter, can operate probably more.”

Star player: Southwick is the dark horse in the All-Mountain West quarterback race. Despite the bad start, he finished 38th in the nation in pass efficiency last year.

Breakout performer: The Broncos hope they won’t need one. Hedrick has played in special packages that feature his running ability and could do that again.

Newcomer to watch: Finley, the true freshman recruit, has been eased into fall camp because of a shoulder injury — so it’s difficult to know what the Broncos have with him. He’s taken more snaps this week. “We’re just taking our time with that,” Smith said. “We don’t want to rush anything.”

Quotes/notes:

— Patti on his second fall camp: “It slows down a little bit in my second time. It’s just easier to learn the offense and know what you’re doing.”

— Patti on taking nearly every snap in the newcomer practices the first four days: “I was really happy about it. You get really tired. It’s hot, late in the day, when you’re with the second group, but I think it benefited me tremendously. I was really happy I got all those reps. It helped me a lot just getting in a rhythm. You can get kind of like a game-like situation.”

— Patti on his camp goal: “I just want to be able to operate a little bit better. I want to be able to operate, slow it down, be a little more consistent is my thing — consistency was a big thing coming into camp. I wanted to show that I could do it on a consistent basis.”

— Patti on Southwick: “You just try to soak up as much as you can. Joe’s a smart guy. He knows the offense in and out as well as the defenses. He learned from a pretty good guy (Kellen Moore), so you know he soaked up some stuff.”

— Hedrick on being a backup: “It’s tough, sure, but we have a lot of good guys at our position. We know only one can play at a time and Joe has earned the job. It’s up to us to prepare like we are that guy because you never know what will happen. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.”

— Hedrick on competing with Patti: “We’re competitors, but we’re really good friends, too. Sometimes that can get a little hairy, but we draw that line. On the field, we’re competing, but that won’t interfere with our friendship. We’re both busting our tails. … We’re trying to follow in Joe’s footsteps. He’s been a great leader. We’re trying to learn as much as we can from him, the command he has of the offense.”

— Hedrick on what he’s working on: “Just eliminating the stupid, young-guy mistakes. I’m trying to be more of a commander of the offense, something Joe’s so good at, getting guys in the right spots, recognizing defenses, barking stuff out. Being vocal’s been a little tough for me. I’ve been more of a lead-by-example guy. I need to learn to get out of my comfort zone and talk a lot. I know I only have two years left, so I’ve just got to come out here and work hard, but have fun and savor it.”

— Hedrick on his passing: “It just keeps getting better and better. I feel good with where I am, comfortable. It’s been something I’ve been working on a lot. I realize when I get into the game, I’ve mostly been a runner, but I can throw it, believe it or not. I’ve worked hard on the fundamentals, and if I get in there in a passing situation, I’m feeling more confident than ever.”

— Smith on progress by Hedrick and Patti: “Really feel like Grant has command on what we’re trying to do offensively. I think he’s grown in that area. Nick has really improved in his vision — things are kind of slowing down for him.”

TAILBACKS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
23 Derrick Thomas, 6-0, 208, R-Jr.
27 Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 220, R-So.
21 Jack Fields, 5-9, 195, So.
26 Devan Demas, 5-8, 172, R-Fr.
10 Jamel Hart, 5-9, 195, R-Fr.
35 Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 200, R-Fr.
38 Aaron Baltazar, 5-10, 215, Fr.

Projected depth chart
Tailback: Ajayi, Fields/Thomas, Baltazar

Storyline: Sophomore Jay Ajayi, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry as a backup last season, takes over the featured role in the backfield. Despite his youth, he is the longest-tenured tailback on the team and has been pushed into a leadership role. “He did a great job in the offseason really leading the group,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said. “The drills that we needed during the summertime for these guys to progress as a group, he kind of supervised those. As we’ve gotten out here in fall camp, he’s been the guy really trying to keep the younger guys motivated when he’s not practicing and when he’s in, he’s really trying to go out there and lead by example.”

Keys to success: The Broncos will need the young group to step up in three areas that can be troublesome for inexperienced backs — ball security, pass protection and goal-line running. There’s no doubt the group has enough talent to produce big yardage. “I really think that every guy in that backfield, if they’re playing at their very best and can stay healthy, every guy has a chance to be the guy,” coach Chris Petersen said.

Reason for concern: Ajayi is the only tailback who was on the team before August of 2012. If anything happens to him, the Broncos will have as inexperienced of a backfield as any team in the country.

Star player: Ajayi is primed for a breakout year in a backfield that has produced four straight 1,000-yard rushers — a feat accomplished by three different players. “He’s a very humble individual,” Fields said. “He just works hard every day. He helps all the younger guys out with pass protection and things like that.”

Breakout performer: Thomas, the transfer from Butler Community College, is a talented runner who’s used to competing for playing time in a crowded backfield. “Any time you get a junior college guy, they know their time is limited,” Bhonapha said, “and he knows that on that field is where he wants to be. So he takes that focus and the preparation and is going hard 24/7.”

Newcomer to watch: Thomas, of course. But Baltazar could be interesting. He probably is one of the top four tailbacks but if he doesn’t crack the top three, it might not be worth burning his redshirt season. The Broncos have leaned toward using true freshmen, even in a limited role, in recent years. “Aaron is a really smart kid,” Bhonapha said. “He understands the offense for the most part. He’s a true freshman, so he has those mistakes pop up every once in a while, but you talk about a guy who has great savvy out there on the football field. It’s not too big for him so far at practice. I’m really excited to see what the future holds for him.”

Quotes/notes:

— The Broncos’ leading rushers in recent years: Jeremy Avery, 2009 (1,151 yards); Doug Martin, 2010 (1,260 yards); Martin, 2011 (1,299 yards); D.J. Harper, 2012 (1,137 yards).

— The Broncos’ tailbacks averaged 5-foot-10, 190 pounds in 2008. Martin was the heaviest at 200 pounds. This year, they average 5-10, 201. Four players weigh at least 200 pounds — and two of them are freshmen.

— Bhonapha on Fields, who played as a true freshman: “Jack has made a lot of progress since last year. I will tell you this: Him going through the offseason program and the spring and now the summertime has helped him. He’s gotten faster. You can tell he has a little more savvy to him.”

— Petersen on the big backs: “We definitely like big guys at all positions but we’re always into good football players. We’ll take a smaller guy at whatever position if we think he’s good. It’s nice when they’re big and good. They’re harder to tackle — we know that for sure.”

— Petersen on Fields: “He’s one of those guys you’re always rooting for because he is such a great kid. A really good student. He comes from a great family. And he’s tough and a hard worker. Those are the guys you really like to coach.”

— Ajayi: “I definitely think losing weight will add an extra gear in my game and will be better for my knee.”

— Ajayi on the group: “We’re deep. We’re all very talented. We all bring a different style of play to the running back position. I’m excited for all of us to get out there and show what we can do.”

— Thomas: “I get more comfortable every day. The more comfortable you are, the better you play. … Whatever you need me to do, I can do. If I need to get to the end zone, you’ll be surprised how I get there.”

— Thomas on the group: “It’s just a good feeling to be with this group because we’re all starving, we’re hungry. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get where we want to be.”

WIDE RECEIVERS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
17 Geraldo Boldewijn, 6-4, 220, R-Sr.
18 Aaron Burks, 6-3, 205, R-Sr.
34 Kirby Moore, 6-3, 208, R-Sr.
2 Matt Miller, 6-3, 222, R-Jr.
81 Dallas Burroughs, 5-8, 171, Jr.
20 Terrell Johnson, 5-9, 174, Jr.
14 Troy Ware, 6-2, 188, R-So.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 157, So.
19 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 178, R-Fr.
80 D.J. Dean, 6-0, 187, Fr.
83 Tanner Shipley, 6-0, 182, Fr.
82 Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 174, Fr.
39 David McKinzie, 6-0, 165, Fr.

Projected depth chart
X receiver: Miller, Burks
Z receiver: Boldewijn, Burroughs
Slot receiver: Moore, Williams-Rhodes

Storyline: The Broncos’ receiving corps is one of the deepest, most experienced groups on the team. The top six includes three seniors, two juniors and a sophomore. “I remember when I first got here with those same players, they were all the unknown products,” said offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Robert Prince, who joined the program in 2011. “They worked hard and they did a nice job and all of a sudden they’re the veteran group.”

Keys to success: The Broncos want more explosive plays from their receivers — but that means more than just deep balls, which should be more prevalent with consistent play from Boldewijn and Burks and the growth of Williams-Rhodes and Burroughs. Prince has emphasized run after catch since the spring and likes what he sees. “That’s what we’re going to need,” Prince said. “It’s very hard to just march down the field and have 10-, 12-, 14-play drives. We really do need the big plays.”

Reason for concern: The Broncos are counting on Boldewijn, Burks, Burroughs and Williams-Rhodes to have breakout seasons. That’s a lot of guys who need to step up. If all of them do, this will be an outstanding group. But if one or two struggle, the offense could feel the effects.

Star player: Miller has 128 catches for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns in two college seasons. He was an All-Mountain West second-teamer last season and a Freshman All-American in 2011. “He’s been our workhorse,” Prince said.

Breakout performer: Boldewijn has all-conference potential and should be a perfect complement to Miller and Moore in the starting lineup. “He’s an unknown to a lot of people and I think we can use that as a weapon,” Miller said. “He’s been laying in the weeds and I think now he’s going to jump out and make some big plays for us.”

Newcomer to watch: True freshmen Thomas Sperbeck and Tanner Shipley and junior college transfer Terrell Johnson have shown playmaking potential in camp. The Broncos aren’t likely to need any of them this year, though. “That’s a credit to our veteran players really working with those guys during the summer,” Prince said of the newcomers’ quick adjustment. “Those guys are great in meetings. They’re doing a lot of studying on their own and they’re getting better.”

Quotes/notes:

— Prince on Boldewijn: “If he can have a season like he ended that last game, he’s going to have a great year. He worked hard in the spring and had a great spring and from what I’m hearing he did a great job in the summer and he’s having a great camp right now.”

— Prince on Williams-Rhodes: “He’s become a better route-runner. He’s very sure-handed. And he’ll be a guy we’ll be able to count on.”

— Miller: “Guys are making plays when their number is called. You’ve got to be proud of how Aaron and Geraldo have improved going into their last year and I think Kirby’s going to have a big year.”

— Miller on speed: “The fastest straight-line guy we have is Aaron, I’d say. The quickest? Probably Shane. There’s a lot of different types of speed — guys like that, or guys like me with old-man speed.”

— Burks: “Me and Geraldo are roommates. We talk about football all the time. If I’m doing something, he’s doing something. If he’s doing something, I’m doing something. We kind of hold each other accountable.”

— Moore: “Everyone’s got a sense of urgency out there. In the meetings, everyone’s dialed in. A lot of us know it’s our last shot. We have three senior receivers. We all want to have a great year.”

TIGHT ENDS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
87 Gabe Linehan, 6-4, 238, R-Sr.
86 Kyle Sosnowski, 6-2, 238, R-Jr. (out for the year, knee)
89 Connor Peters, 6-4, 250, Jr.
84 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 241, R-So.
85 Holden Huff, 6-5, 236, R-So.
93 Brennyn Dunn, 6-3, 220, R-Fr.
91 Jackson Reed, 6-4, 226, R-Fr.
98 Alec Dhaenens, 6-3, 232, Fr.
88 Jake Roh, 6-2, 210, Fr.

Projected depth chart
Tight end: Linehan, Huff, Peters, Hardee

Storyline: The Broncos’ recent run of bad luck at tight end continued before this season even started with the loss of Sosnowski to a knee injury. That leaves the depth questionable, with Hardee (a walk-on from Bishop Kelly High) and possibly a true freshman (most likely Roh) needing to fill the gaps. Adding to this concern: Linehan missed nearly all of last season with a hamstring injury and Huff was out for Sunday’s scrimmage. Those two need to stay healthy.

Keys to success: Since Derek Schouman left after the 2006 season, no tight end has reached the status of all-around weapon. Linehan was on that path before his injury. If he can dominate with his blocking, he’ll boost the run game and be even more difficult to deal with in the pass game. Otherwise, it’s another season of mixing and matching.

Reason for concern: The Broncos only have five scholarship tight ends available this season and at least one of them — likely Dhaenens — is expected to redshirt. Roh and Dhaenens were a nice start, but it’s a position that still needs to be restocked through recruiting. The Broncos have two 2014 commits already — Dimitri Flowers of San Antonio and Drew Sample of Newport, Wash.

Star player: Linehan made 23 catches for 252 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 — a season that was supposed to be the beginning of a three-year run as one of the offense’s best players. The injury derailed him for about 10 months, but he returned to have an outstanding fall camp and is highly motivated for his senior year. “It’s that one last shot,” he said. “Everything has kind of come to this. It’s kind of the pinnacle of your career. I’m ready to do as much as I can for the team and make sure I’m satisfied with myself and how I’ve helped the team.” Holden Huff also could have a big year. He has bulked up since his strong freshman season.

Breakout performer: Watch out for Peters, who has quickly become one of the team’s strongest players since arriving in January 2012. He isn’t known for his receiving ability, but he was the only tight end without a drop in camp. “Last year you saw bits and pieces of him,” tight ends coach Scott Huff said. “He was kind of a spot guy. This year, we’re seeing he’s making progress. … Hopefully we can get some more production out of him.”

Newcomer to watch: Coaches had their eye on Roh even before camp started as a player they thought might need to contribute this year. He isn’t big — like Holden Huff last year — but he has looked like a capable receiver in practice. He also has a strong understanding of the expectations at this level after watching his brother play at Michigan.

Quotes/notes:

— Tight ends caught 24 passes last year — 17 by Huff, three by Dan Paul, two by Hayden Plinke, one by Linehan and one by Chandler Koch. That’s the worst number since Chris Petersen arrived in 2001. Four of the six previous years, the Broncos had a single tight end make at least 24 catches.

— Scott Huff said he’d like to have five tight ends in the rotation for game planning: “Depth is going to be an issue. We’ve got to continue to develop guys.”

— Linehan: “We are good athletes who are even smarter than how good we are and we’re going to be able to run this offense and do what we need to do.”

— Scott Huff on Hardee: “He can kind of go everywhere. He works extremely hard. If I had to say who the hardest-working guy in our group is, I’d say it’s Jake Hardee. He does a great job of getting along with the team. He’s kind of a crowd favorite if you will amongst the players on our team. We’re expecting good things from him this year.”

— Hardee: “Getting my feet wet (last year) helped me with a little confidence going into spring ball and to now. Hopefully I can make some plays this year.”

OFFENSIVE LINE
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
76 Jake Broyles, 6-5, 286, R-Sr.
77 Spencer Gerke, 6-3, 303, R-Sr.
78 Charles Leno Jr., 6-4, 295, R-Sr.
65 Matt Paradis, 6-3, 300, R-Sr.
62 Chris Tozer, 6-4, 319, R-Sr.
72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 285, R-So.
71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 307, R-So.
73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 296, R-Fr.
70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 285, R-Fr.
66 Mario Yakoo, 6-3, 323, R-Fr.
60 Kellen Buhr, 6-0, 285, R-Fr.
79 Avery Westendorf, 6-5, 292, R-Fr.
74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 275, Fr.
75 Eli McCullough, 6-5, 271, Fr.
52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 279, Fr.
59 Mason Hampton, 6-2, 266, Fr.
61 James Meagher, 6-2, 286, Fr.

Projected depth chart
Left tackle: Leno, Baggett
Left guard: Gerke, Tozer
Center: Paradis, Averill
Right guard: Henry, Yakoo
Right tackle: Odhiambo, Broyles

Storyline: The Broncos’ offensive line has two faces — all savvy seniors from center to left tackle with two inexperienced sophomores on the right side. The sophomores, Henry and Odhiambo, have so much talent and athleticism that they’ve earned a nickname from the veterans. “The seniors refer to those guys as the Super Class in terms of their recruiting year together,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “Those two guys are very athletic. They move their feet very well, but they’re also not a couple of old dogs who have had about every injury you could possibly have and I think that makes a difference, too, at this point in their life.”

Keys to success: The Broncos’ No. 1 goal is to run the ball consistently — regardless of opponent or situation. In recent years, they have struggled to run against their best opponents and at times in critical situations. “Guys understand the importance of it and it showed up in some of our bigger games when we haven’t been able to get that done,” Strausser said. “Those guys all understand there’s a heightened sense of urgency in terms of us being able to run the football.”

Reason for concern: The Broncos are two-fifths of the way through a changing of the guard. Other than the three senior starters and senior Jake Broyles, the group doesn’t have any meaningful game experience. So if anything happens to the seniors, the Broncos could be playing with two sophomores and a freshman or two.

Star player: Paradis earned All-Mountain West first-team honors last season and Leno made the second team. They’re likely to be in the running for the all-conference team again this year. Leno, in particular, is in the spotlight because the past three full-time left tackles are in the NFL. Leno also has the most career starts on the team with 26. “(Leno) is one of those guys, he wants to be the strongest in the weight room and he’s easily one of the top three or four in almost every category,” Strausser said. “He knows what the tradition at left tackle has been here — from (Daryn) Colledge to (Ryan) Clady to Nate Potter. And now it’s been passed on to him. I think he takes that very seriously.”

Breakout performer: Henry and Odhiambo emerged as future starters last season and made the most of their opportunity in spring ball. They haven’t wavered through fall camp. “Marcus (Henry) has had as good of an offseason as anybody in the group,” Strausser said. “Despite the fact he’s a young guy and makes young-guy mistakes, he acts like an old guy. He takes care of business. He’s prepared when he comes out on the football field. He’s one of the most physical guys we have. He’s not trying to block you. He’s trying to put you on your back. That’s the mentality we like.” Odhiambo could be the next in line at left tackle. Teammates rave about him but Strausser still wants to see more consistency. “He gets a chance to line up against (defensive end) Demarcus Lawrence about every other play and that’ll challenge you on your consistency,” Strausser said. “He’s getting better. He’s definitely getting better. He’s got so much talent that if he could ever get to the point where we can count on him every play he’s going to be a heck of a player for us.”

Newcomer to watch: Yakoo and Averill have pushed for playing time during fall camp and Strausser usually find a way to get up-and-comers like them a chance. Yakoo is the third guard. Averill is the backup center but also can play guard.

Quotes/notes:

— The Broncos lost starting right tackle Brenel Myers, right guard Michael Ames and left guard Joe Kellogg.

— The Broncos will not have a senior on the offensive line next season.

— Strausser: “It’s an interesting mix of some pretty good veteran leadership with Leno, Gerke and Paradis and at the same time some very young guys who have played virtually no football. … The consistency thing is really one of our biggest missions right now. Those guys who have more football experience are making fewer mistakes.”

— Strausser on Broyles, who started the opener each of the past two years before injuries sidelined him: “Two years off is hard on a guy. Realistically, he’s been two years without playing much football. So I still believe to this day Jake’s got a lot of talent and he’s a physical player for us. One thing I’ll say about Jake — when he’s in the game, he makes stuff happen and he plays with a very physical nature. But he’s also got some young guys who have been playing pretty consistently in front of him right now.”

— Strausser on Gerke: “The thing that stands out most about Spencer Gerke is how much Boise State football means to him. It’s extremely important to him and that’s how he approaches it and that’s how he works. … I think it does mean something to him to come out of fall camp as the starter.”

— Strausser on Leno: “He’s as athletic now as he’s ever been and usually that comes with being in the best shape you’ve ever been in.”

— Paradis on the offensive line’s goal for 2013: “Obviously we need to be able to run the ball. We don’t have a goal of a number of yards per game, but when we run the ball we are dominant in running the ball. We can run the ball whenever we want. Last year, we had some games where we’d do really well, some games where it was not as good. Whenever we want, we want to be able to run the ball. That’s the main goal.”

— Paradis on having the same starting five in spring ball and fall camp: “It’s been great. The longer you can be together the more trust you have and the more you grow as an O-line — I think that’s huge.”

— Gerke: “The younger guys coming in, they didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, but it feels like they have because they went through spring ball as the ones. I feel like our group, because of the experience, we’re going to be set — pass game, run game, whatever. We’re going to be set.”

DEFENSIVE LINE
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
End
53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 271, R-Jr.
8 Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 245, R-Jr.
49 Darien Barrett, 6-2, 225, R-Fr.
97 Austin Silsby, 6-3, 219, Fr

Stud
48 Kharyee Marshall, 6-2, 240, R-Sr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 240, R-Fr.
33 Gabe Perez, 6-4, 226, Fr.
92 Kamalei Correa, 6-2, 244, Fr.

Tackle
43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 300, R-Sr.
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 265, Jr.
55 Tutulupeatau Mataele, 6-3, 280, Jr.
90 Justin Taimatuia, 6-0, 281, Jr.
58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 291, R-So.
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 288, So.
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 275, R-Fr.
50 Nick Terry, 6-3, 271, Fr.

Projected depth chart
End: Lawrence, Martin
Tackle: Horn, Nance
Nose tackle: Tjong-A-Tjoe, Taimatuia
Stud end: Marshall, McCaskill/Correa/Perez

Storyline: The Broncos’ first-team defensive line should be stout with returning standouts Lawrence and Tjong-A-Tjoe and veterans Horn and Marshall. But they rotate the second line into the game frequently and that group is green. It’s possible three true freshmen and two junior college transfers will factor into the rotation. “For us to be successful, we’re going to have to have young guys step up,” Horn said.

Keys to success: Lawrence (Mountain West-leading 9.5 sacks last year) and Tjong-A-Tjoe (4.5 tackles for loss) give the Broncos an enviable pair of building blocks. But they need a couple more playmakers to emerge to play the kind of defense for which they’ve become known.

Reason for concern: The Broncos are particularly thin at the stud end, where senior Kharyee Marshall and redshirt freshman Sam McCaskill were out for the scrimmage. That left true freshmen Kamalei Correa and Gabe Perez to handle most of the snaps. The stud is the position that plays as an end or outside linebacker depending on the call. “That’s experience right there — different situations, different sets, different coverages, different blitz patterns that they may not have gotten,” defensive line coach Andy Avalos said. “… The awesome thing about those two kids is they have experience playing end and standing up in high school — that’s part of the deal in us recruiting those guys. That’s helped.”

Star player: Lawrence made the All-Mountain West first team last year and could be an All-America candidate this year. “He’s been able to expand his game by getting a better understanding of offenses and how he can put himself in better situations,” Avalos said. Lawrence added 13.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a TD to his sack count last year.

Breakout performer: Coaches see potential in Marshall, who has been held back by injuries throughout his career. He is the team’s fastest defensive lineman, which makes him a good fit at stud. “Kharyee can do some things,” Avalos said. “Kharyee is physical. Kharyee will strike some people. He’s got a good burst. It’s going to be his year to step up and be a great leader and have fun out there on the field.”

Newcomer to watch: One of the three freshmen at stud likely will emerge as a playmaker. That position is built for it — and McCaskill, Correa and Perez are all long, athletic players recruited to play that spot. “We have a lot of young guys who are quick and explosive,” Tjong-A-Tjoe said. “That’s what we need.”

Quotes/notes:

— It looks like Correa and Perez will play as true freshmen and tackle Nick Terry could. “We’re going to have some guys in there who are going to be playing for the first time,” Avalos said. “Any season, that’s going to be the way it is. It’s those guys around them who will take care of them and get them rolling and we feel good about our two-deep right now.”

— Horn will play end and tackle but tackle is his primary spot right now. He played both last year.

— Avalos on Terry: “He’s doing a nice job. Physically, for his age, he’s pretty strong and pretty active.”

— Avalos on Taimatuia: “He’s doing a good job. He’s trying to soak everything up. It’s one day at a time. I’ve gotta keep reminding him of that — he’s in the fast lane right now, but he’s got some ability. We just keep chipping away at it.”

— Avalos on Martin, who has played well: “He’s a go-hard guy, an energy guy.”

— Avalos on Perez, who is undersized for now at 226 pounds: “Over time obviously he’s going to develop a lot more. He’s a big, long kid. … He’s got some long levers and he’s got a willingness to strike people and get after it. More times than not, it’s more of a mental battle — having a desire, having a want to be relentless in what you’re doing. That will overcome a lack of strength or size.”

— Martin: “I see my role as being someone who needs to make an impact whenever I’m out there. I want to come out every day and have the coaches trust that I can do my job.”

— Martin on depth: “We sub a lot on the defensive line. We’ve got some new guys we’ll mix in, but they’re talented. We’ve got some great coaches who will have them ready.”

— The defensive linemen have dyed their facial hair blond. “We’re a brotherhood,” Nance said. “We just came together, do a little something together to set us aside from the rest of the team. I plan on keeping it. I’m getting good (reviews) from different people, telling me they like it.”

— Tjong-A-Tjoe on whether this defensive line can set the tone like lines in the past: “We have to. We don’t have a choice. The guys before us showed us how to do it. If we just keep that in mind and keep working hard, we’re going to do what we need to do.”

LINEBACKERS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
32 Jonathan Brown, 5-10, 206, R-Sr.
56 Dustin Kamper, 6-1, 216, R-Sr.
45 Travis Saxton, 6-1, 214, R-Jr.
13 Blake Renaud, 6-2, 243, Jr.
38 Corey Bell, 5-11, 210, Jr.
36 Tyler Gray, 6-4, 228, So.
31 Andrew Pint, 6-0, 221, R-Fr.
51 Ben Weaver, 6-0, 233, R-Fr.
25 Chris Santini, 5-11, 205, R-Fr.
44 Darren Lee, 6-1, 221, Fr.
7 Joe Martarano, 6-2, 234, Fr.
20 Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 217, Fr.
54 Mat Boesen, 6-4, 213, Fr.

Projected depth chart
Weak-side linebackers: Gray/Weaver
Middle linebacker: Renaud, Saxton
Strong-side linebacker: Brown/Bell

Storyline: A youth movement has arrived at linebacker, where 10 of the 13 players have been on the roster for two years or less. That includes true juniors Blake Renaud, the starting middle linebacker, and Corey Bell, who likely will share the strong-side linebacker job. The weak-side linebackers are even younger — true sophomore Tyler Gray and redshirt freshman Ben Weaver. “We’ve got a lot of young energy and young leaders,” Weaver said.

Keys to success: The Broncos allowed 146.2 rushing yards per game last season, including 157 to Colorado State, 227 to Nevada and 205 to Washington in the last three games. That’s a trend they need to reverse immediately in a rematch with Washington tailback Bishop Sankey.

Reason for concern: No position lost more production than linebacker, where the Broncos must replace top tackler J.C. Percy (118 tackles) and No. 3 tackler Tommy Smith (61). “Ultimately, it’s motivating,” Weaver said. “It really gives us good leaders to look up to and good film to look at. Coach Gregory shows a lot of clips (of them). It kind of helps us strive to do the stuff that they did and better.”

Star player: There isn’t one — yet. But Renaud has had the look of a future standout since he played as a true freshman. He’s a big hitter with six Hammer awards and a playmaker who has shown a knack for the interception in practice but not yet on game day. “I enjoy being the guy in the front,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best linebacker I can. I like being that guy. I’m not much of a talker. I like to try to show it on the field.”

Breakout performer: Gray’s combination of size and athleticism should make him a stat-sheet stuffer. He’s got the right body type to be effective as a blitzer and he’ll get his hands on some passes.

Newcomer to watch: Weaver is a Percy type — a run-stuffing linebacker with a nose for the ball. “He has a very good feel for the run part of it,” linebackers coach Bob Gregory said.

Quotes/notes:

— Darren Lee, a true freshman who arrived in January after serving a mission, will play this year, Gregory said. He provides depth at inside linebacker but will get most of his playing time initially on special teams.

— Weaver, the Scout Defensive Player of the Year last year, on scout team: “It was awesome. Having to go against our first team definitely will make someone better.”

— Gregory on Gray vs. Weaver: “Both those guys are very talented. They’re very close right now and they’re both probably going to play.”

— Gregory on Bell vs. Brown: “It’s very hard to tell if there’s much difference between those two guys. Both have played a lot of football, both are very smart, both have great leadership, so we feel really good about both of them.”

— Saxton, a walk-on from Eagle High: “I’m learning a lot more and I’m just feeling like I’m a lot more comfortable with the defense and I’m making more plays out there. I feel like I have grown a lot with experience. I’ve learned the plays and learned the speed a lot better.”

— Saxton on the group: “We’re a tight group. We call each other LBP — Linebacker Pride.”

— Coach Chris Petersen on the group: “We have some guys in there, we really do, that are young and they’re going to take some seasoning. They’re going to have to get their feet wet — and they’re going to get more than their feet wet. They’re going to get wet up to their neck here shortly.”

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
Cornerback
1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 178, R-Jr.
3 Cleshawn Page, 5-8, 179, Jr.
19 Mercy Maston, 5-11, 196, Jr.
34 Promise Amadi, 5-9, 185, R-So.
5 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 151, So.
6 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 176, R-Fr.
16 Dionza Blue, 5-11, 186, Fr.
30 Jonathan Moxey, 5-9, 175, Fr.
21 Cameron Hartsfield, 5-9, 188, Fr.

Safety
37 Ebo Makinde, 5-10, 185, R-Sr.
10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 190, R-Jr.
29 Deon’tae Florence, 5-9, 167, R-Jr.
24 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 212, R-So.
4 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 200, R-So.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-0, 207, R-So.
22 Chanceller James, 6-1, 205, R-Fr.
47 Brandon Brown, 5-11, 192, Fr.

Projected depth chart
Cornerback: Douglas, Maston/Anderson
Cornerback: Deayon, Page/Moxey
Rover: Ioane, Lukehart
Free safety: Thompson, Makinde

Storyline: Four of the Broncos’ top six cornerbacks have not played a major college football game and three of them joined the program this year. All of them likely will play, at least early in the season, as coaches try to identify the starters. Junior Bryan Douglas, coming back from a torn ACL, and sophomore Donte Deayon, whose redshirt was pulled late last season, have the experience and are the favorites to start the opener. But junior college transfers Mercy Maston and Cleshawn Page and true freshman Jonathan Moxey have impressed in camp. Redshirt freshman Chaz Anderson, who had a strong spring, also is in the mix. “It’s been exciting to watch, really, for me,” defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “It’s very, very competitive every single day — everybody is just fighting and scratching trying to make plays.”

Keys to success: The Broncos’ defense has thrived in recent years in large part because of stellar cornerback play. Kyle Wilson, Brandyn Thompson and Jamar Taylor have been selected in the past four NFL Drafts. The Broncos will be hard-pressed to match that play with such a young group — but they can’t afford a repeat of 2011, when busted coverages became a common occurrence in a young secondary. They’re replacing Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. “Last year we had a couple of guys that we could really lean on and they never came off the field,” Lake said. “We could eventually get to that point this year as well, but right now we’re going to throw those guys out there and let them battle and then the cream is going to rise to the top.”

Reason for concern: Other than youth at cornerback, the other issue that could present itself is the targeting rule. Safeties Darian Thompson and Jeremy Ioane are aggressive hitters who will need to be careful to avoid ejection. Thompson made two hits last year that found their way into video presentations on hits that would lead to ejections this year. “I’ll be ready,” Thompson said. “You’ve just got to be more careful. You can’t take the big hit that you always dreamed about when you were little. You’ve got to really think about what you’re doing and take the time to perfect it in practice so when it comes game time you don’t have to think about not targeting — it just happens automatically.”

Star player: Thompson has shown maturity above his experience level and seems to be on a star path. He became the starter at free safety unexpectedly midway through last season. He finished eighth on the team with 43 tackles while adding three interceptions and three pass breakups. Ioane also is a returning starter. He was second on the team with 70 tackles last year. He added three interceptions. He made a commitment to conditioning in the offseason, Lake said. “They made some big plays for us,” he said. “So we’re really leaning on those guys for a lot of leadership.”

Breakout performer: One of those cornerbacks is going to emerge from the intense competition. Douglas was pushing Jerrell Gavins for playing time before he got hurt last year, so he’s the obvious choice. “He took this setback, this little adversity that hit his life,” Lake said, “he took it and said, ‘OK, I’ve just got to get bigger, faster, stronger. I’m not going to let this hold me down.’ We’re excited to watch him.”

Newcomer to watch: Moxey, of West Palm Beach, Fla., likely will be the latest in a long line of true freshman defensive backs to play for the Broncos. That list includes Deayon, Lee Hightower, Taylor, Thompson, Orlando Scandrick, Marty Tadman and Chris Carr. Usually, those guys grow into very good players. “Usually for a freshman it’s can they pick up the defense, not only in the classroom, but also when they take it out on the field,” Lake said. “Can they transition that and make plays as they’re also doing exactly what we’re telling them to do. He has a leg up right now on those other (true freshmen) and it’s showing up on tape — he’s getting interceptions, getting pass breakups, he asks intelligent questions, he knows the little insides and outs of our defense that maybe take a year or two for other guys to learn.”

Quotes/notes:

— Junior Deon’tae Florence has moved from cornerback to safety. He and sophomore Taylor Loffler are the third-team safeties.

— Lake said he expects to play four to six corners in the season opener.

— Lake on Douglas’ health: “Bryan looks great. We’ve had to spoon-feed him a little bit, but now basically the straps are off. He can run around as much as he wants. The trainers are like, ‘You have him.’ And he’s been doing a great job, so I don’t envision any setbacks.”

— Deayon, on his weight: “I’m definitely trying to get bigger, put on more weight. I’ve put on some weight since last year, but my metabolism is just working real fast. I can’t let that affect me. I’ve got to play at a high level.”

— Deayon: “Last year, since we had two older seniors, they set the level we need to play at. They set the bar pretty high, and we all have the mindset that that’s the level we need to play at to be a great secondary.”

SPECIAL TEAMS
Newspaper story: Here

Roster
Kicker
41 Dan Goodale, 5-10, 196, R-Jr.
28 Tyler Rausa, 5-8, 190, So.

Punter
14 Trevor Harman, 6-3, 211, R-Sr.
26 Sean Wale, 6-1, 185, R-Fr.

Long snapper
46 Kevin Keane, 6-0, 211, Jr.
42 Matt Cota, 6-1, 197, Fr.

Projected depth chart
FG/PAT kicker: Goodale, Rausa
KO specialist: Harman/Goodale/Rausa
Punter: Harman/Wale
Long snapper: Keane, Cota
Holder: WR Matt Miller, QB Joe Southwick
Punt returner: WR Shane Williams-Rhodes, CB Bryan Douglas
Kickoff returner: Williams-Rhodes

Storyline: The Broncos have chosen a kicker, special teams coach Scott Huff said Friday. He wouldn’t name the kicker — saying that’s for coach Chris Petersen, who will address the media Monday. Still, it would be a surprise if it’s not junior Dan Goodale. Goodale was the starter two years ago but lost the job after the miss against TCU. He was perfect in the fall scrimmage Sunday. “Coach Pete talks all the time about improving and competing and Dan Goodale might be as good an example as we have on our team of improving and competing,” Huff said. “So we’re really proud of the progress he’s made.”

Keys to success: The Broncos weren’t as good in the field-position game last season as they usually are. They had some breakdowns with the kickoff team and punter/kickoff specialist Harman had a difficult season. The kickoff and punter jobs remain open — and finding consistency at those two spots will be important.

Reason for concern: The Broncos will have new players handling field goals and punt returns, two of the most high-pressure tasks in a football game. Goodale, who has a powerful leg and has shown terrific accuracy in camp, and Williams-Rhodes, perhaps the Broncos’ most exciting player, likely will get those jobs. “Coach Pete actually calls that position the best decision-maker,” Williams-Rhodes said. “When you’re back there, you’ve got to be like the quarterback on the field — you’ve got to make the best decision for the team, not for yourself.”

Star player: Junior linebacker Blake Renaud won the Hammer four times last season and has six in his career. His work often gets overlooked during the game, but it’s hard to miss him carrying the Hammer out onto the field every third week.

Breakout performer: Goodale and Williams-Rhodes, who also returns kickoffs, have breakout potential. But Williams-Rhodes already is popular with fans and likely will produce more memorable plays than Goodale — giving him the edge.

Newcomer to watch: He’s not technically a newcomer, but redshirt sophomore safety Taylor Loffler hasn’t played in a game because of back-to-back torn ACLs. He is expected to become a big-hitting member of several special teams units.

Quotes/notes:

— The Broncos ranked 108th in net punting (34.1 yards per punt) last season. That’s the only major NCAA stat in which the team ranked outside of the top 70. Harman averaged 41.2 yards per punt but only placed eight inside the 20-yard line. “I feel like as a punting group we had a pretty good year other than pinning them deep, which a lot of that is on me,” Harman said. “Really all it is is touch. Most definitely, it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

— Harman began his career as a kickoff specialist and coaches had big hopes for him. He lost the job to Goodale late last season and is in a three-way battle for it this year. “I picked up some bad habits and I had to start over this offseason and go from the basics and work my way back from there and I think it’s been helping,” he said. “I like the way I’ve been kicking off, especially compared to last year. That was a nightmare.”

— Goodale, a junior walk-on from Timberline High, hopes to repeat the success of last year’s kicker, Michael Frisina. Frisina overcame struggles to succeed. “It was a perfect example,” Goodale said. “He had some adversity when he came in. He ended his career on a great note. I obviously had a little up and down at the beginning of my career. Hopefully I can follow through like he did and just follow his steps.”

— Goodale on making all nine attempts in the fall scrimmage: “I’ve been pretty confident all camp. I just wanted to go out and do my own deal. Obviously I kicked really well, so I felt really good about that. … It’s nice to see that my work has been paying off. Hopefully it will continue throughout the season.”

— Corey Bell on what he tells freshmen about special teams: “I tell them, that’s your best shot to get in. All the coaches want to see that you’re willing to give it up on special teams as well.”

•••

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

Here is my projected depth chart that appears in Sunday’s paper. Boise State plans to release its first depth chart Monday.

QUARTERBACK HT. WT. YR.
16 Joe Southwick 6-1 202 Sr.
9 Grant Hedrick 6-0 202 Jr.
8 Nick Patti 5-10 196 Fr.

TAILBACK HT. WT. YR.
27 Jay Ajayi 6-0 220 So.
21 Jack Fields OR 5-9 195 So.
23 Derrick Thomas 6-0 208 Jr.

X RECEIVER HT. WT. YR.
2 Matt Miller 6-3 222 Jr.
18 Aaron Burks 6-3 205 Sr.

Z RECEIVER HT. WT. YR.
17 Geraldo Boldewijn 6-4 220 Sr.
81 Dallas Burroughs 5-8 171 Jr.

SLOT RECEIVER HT. WT. YR.
34 Kirby Moore 6-3 208 Sr.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes 5-6 157 So.

TIGHT END HT. WT. YR.
87 Gabe Linehan 6-4 238 Sr.
85 Holden Huff 6-5 236 So.

LEFT TACKLE HT. WT. YR.
78 Charles Leno Jr. 6-4 295 Sr.
70 Steven Baggett 6-3 285 Fr.

LEFT GUARD HT. WT. YR.
77 Spencer Gerke 6-3 303 Sr.
62 Chris Tozer 6-4 319 Sr.

CENTER HT. WT. YR.
65 Matt Paradis 6-3 300 Sr.
73 Travis Averill 6-3 296 Fr.

RIGHT GUARD HT. WT. YR.
72 Marcus Henry 6-3 285 So.
66 Mario Yakoo 6-3 323 Fr.

RIGHT TACKLE HT. WT. YR.
71 Rees Odhiambo 6-4 307 So.
76 Jake Broyles 6-5 286 Sr.

DEFENSIVE END HT. WT. YR.
8 Demarcus Lawrence 6-3 245 Jr.
53 Beau Martin 6-2 271 Jr.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE HT. WT. YR.
69 Tyler Horn 6-5 265 Jr.
40 Armand Nance 6-0 288 So.

NOSE TACKLE HT. WT. YR.
43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe 6-3 300 Sr.
90 Justin Taimatuia 6-0 281 Jr.

STUD END HT. WT. YR.
48 Kharyee Marshall 6-2 240 Sr.
94 Sam McCaskill 6-3 240 Fr.

WEAK-SIDE LINEBACKER HT. WT. YR.
36 Tyler Gray OR 6-4 228 So.
51 Ben Weaver 6-0 233 Fr.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER HT. WT. YR.
13 Blake Renaud 6-2 243 Jr.
45 Travis Saxton 6-1 214 Jr.

STRONG-SIDE LINEBACKER HT. WT. YR.
32 Jonathan Brown OR 5-10 206 Sr.
38 Corey Bell 5-11 210 Jr.

CORNERBACK HT. WT. YR.
1 Bryan Douglas 5-9 178 Jr.
19 Mercy Maston OR 5-11 196 Jr.
6 Chaz Anderson 5-10 176 Fr.

CORNERBACK HT. WT. YR.
5 Donte Deayon 5-9 151 So.
3 Cleshawn Page OR 5-8 179 Jr.
30 Jonathan Moxey 5-9 175 Fr.

SAFETY HT. WT. YR.
10 Jeremy Ioane 5-10 190 Jr.
28 Dillon Lukehart 6-0 207 So.

SAFETY HT. WT. YR.
4 Darian Thompson 6-1 200 So.
37 Ebo Makinde 5-10 185 Sr.

KICKER HT. WT. YR.
41 Dan Goodale 5-10 196 Jr.
28 Tyler Rausa 5-8 190 So.

PUNTER HT. WT. YR.
14 Trevor Harman OR 6-3 211 Sr.
26 Sean Wale 6-1 185 Fr.

KO SPECIALIST HT. WT. YR.
14 Trevor Harman OR 6-3 211 Sr.
41 Dan Goodale OR 5-10 196 Jr.
28 Tyler Rausa 5-8 190 So.

LONG SNAPPER HT. WT. YR.
46 Kevin Keane 6-0 211 Jr.

HOLDER HT. WT. YR.
2 Matt Miller 6-3 222 Jr.
16 Joe Southwick 6-1 202 Sr.

KICK RETURNER HT. WT. YR.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes 5-6 157 So.


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Chadd Cripe has spent the past 12 years as the Boise State football beat writer. You can follow him on Twitter @IDS_BroncoBeat.

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