Ajayi, Maston, Hedrick, Gray among standouts in first week of Boise State spring football

By Chadd Cripe
© 2014 Idaho Statesman

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin held his weekly spring press conference Thursday. Here are some highlights:

— Harsin names players of the day after each practice: an offensive player, a defensive player, a special-teamer, a playmaker (usually offense; biggest play/best play), a ball hawk (defender with best/most turnovers) and a position group of the day. For Monday’s practice, the winners were tailback Jay Ajayi, cornerback Mercy Maston, safety Corey Bell, wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, safety Darian Thompson (at least two takeaways) and the defensive backs. For Wednesday, they were quarterback Grant Hedrick, linebacker Tyler Gray, punter Sean Wale, tight end Jake Roh, linebacker Blake Renaud and the offensive line. “We have a board up in the locker room,” Harsin said. “We keep track as they go through each practice. There will be something for them at the end.”

— The expected participants in pro day on Monday are wide receivers Aaron Burks and Geraldo Boldewijn, quarterback Joe Southwick, punter/kicker Trevor Harman, defensive linemen Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and Demarcus Lawrence and offensive linemen Matt Paradis and Charles Leno Jr.

— The Broncos have practiced in helmets only for the first two days. They add shoulder pads Friday, then full pads Sunday. The first, closed scrimmage is next Thursday. “We take the pajamas off and we get into our pads Friday, so we actually get to hit somebody,” Harsin said. The Sunday practice will be at 7:45 p.m., a taste of the late-night games that have become common for the Broncos.

— Spring Game tickets are $10. They were included in last year’s season-ticket packages. Boise State students are free.

— Harsin plans to use 20 minutes — four periods — in each practice for special teams. He said that’s about the same as the way the Broncos have practiced in recent years. “That was a big deal (here). That was a big deal at Texas. That was a big deal at Arkansas State,” he said. “That won’t change. When I was here with (former coach Dan Hawkins) … that mindset was set for a long time.”

— Derrick Thomas has taken most of the second-team snaps at tailback.

— Because the team only has 10 offensive linemen, they run the first team, then the second team, then the first team, then the third team in practice. The first day, they went first, second, third — but that wore down the linemen who were on the field for the second- and third-team snaps.

— For the Spring Game, the first- and second-team units will stay together. They won’t draft teams.

— On defensive ends Gabe Perez and Kamalei Correa, who played as true freshmen last year: “They seem to pair up and they work with each other. Both those guys, they work really hard. Both want to be good. I’m real curious to watch them tomorrow in pads. … They’ve hit the weight room with a purpose. They’re trying to catch up from missing that as they played and really in their minds take advantage of spring practice, go as hard as they can.”

— On what he wants to see from Hedrick this spring: “I want to see him execute. He’s got good technique. He throws the ball well. His arm is plenty strong. He runs well. It all comes down to execution. … ‘Did you see this? Did you see that?’ I’m talking more football with him — scheme, defenses and how to beat it. For Grant, it comes down to execution. … You start to hear him coach himself back to you, basically. As a senior quarterback, that’s where you get to be. ‘I saw this, I saw that, so I checked it down.’ He’s not there yet, but that’s really what you hope to come out of spring with.”

— Harsin won’t hesitate to use Hedrick’s running ability: “We’ll run him because he’s got the ability to do that. That’s part of who we are. We utilize our quarterback in different ways. It also depends on how we develop up front … to maybe not have to do those things, but if we have to, we will. … One thing about Grant, Grant’s a tough guy.”

— Redshirt freshman Ryan Finley, coming off of shoulder surgery, will begin taking team snaps Friday. “He’s now ‘as tolerated,’ ” Harsin said. “We held him back out of team. He tried to insert himself. We’ve basically taken the training wheels off. We’ll let him get some team reps now. The more he throws, the better he feels.”

— Junior college transfer Tommy Stuart of Butte College showed a playmaking knack on the first two days of practice. Harsin laughed at one play. Stuart didn’t know the tight end’s name or the call to alert him to a certain adjustment, so he just yelled “tight end, tight end.” It worked — and the throw to the tight end went for a touchdown. “Tommy’s done a real good job,” Harsin said. “We don’t over-coach Tommy. Just let him go out and play football. He finds the guys and throws them open. … He doesn’t have all the concepts right now. He’ll probably struggle a little more as we go into tomorrow’s practice.” But Stuart spends as much time as anyone studying, Harsin said, “trying to figure it out.” “One thing I can guarantee you is he will,” he said. “I like the way he’s operating out there. I like the way he’s seeing certain things.”

— Harsin has retained the turnover airhorn tradition started by predecessor Chris Petersen. It’s blown each time the defense gets a takeaway. “We need to find something for the offense,” Harsin said. “As the offensive coordinator, when Petersen brought the horn out, that was the one thing I could not stand at practice. That upset me every practice to hear that dang thing.”

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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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