Boise State football coaches detail pursuit of this year’s offensive recruits

Above: RB Aaron Baltazar highlights

By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman

I was able to meet with nearly all of Boise State’s assistant coaches last night to chat about this year’s recruiting class. Today, I provide details on the 11 offensive players and one kicker in the class. Tomorrow, I’ll hit the 16 defenders.

A couple reminders: You can view the recruits’ highlight videos here and a photo gallery of recruits here.

RB Aaron Baltazar, 5-11, 185, Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.)
Rushed for 1,855 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior. Earned first-team All-Metro Mesa League, first-team All-CIF San Diego Section and first-team all-state honors. Also played defense, recording 73 tackles (55 solo), an interception, 14 pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Recruited by: Pete Kwiatkowski, Keith Bhonapha
The skinny: The comparison that kept surfacing regarding Baltazar: Doug Martin. Coach Chris Petersen made the connection without actually using the NFL first-round pick’s name. “A lot of people know he’s a really good player,” Petersen said. At the school’s National Signing Day party Wednesday evening, Baltazar was interviewed on the phone with running backs coach Keith Bhonapha. Baltazar compared himself to Martin. “I think that’s possible,” Bhonapha said. “… Aaron is a dynamic athlete. I went to his high school game and the kid never comes off the field.” Baltazar played defensive back and tailback. In the game Bhonapha attended, he rushed for two TDs and returned a punt and a kickoff for TDs. Bhonapha went back with Petersen and attended a basketball game and watched Baltazar score 20 points. “He averages 25 a game,” Bhonapha said. “He’s the best player on the team. Just to see the kind of competitor he is mixed with the kind of athlete … I talked to his basketball coach, and he’s been coaching for a long time. He said Aaron is the best athlete he’s ever coached.” Bhonapha’s assessment of his running style: “He has good speed. He’s one of those guys who’s elusive. He’s deceptively elusive. He has the same deceptive speed and he’s a power guy.” Baltazar originally committed to Washington, Bhonapha said, and reconsidered. Others tried to turn him late in the process. “His family really felt comfortable with the program and us as a staff,” Bhonapha said. “Four or five schools, if you don’t have a kid who has the right mindset and the right parents, he probably would have at least looked.”

WR D.J. Dean, 6-1, 180, Eagle HS
Named the 5A Southern Idaho Conference Player of the Year in 2011. Received All-Idaho honors as a defensive back. Caught 56 passes for 801 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, recorded 77 tackles, six interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Recruited by: Jeff Choate (before he left last year), Andy Avalos
The skinny: Dean signed last year and grayshirted. He will begin his career on offense. “He can play receiver or in the secondary,” Petersen said.

TE Alec Dhaenens, 6-4, 240, Fruitland HS
Helped lead Fruitland to three consecutive state championship appearances (3A), winning the title in 2010. Named first-team All-Snake River Valley and first-team All-Idaho at tight end during his junior season. Was also second-team All-Idaho at defensive end. Missed most of his senior year with a knee injury.
Recruited by: Andy Avalos, Scott Huff
The skinny: Dhaenens may have to grayshirt because he’s rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “I’m really excited about Alec,” tight ends coach Scott Huff said. “We had him in camp a couple of years. He really is a good combination of what I’d say is a true tight end, where you feel like he can be really productive on the line of scrimmage, but he’s athletic enough to run some routes, 1-on-1, and win.”

QB Ryan Finley, 6-4, 185, Paradise Valley HS (Phoenix)
Named by the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals as the Arizona Player of the Year. Received first-team all-state in all divisions by the Arizona Republic and the high school coaches association. Completed 270-of-424 passes, leading the state with 3,442 yards. He also threw 35 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Recruited by: Scott Huff, Jonathan Smith
The skinny: Finley played in an Air Raid-style offense, throwing the ball all over the field. He tossed two game-winning touchdown passes on fourth downs early last season, including one with 1 second left. “Ryan’s played in an offense that threw it a lot, which we like,” Petersen said. “He’s athletic and can run. I think his best days are ahead of him in terms of his running the ball. He threw it so much I don’t think he thought of himself a whole lot like a runner. He’s athletic and he throws it well. He’s a big, tall guy. He’s extremely, extremely smart. He may be the best student coming in on the entire team. All those things intangible-wise add up.” Quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith established a strong relationship with Finley, who committed in March 2012 and was so strong with his commitment that he never received another scholarship offer. The Arizona schools did inquire about him late, his high school coach said. “The more we researched the kid, the more we liked him,” Smith said. “He found ways to win some games late that kind of confirmed some things for us.”

WR Kendal Keys, 6-2, 200, Helix HS (San Diego)
Named All-CIF San Diego Section first team following his senior season. Was also one of seven student-athletes named to the San Diego Hall of Champions.
Recruited by: Pete Kwiatkowski, Robert Prince
The skinny: The Broncos planned to sign one wide receiver but decided to take another when they discovered Keys. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, who recruits the San Diego area, had a bit of a relationship with the family from recruiting Keys’ older brother, a safety at UNLV. The Broncos’ coaches say Kendal Keys also could be a safety but he wants to play wide receiver. “He’s a tough kid,” Kwiatkowski said. “A tough, hard-working guy.” Key’s biggest advocate early in the process: the father of recently graduated cornerback Jamar Taylor, who also played at Helix. “He said, ‘This guy can play,’ ” offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Robert Prince said. “And he was right.” Prince said Keys is in the Matt Miller mold — a big, strong target. “You throw the ball up, you feel confident he’s going to come down with it,” Prince said. “He runs very good routes for a high school kid.”

OL Archie Lewis, 6-4, 255, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) HS
Started along the offensive line as a junior and senior. Named second-team All-Baseline League at offensive tackle as a senior.
Recruited by: Keith Bhonapha, Chris Strausser
The skinny: He signed last year and grayshirted. He’ll play tackle. “He’s kind of in that athletic mode of tackle, similar to Charles Leno,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “He moves his feet well. He’ll have to put some weight on, but he’s got the frame to do that.”

OL Eli McCullough, 6-4, 265, Rocky Mountain HS (Boise)
Two-year starter at left tackle earned first-team All-Southern Idaho Conference and first-team All-Idaho honors following his senior season. Won the state shot put championship in 2012.
Recruited by: Andy Avalos, Chris Strausser
The skinny: McCullough won the offensive line award at the JV level in 2010 and varsity levels in 2011 and 2012 at the Broncos’ summer camp. He began playing football in eighth grade, when his parents insisted that he find a way to get active, and after one season set a goal of playing for the Broncos. “We kept watching him through his career,” Petersen said. “He kept growing and getting better.” Strausser projects him as a tackle. “All the things that I like in tackles, he has — good feet, super athletic, he’s lengthy, he’s got long arms,” Strausser said. “He’s a little bit in the Daryn Colledge mode — a lengthy guy who can run really well.”

TE Jake Roh, 6-2, 215, Chaparral HS (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Named All-Division II Player of the Year and was first-team All-Division II at linebacker ( Named Arizona Football Coaches’ Association Division II All-State first team at linebacker. Caught 72 passes for 805 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. Defensively, recorded 72 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions.
Recruited by: Scott Huff
The skinny: Roh committed on the day of the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, choosing Boise State over Iowa, Washington State, Duke and San Diego State. His brother was a four-year starting defensive end at Michigan and some schools projected him as a linebacker, but the Broncos want him at tight end. Roh played wide receiver and linebacker in high school. “If you watch him on tape, he just jumps out — whether it’s offense or defense,” Petersen said. Huff said Roh was probably more recruited on defense than offense and was one of the most recruited players in this class. “Love him. … He could be a hybrid receiver/tight end,” Huff said.

WR Tanner Shipley, 6-1, 180, Wilsonville (Ore.) HS
Named Northwest Oregon Conference Offensive Player of the Year after recording 1,912 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, playing multiple positions. Also a standout in baseball.
Recruited by: Jonathan Smith, Robert Prince
The skinny: Shipley attended Boise State’s camp last summer and wanted to be a Bronco but coaches told him they didn’t have a spot because of the commitment by Jack Austin. Shipley committed to BYU instead — but kept the communication lines open with Smith. “I’d drop him a call once in a while,” Smith said. “I told him, ‘If anything changes, you’re the first one we’re going to call.’ ” So when Austin decommitted, Smith did just that and Shipley switched to Boise State. He played running back and wildcat quarterback in high school. “He didn’t have great film to evaluate him as a wide receiver,” Prince said. “It was great to get him in our camp. We saw his toughness. … He’s a running back and I love that because he’s one of those guys if you get the ball in his hands he’ll make something happen.”

OL Andrew Tercek, 6-0, 275, East Central HS (San Antonio)
Started at left tackle for three seasons before moving to center as a senior. Garnered first-team all-district honors (28-5A) following his junior and senior seasons.
Recruited by: Chris Strausser
The skinny: Tercek was a four-year starter. He played tackle for three years and center as a senior. He’ll begin at center with Boise State but could play guard. “I had a chance to go down and watch him play at center,” Strausser said. “His body type is a center.”

RB Derrick Thomas, 6-1, 210, jr., Butler CC (Pittsburg, Texas):
As a redshirt sophomore, carried 157 times for 829 yards and nine touchdowns, helping lead the Grizzlies to the NJCAA National Championship game. In 2011, carried 145 times for 793 yards and six touchdowns.
Recruited by: Keith Bhonapha
The skinny: Thomas will be the oldest tailback on the team, putting him in the strange position of being a newcomer and a leader. Bhonapha likes his attitude because throughout Thomas’ junior college career he was not the primary back. “He would always end up in the mix and be the guy playing,” Bhonapha said. “You watch the type of athleticism and type of player he is and think, ‘If this guy is willing to fight through guys, this is the kind of competitor we want on our team if nothing else.’ … He’s going to push the whole group with all the young guys I have.” Thomas is a rock-solid, physical runner. “He fits nicely into that puzzle,” Petersen said. “He’s in a different class (junior) and he’s a little bit different style than we have.”

K Tyler Rausa, 5-10, 180, so., Riverside City College (Murrieta, Calif.)
Converted 15-of-20 field goals with a long of 48 yards, and was 52-of-53 on PATs in his lone season at Riverside. Earned all-conference honors. Three-year letterwinner at Vista Murrieta High. Went 19-for-21 on field-goal attempts – with a long of 51 yards – as a senior.
Recruited by: Scott Huff, Keith Bhonapha
The skinny: After the success of last year’s starter, Michael Frisina, Petersen and Huff like the idea of a junior college kicker who is accustomed to kicking without a tee in pressure situations. “He’s shown to be a pressure kicker,” Petersen said. Rausa originally planned to join the team at Nevada last year but an admissions change forced him to go to a junior college instead. That opened the door for Boise State.


A couple interesting anecdotes from Huff’s recruiting efforts:

— For his home visit with Dhaenens and linebacker Joe Martarano, both of Fruitland, Huff went goose hunting. He got the unusual idea cleared through the compliance department. “It was minus-10,” Huff said. “It was so cold that nothing flew. … We finally got to the blind at 6:45, a half-hour before shooting could even start. We sat there until 12:30 (p.m.) and nothing had flown all day — but we had a great time. Totally your unconventional home visit.”

— During spring recruiting, Huff hit a black bear while driving on a highway from Phoenix to Pinetop in Arizona. The bear died. “I felt terrible,” Huff said. His car was so beat up when he rolled into Pinetop that he compared it to the one driven by Sheriff Buford T. Justice in “Smokey and the Bandit.”


Petersen said if he had another scholarship, he probably would have used it on an offensive lineman. The Broncos only signed three. That will give them 13 scholarship linemen, which is a little low.

The Broncos are in their third year of the NCAA scholarship penalty for their violations in the summer program. They get 82 scholarships this year and go back to 85 next year.

“They took them away from us for a reason and it has an effect,” Petersen said. “This will be the last year that we have to deal with it.”

Said Strausser: “We had to lose them somewhere. We’ve had decent depth in the offensive line.”


Boise State’s class finished at No. 43 in the team rankings, a school record. placed Boise State at No. 62. ESPN ranked the Broncos at No. 53.’s Mountain West rankings:

43. Boise State
65. San Diego State
76. Fresno State
82. Colorado State
83. Hawaii
87. Air Force
94. New Mexico
101. Nevada
107. Utah State
T112. Wyoming
118. San Jose State
119. UNLV

Boise State’s rankings since 2002:
2002: 75
2003: 73
2004: 72
2005: 73
2006: 78
2007: 57
2008: 64
2009: 60
2010: 97 (only 10 recruits)
2011: 65
2012: 56
2013: 43


The official invite list for the NFL Scouting Combine is out. As previously reported, Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor and tailback D.J. Harper were invited. No other Broncos made the list.

Here is the full list. Invitees among other Mountain West teams: Nevada 4, Fresno State 2, Hawaii 3, Colorado State 0, Air Force 0, Wyoming 0, New Mexico 0, San Diego State 2, UNLV 1.


After meeting with the coaches, I made a few tweaks to the position roster. Here’s the updated version:

16 Joe Southwick, 6-1, 187, R-Sr.
9 Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 192, R-Jr.
14 Jimmy Laughrea, 6-1, 200, R-So.
8 Nick Patti, 5-10, 187, R-Fr.

Ryan Finley, 6-4, 185, Fr.

Derrick Thomas, 6-1, 210, R-Jr.
27 Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 222, R-So.
21 Jack Fields, 5-9, 194, So.
26 Devan Demas, 5-8, 170, R-Fr.
10 Jamel Hart, 5-9, 211, R-Fr.
35 Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 191, R-Fr.

Aaron Baltazar, 5-11, 185, Fr.

17 Geraldo Boldewijn, 6-4, 214, R-Sr.
18 Aaron Burks, 6-3, 200, R-Sr.
34 Kirby Moore, 6-3, 203, R-Sr.
2 Matt Miller, 6-3, 215, R-Jr.
81 Dallas Burroughs, 5-8, 173, Jr.
83 Troy Ware, 6-2, 195, R-So.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 154, So.
82 Jackson Reed, 6-4, 212, R-Fr.
19 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 163, R-Fr.
D.J. Dean, 6-1, 180, Fr.

Kendal Keys, 6-2, 200, Fr.
Tanner Shipley, 6-1, 180, Fr.

87 Gabe Linehan, 6-4, 241, R-Sr.
86 Kyle Sosnowski, 6-2, 247, R-Jr.
89 Connor Peters, 6-4, 253, Jr.

42 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 234, R-So.
85 Holden Huff, 6-5, 213, R-So.
93 Brennyn Dunn, 6-3, 201, R-Fr.

Alec Dhaenens, 6-4, 240, Fr.
Jake Roh, 6-2, 215, Fr.

49 Jamal Wilson, 5-11, 227, R-So.

76 Jake Broyles, 6-5, 290, R-Sr.
77 Spencer Gerke, 6-3, 296, R-Sr.
78 Charles Leno Jr., 6-4, 294, R-Sr.
65 Matt Paradis, 6-3, 289, R-Sr.
62 Chris Tozer, 6-4, 311, R-Sr.
71 Greg Dohmen, 6-3, 291, R-Jr.
72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 297, R-So.
67 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 297, R-So.
63 Adam Sheffield, 6-3, 326, R-So.
73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 278, R-Fr.
70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 248, R-Fr.
66 Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 320, R-Fr.
60 Kellen Buhr, 6-0, 264, R-Fr.
79 Avery Westendorf, 6-5, 270, R-Fr.
Archie Lewis, 6-4, 255, Fr.

Eli McCullough, 6-5, 265, Fr.
Andrew Tercek, 6-0, 275, Fr.

41 Kharyee Marshall, 6-2, 240, R-Sr.
53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 250, R-Jr.
8 Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 242, R-Jr.

82 Sam Ukwuachu, 6-4, 222, R-So.
49 Darien Barrett, 6-2, 222, R-Fr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 236, R-Fr.

Gabe Perez, 6-5, 220, Fr.
Kamalei Correa, 6-2, 230, Fr.
Durrant Miles, 6-4, 220, Fr. (going on mission)

43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 296, R-Sr.
Deuce Mataele, 6-3, 285, Jr.
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 265, Jr.

58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 283, R-So.
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 273, So.
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 275, R-Fr.

Nick Terry, 6-3, 275, Fr.
Justin Taimatuia, 5-11, 295, Jr.

56 Dustin Kamper, 6-1, 217, R-Sr.
45 Travis Saxton, 6-1, 221, R-Jr.
13 Blake Renaud, 6-2, 239, Jr.

36 Tyler Gray, 6-4, 227, So.
31 Andrew Pint, 6-1, 215, R-Fr.
51 Ben Weaver, 6-0, 226, R-Fr.
Darren Lee, 6-2, 220, Fr.

Joe Martarano, 6-3, 235, Fr.
Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 230, Fr.

32 Jonathan Brown, 5-10, 211, R-Sr.
38 Corey Bell, 5-11, 206, Jr.
49 Hilton Richardson, 6-2, 217, R-So.
25 Chris Santini, 5-11, 220, R-Fr.

Mat Boesen, 6-4, 220, Fr.

1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 166, R-Jr.
16 Deon’tae Florence, 5-9, 168, R-Jr.
Cleshawn Page, 5-10, 190, Jr.
30 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 143, So.
15 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 175, R-Fr.
18 Trey Corta, 5-10, 182, R-Fr.

Dionza Blue, 5-11, 180, Fr.
Jonathan Moxey, 5-10, 180, Fr.
Cameron Hartsfield, 5-10, 185, Fr.
Mercy Maston, 5-10, 190, Jr.

37 Ebo Makinde, 5-10, 181, R-Sr.
10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 197, R-Jr.
34 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 211, R-So.
35 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 197, R-So.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-0, 199, R-So.
22 Chanceller James, 6-1, 194, R-Fr.

Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 185, Fr.

41 Dan Goodale, 5-10, 191, R-Jr.
Tyler Rausa, 5-10, 180, So.

14 Trevor Harman, 6-3, 216, R-Sr.
28 Sean Wale, 6-1, 171, R-Fr.

50 Jake Holsteen, 6-4, 216, Sr.
52 Kevin Keane, 6-0, 208, Jr.

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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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