WRs Boldewijn, Burks need to step up for Boise State football team

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

PRACTICE NO. 3

Type: Helmets and shoulder pads

Player spotlight: Senior wide receivers Geraldo Boldewijn and Aaron Burks could be two key factors in the success of the Boise State offense this season. Both have shown the potential to become playmakers down the field, but neither has delivered consistently. Boldewijn made 18 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns last season — including five catches for 59 yards and a TD in the bowl game. Burks made 17 catches for 319 yards and one TD — including a 40-yard catch in the bowl game. Coach Chris Petersen compared them to players in last year’s senior class, like Darren Koontz and Greg Grimes, who emerged as critical contributors in their senior seasons. “You like the way they look,” Petersen said of the two tall receivers. “Now we need to really like the way they play. We have on occasion, but we need some of these elite receivers that we know we can count on. … Now is their time to take that step.”

Play of the day: Sophomore tight end Holden Huff beat cornerback Promise Amadi in a 1-on-1 matchup — not with his speed, but with his athleticism. Quarterback Joe Southwick threw a ball high and to the outside, allowing the 6-foot-5 Huff to leap above Amadi and secure the ball for a big gain.

Notes: The first-team offense ran a game-like drive in the middle of practice, marching from its 20-yard line into the red zone before stalling with a false start penalty. Southwick was 4-for-5. … Boldewijn made a 45-yard TD catch in an 11-on-11 session. … CB Deon’tae Florence, who has made a habit of collecting interceptions in practice since he arrived in August, grabbed another one. … Sophomore Shane Williams-Rhodes, who has looked good all week, made a diving catch on a short throw and a leaping catch on a high throw in one period. … Former coach and athletic director Lyle Smith checked out practice Thursday. He turns 97 on Sunday. … About that weight on tailback Devan Demas — turns out, it was a roster error. He actually weighs 175 pounds.

Next practice: Saturday (closed to the media; no practice report)

•••

Junior defensive lineman Tyler Horn met with the media Thursday. As noted below, he has transitioned mostly from end to tackle, where he played the final five games last year after the injury to Mike Atkinson.

Last season, Horn said, “I prefer end, I really do, but I just want to play.”

He took a slightly different approach Thursday.

“I don’t really have a preference anymore,” he said. “I just, honestly, want to play. Playing inside is a little different, but in the long run it’s just going to make me a better overall player.”

Horn almost certainly would be a backup at end. He has a strong chance to start at tackle, where the Broncos lack experience.

He doesn’t plan to change his body to play the more physical tackle role. He’s happy at 6-foot-5, 264 pounds.

“I like that weight for myself because I feel fast,” he said. “I don’t want to get too big playing inside. I like to utilize my speed and quickness.”

•••

POSITION REPORT: DEFENSIVE LINE

Returning starters (3 of 4): Junior Demarcus Lawrence led the Mountain West with 9.5 sacks and forced four fumbles last season despite missing two games for disciplinary reasons. He was named to the All-Mountain West first team. Sophomore Sam Ukwuachu made 4.5 sacks and recovered three fumbles. He made the FWAA Freshman All-America team. Both were first-time college players. “As the season progressed, (Lawrence) was getting a lot more comfortable,” defensive line coach Andy Avalos said. “We just want to continue to build on that. The more comfortable (he gets) and confidence he gets in the techniques and the fundamentals, the faster he’s going to be able to play and the more of his ability he’s going to use.” At tackle, senior Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe returns after making 37 tackles last season. He shifted to nose tackle after Mike Atkinson was injured and likely will start there this year.

Starters lost: DT Mike Atkinson

Returning contributors: Junior Tyler Horn finished second on the team with five sacks last season. He shifted from end to tackle after the injury to Atkinson and was so impressive that he’s likely to stick there this year. He had 10 tackles and three sacks in the final five games. “We’re fired up about what he’s done this winter and where he’s at right now,” Avalos said. “He’s very athletic, he’s big, he’s strong. We feel like he can handle himself in there as a three-technique (tackle) and then obviously he can do some things on the edge when we get in a three-man front.” The Broncos have three players with a little experience but who are still mostly unknown quantities — senior end Kharyee Marshall (18 tackles last year), junior end Beau Martin (15) and sophomore tackle Armand Nance (nine).

Other players to watch: Junior college transfers Deuce Mataele (on campus now) and Justin Taimatuia (arrives in the summer) were recruited to provide immediate help in the tackle rotation. At end, redshirt freshmen Darien Barrett and Sam McCaskill have impressed on the scout team and in conditioning and could provide some depth.

Way-too-early projected starters: DE Lawrence, NT Tjong-A-Tjoe, DT Horn, STUD Ukwuachu

Roster:
Stud end
41 Kharyee Marshall, 6-2, 240, R-Sr.
82 Sam Ukwuachu, 6-4, 232, R-So.
49 Darien Barrett, 6-2, 233, R-Fr.

End
53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 258, R-Jr.
8 Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 244, R-Jr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 246, R-Fr.

Nose tackle
43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 303, R-Sr.
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 290, So.
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 279, R-Fr.

Tackle
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 264, Jr
55 Deuce Mataele, 6-3, 280, Jr.

Incoming recruits: DE Gabe Perez, DE Kamalei Correa, DT Nick Terry, DT Justin Taimatuia (DE Durrant Miles is going on a mission)

Notes/quotes:

— Ukwuachu’s experience should enable him to play more as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 look, like Shea McClellin did so effectively in years past. “We want to expand his net a little bit, the different things he’s able to do,” Avalos said.

— Lawrence seems to have regained the coaches’ confidence off the field. He’ll talk to the media today. “There’s no doubt we’re looking for him to grow off the field as well, as a person,” Avalos said. “I think he’s working down the right path with that stuff right now. He can be a leader for this team if he does it the right way.”

— Avalos on McCaskill and Barrett: “We feel very good about those two guys — athletic guys, very hard workers. It’s going to take a little bit of time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

— Avalos on Nance: “We’re counting on Armand to step up and develop and continue to progress a whole lot this spring. Even through the winter already we’ve seen a great improvement out of him, so we’re definitely fired up about the direction he’s going.”

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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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