Boise State tailback Jack Fields hopes to capitalize on last year’s experience


Tailback Jay Ajayi in 1-on-1 passing drills

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

The first two Boise State running back names that sophomore tailback Jack Fields mentioned in his first interview as a Bronco will surprise you.

Second-year NFL star Doug Martin, of course, was the first one.

The second: Cedric Minter, who holds the school’s career rushing record (4,475 yards) but finished his career in 1980.

“I’m a student of the game,” said Fields, who is from El Paso, Texas. “My dad, he’s a huge football fan. So when I got my offer from here, I was doing research. I was watching (Minter) saying, ‘This guy is awesome.’ ”

Fields was the No. 3 tailback last year as a true freshman but never quite had a breakthrough game. Coach Chris Petersen frequently bemoaned Fields’ lack of carries — 43 total, with zero in seven games.

Fields gained 135 yards (3.1 per carry).

“He’s a very focused, hard-working guy,” Petersen said last month. “I think it’s just a matter of time before he really starts to shine.”

Fields likely will fit into the tailback rotation behind sophomore Jay Ajayi, who beat him out for the No. 2 spot last season and is the expected starter this year. Junior Derrick Thomas and redshirt freshman walk-on Charles Bertoli also have been productive in fall camp.

Fields’ edge: He’s the only tailback other than Ajayi who has played major college football.

“It was great to get a chance to play as a true freshman,” Fields said. “I got to see the speed of the game and see what I need to improve to take my game to the next level.”

In addition to his limited role in the backfield, he played on punt return and kickoff return last season. He was blocking on the right side when Shane Williams-Rhodes darted up the right sideline on the key kickoff return in the bowl game.

“I love playing special teams,” Fields said, “so it was an honor because I know around here we take that very seriously. One of my highlights of the season was that kickoff return that Shane had in the MAACO Bowl. It was awesome to be a part of that.”

•••

The Broncos likely will start three seasoned seniors on the offensive line this year.

And they need to provide more than just blocking.

Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. has started 26 straight games and made the All-Mountain West second team last season. Center Matt Paradis has started 14 games and was an All-MW first-teamer. Left guard Spencer Gerke has started eight games and can play all three interior positions.

“In the past, they’ve always had other guys to look up to and now it’s their turn to take charge out there,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “It’s not that typical that we have vocal guys in the offensive line, but they need to be vocal guys in the offensive line. … If we’re having an average practice — a below-average one like we did (Wednesday) — it’s on them to pick the group up.”

The line played much better Thursday but Strausser hopes to see quicker turnarounds as camp progresses.

“We want to have adversity in practice,” he said. “Nobody wants to have a bad play, but we want to learn from a bad play and be able to respond and come back and have a positive play. That’s definitely something that needs to show up on the practice field daily.”

Sophomores Rees Odhiambo (right tackle) and Marcus Henry (right guard) are the leading candidates to start on the right side. Senior Jake Broyles, who started the past two season openers but has been derailed by injuries, and redshirt freshman Steven Baggett are competing for time at tackle. Redshirt freshman Mario Yakoo is pushing the guards.

“There’s more of an emphasis on running the ball than what we’ve done the past couple years,” Strausser said, “but really we want to be physical, we want to be leaders out there, we want to show up every day and be consistent and we want to score points. Do I want to run the ball? Yes. But what I really want to do is score points.”

He has a young group this year with 10 true or redshirt freshmen among 17 players. There are five seniors — walk-on guard Chris Tozer is the other — and no juniors.

“It’s fun,” Strausser said. “Obviously that gives you some gray hairs at times, but in reality we have a lot of young, hungry guys who are trying to prove themselves.”

•••

The Broncos have a two-a-day session today — one of only two this fall camp.

— They practiced in full pads this morning — and they made good use of those pads with an intense, physical, live goal-line session at the end of practice. The defensive tackles did a good job getting some push throughout practice and the tight ends made several nice plays in the pass game.

— Backup quarterback Grant Hedrick led the first-team offense on a touchdown drive in the afternoon (helmets and shoulder pads). Sophomore tailback Jack Fields provided the key play, a 29-yard run.

— Senior tight end Gabe Linehan was Petersen’s camper of the day. “It’s great to see Gabe back out here healthy and playing full speed,” Petersen told BroncoSports.com. “He is playing top-notch Bronco football.” Linehan missed most of last season with a hamstring injury. Here is the story I wrote about Linehan earlier this week.

•••

Here are today’s newspaper stories — on the targeting rule and camp notes.

In the tackling drill video below from today’s practice, you’ll see that coaches are emphasizing tackling with the head to the side, aiming for the bottom of the numbers and leading with the shoulder pads.

•••


Tackling drill


Linebacker drill (Joe Martarano is No. 7)

•••

Here’s my updated position-by-position roster (Boise state has added some walk-on info):

QUARTERBACK
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.

TAILBACK
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.

WIDE RECEIVER
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.

TIGHT END
87 Gabe Linehan, 6-4, 238, R-Sr.
86 Kyle Sosnowski, 6-2, 238, R-Jr.
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.

OFFENSIVE LINE
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 Meager, Fr.

DEFENSIVE 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 END
48 Kharyee Marshall, 6-2, 240, R-Sr.
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 265, Jr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 240, R-Fr.
33 Gabe Perez, 6-4, 226, Fr.
92 Kamalei Correa, 6-2, 244, Fr.

On mission:
Durrant Miles, 6-4, 220, Fr.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE
43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 300, R-Sr.
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.
95 James Tucker, 6-2, 252, Fr.

LINEBACKER
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.

CORNERBACK
1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 178, R-Jr.
29 Deon’tae Florence, 5-9, 167, 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.
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.

KICKER
41 Dan Goodale, 5-10, 196, R-Jr.
26 Tyler Rausa, 5-8, 190, So.

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

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


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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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