Boise State spring football watch list: No. 1, newcomers

With the Boise State football team set to open spring practice next Monday, I’ll use my blog this week to discuss five areas to watch — one a day, Monday-Friday.

Today: Newcomers.

With only 11 of 25 starters returning and holes in a couple of critical areas (cornerback, defensive tackle), the Broncos put an unusually high premium on junior college transfers in the 2013 recruiting class.

“Usually you don’t like to take that many JC guys, just because you don’t have them that long,” coach Chris Petersen said on National Signing Day. “That’s the main reason — and it takes them a while to get dialed in. That said, the JC guys we’ve taken we’ve done pretty well with. Our coaches have a pretty good feel for what we’re really looking for. We’re leery in recruiting anyway. We’re even more leery with JC guys. It has to be the right guy because he doesn’t have much time. We felt like we had needs at these positions.”

Four of the six signees joined the team in January and will get a chance to stake their claim to contributing roles in spring ball. Last year, a strong showing in the spring propelled junior college transfer and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence to an All-Mountain West season.

This year’s transfers include:

DT Tutulupeatau “Deuce” Mataele, 6-3, 285, jr., Mt. San Antonio College (West Valley, Utah): The Broncos lost three of their top four tackles, with only Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe returning. They also lost one of the players they were counting on for the future, Jeff Worthy, to dismissal. That makes Mataele and fellow JC transfer Justin Taimatuia, who arrives in the summer, important additions.

CB Cleshawn Page, 5-10, 190, jr., Harbor College (Los Angeles): Page brings elite speed to the secondary and likely will compete for the field cornerback job vacated by Jerrell Gavins. The Broncos lost starters Gavins and Jamar Taylor and will be without Bryan Douglas (torn ACL) in the spring, so that leaves plenty of opportunity for Page to make a move. Another JC transfer, Mercy Maston, arrives in the summer.

K Tyler Rausa, 5-10, 180, so., Riverside City College (Murrieta, Calif.): Another spring on kicker watch — with Rausa set to compete with returning walk-on Dan Goodale for the starting job. Rausa 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. He said when he committed that coaches were looking for a steady kicker on mid-range kicks. “They said that they just need a guy to come in and compete for a spot,” Rausa said. “I haven’t earned it, but a guy like me who will come in and be consistent inside of 45 (yards). They’re not looking for a huge leg. They want someone to just be himself, to not be overwhelmed by the crowd or the situation. A guy who will work hard and do what he has to do. It’s not given. I have to come in and earn that spot. I have to work my butt off.”

RB Derrick Thomas, 6-1, 210, jr., Butler CC (Pittsburg, Texas): Thomas isn’t one of the Broncos’ higher-profile recruits, likely because the tailback position appears in good hands with sophomores Jay Ajayi and Jack Fields. But coaches seem excited about the toughness and experience he’ll bring to the huddle — and he’ll be the oldest running back on the team. “He’s going to push the whole group with all the young guys I have,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said.

The Broncos also added three scholarship freshmen in January — wide receiver D.J. Dean (Eagle High), linebacker Darren Lee (Susanville, Calif.) and offensive lineman Archie Lewis (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.). Lee likely will be rusty because he’s coming off a mission but he plays a position where the Broncos are thin, which probably gives him the best chance to contribute this year. Dean also could become a factor if he excels on special teams (he was considered a possible safety, too, so he’s got that ability).

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Personnel at a glance:

OFFENSE

Boise State football, Charles Leno Jr.

Boise State football, Charles Leno Jr.

Returning starters (5 of 12): LT Charles Leno Jr. (sr.), C Matt Paradis (sr.), WR Kirby Moore (sr.), WR Matt Miller (jr.), QB Joe Southwick (sr.)
Lost starters (7): LG Joe Kellogg, RG Michael Ames, RT Brenel Myers, TE Chandler Koch, WR Mitch Burroughs/Chris Potter, FB Dan Paul, RB D.J. Harper
Key reserves returning: WR Aaron Burks (sr.), WR Geraldo Boldewijn (sr.), OL Spencer Gerke (sr.), OL Jake Broyles (sr.), TE Gabe Linehan (sr.), TE Holden Huff (so.), RB Jay Ajayi (so.)

DEFENSE
Returning starters (5 of 11): DE Demarcus Lawrence (jr.), DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (sr.), DE Sam Ukwuachu (so.), S Jeremy Ioane (jr.), S Darian Thompson (so.)
Lost starters (6): DT Mike Atkinson, LB Tommy Smith, LB J.C. Percy, N Dextrell Simmons, CB Jamar Taylor, CB Jerrell Gavins
Key reserves returning: DL Tyler Horn (jr.), DE Beau Martin (jr.), DE Kharyee Marshall (sr.), LB Blake Renaud (jr.), LB Tyler Gray (so.), N Corey Bell (jr.), S Dillon Lukehart (so.), CB Bryan Douglas (jr.), CB Donte Deayon (so.)

SPECIAL TEAMS
Returning starters (1 of 2): P Trevor Harman (sr.)
Lost starters (1): K Michael Frisina
Other key returners: KO Dan Goodale (jr.), LS Kevin Keane (jr.), KR Shane Williams-Rhodes (so.), H Matt Miller (jr.)

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If you missed it earlier, here is my post on Boise State playing a home-and-home series with Florida State.

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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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