Boise State spring football watch list: No. 2, offensive improvement

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

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.

Monday: Newcomers.
Today: Offensive improvement.

Boise State’s offensive woes last season were less of an issue during the four-game winning streak to end the year. The Broncos scored 49 points at Hawaii and 42 against Colorado State. Then the offense delivered many key plays while scoring 27 at Nevada and 28 against Washington in the bowl game — two games in which the group didn’t fully capitalize on its opportunities but covered for a defense that faded in the second halves.

Still, coach Chris Petersen was adamant after the bowl game that the offense needed more than just fine-tuning.

“We’re going to look at our offense from top to bottom,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and there’s a lot of dead weight in it and we need to get rid of a lot of things. We’ve already had early discussions and it will be interesting to see where we go with this whole thing.”

The Broncos averaged 30.2 points per game, which ranked 54th in the nation, and 391.3 yards per game, which ranked 68th. Those were uncharacteristic numbers for a program that usually finishes near the national lead in scoring.

In fact, the scoring output was the lowest for the Broncos since 1998 and 7.4 points per game less than any previous season since Petersen became the head coach in 2006.

“The kids improved and all that,” Petersen said in December, “but we have to be able to score more points than we scored.”

On National Signing Day, Petersen said he was enjoying the evaluation process. “It’s fun,” he said. “That’s what we like to do. … It fires us all up.”

Offensive coordinator Robert Prince, on the other hand, downplayed the potential changes.

“If you ask Coach Pete every year, that’s what he basically says,” said Prince, who enters his second year as the coordinator. “It’s not like a revelation. We’re always going to evaluate what we do, see what we do well, see what we need to work on and see if we can fix it. If we can’t fix it, we throw it out.”

One area the Broncos definitely will work on: running the ball. They averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season, which isn’t bad, but that number was at 5.4 in 2010. Petersen and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. have mentioned that emphasis.

One thing Prince liked last year: the no-huddle offense, which he used extensively in the bowl game. The Broncos will be better positioned to use the no-huddle this year because of the experience on offense.

Any specific changes likely won’t be obvious to the public until the opener Aug. 31 at Washington. The team likely will have two open scrimmages — the Spring Game on April 13 and the traditional fall scrimmage. And those are usually fairly vanilla.

But improvement should come regardless of any changes made by the coaching staff. The offense returns its coordinator for the first time since 2010, its quarterback (senior Joe Southwick), four of its top five rushers (sophomores Jay Ajayi, Jack Fields and Shane Williams-Rhodes and Southwick), six of its top eight receivers (junior Matt Miller, senior Kirby Moore, Williams-Rhodes, senior Geraldo Boldewijn, sophomore Holden Huff and senior Aaron Burks) and two significant building blocks on the offensive line in Leno and center Matt Paradis, both seniors.

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Personnel at a glance:

OFFENSE
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.)
Redshirts to watch: QB Nick Patti, RB Devan Demas, OL Travis Averill
Newcomers to watch: RB Derrick Thomas, WR D.J. Dean

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.)
Redshirts to watch: DT Elliot Hoyte, LB Ben Weaver, LB Chris Santini, S Chanceller James
Newcomers to watch: DT Tutulupeatau “Deuce” Mataele, CB Cleshawn Page, LB Darren Lee

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.)
Redshirt to watch: P Sean Wale
Newcomer to watch: K Tyler Rausa

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2013 schedule

Aug. 31: at Washington
Sept. 7: vs. Tennessee Martin
Sept. 28: vs. Southern Miss
Oct. 26: at BYU
Mountain West home games (dates TBA): Air Force, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming
Mountain West road games (dates TBA): Colorado State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State

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The Spring Game is at 5:30 p.m. April 13 at Bronco Stadium. The Beat Coach Pete Scholarship run and Walk is the same day, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Registration is available here.

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Petersen is a co-author of a new book, “Wise Beyond Your Field: How Creative Leaders Out Innovate to Out Perform.” The author is listed as Nancy K. Napier & The Gang. Napier, a professor of business at Boise State, has been working with the group of leaders since 2006. Her co-authors include Petersen; Jamie Cooper, CEO of Drake Cooper; Mark Hofflund, managing director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival; Don Kemper, CEO of Healthwise; Bob Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics; Gary Raney, Ada County sheriff; and John Michael Schert, executive director of the Trey McIntyre Project.

A book release media event will be held Thursday. The book can be purchased for $15 through Amazon here.

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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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