By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
PRACTICE NO. 5
Player spotlight: Sophomore defensive tackle Armand Nance, who played last year as a true freshman, will be important to the Broncos’ rotation. If he steps up behind Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and Tyler Horn, the Broncos will have three players with at least some experience and two junior college transfers. If Nance can’t crack the top four, then the Broncos will have to count on two rookies in the middle of the No. 2 line. “We’re counting on Armand to step up and develop and continue to progress a whole lot this spring,” defensive line coach Andy Avalos said. “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.”
Play of the day: Sophomore wide receiver Troy Ware, who has always shown the ability to make spectacular catches, made a one-handed grab while running down the sideline in 1-on-1 drills.
Notes: Practice was jammed with individual work Monday, so there was little time for 11-on-11 action. … Pro day — when NFL scouts visit to evaluate last year’s seniors — is Thursday morning. It’s closed to the public but open to the media. I’ll have a full report online that afternoon. … There was no report for practice No. 4, on Saturday, because it was closed to the media.
Next practice: Wednesday
POSITION REPORT: TIGHT ENDS
Returning starters (0 of 2): None
Starters lost: TE Chandler Koch, FB Dan Paul
Returning contributors: Sophomore Holden Huff started five games last season and should be a significant factor in the pass game this year. He made 17 catches as a freshman for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Nine of his catches and all of his touchdowns came in the final four games. “He really came along — just like the rest of the offense,” quarterback Joe Southwick said. Senior Gabe Linehan, who missed most of last season with a hamstring injury but was a big contributor in 2011 (23 catches, five TDs), is back on the field this spring. So is junior Kyle Sosnowski, who missed all of last season. Junior Connor Peters, who contributed as a junior college transfer last season, provides a big body in the run game at 250 pounds. “(Linehan) is hungry to perform,” tight ends coach Scott Huff said. “Connor Peters is another guy that every once in a while you saw flashes from him, but it’s another year in the program and he needs to step up for us and hopefully be able to do some things. … (Sosnowski), he could have a breakout year if we can keep him healthy.”
Other players to watch: Walk-on Jake Hardee, a sophomore from Bishop Kelly High, earned playing time on special teams (punt, kickoff return) late last season and has developed into a fifth option at tight end — a position where injuries have been a serious problem in recent years. Sophomore walk-on Jamal Wilson is the only true fullback on the roster, but the Broncos often use tight ends in that role.
Way-too-early projected starters: TE Linehan, FB Peters
87 Gabe Linehan, 6-4, 238, R-Sr.
86 Kyle Sosnowski, 6-2, 245, R-Jr.
89 Connor Peters, 6-4, 250, Jr.
42 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 243, R-So.
85 Holden Huff, 6-5, 221, R-So.
93 Brennyn Dunn, 6-3, 212, R-Fr.
90 Jamal Wilson, 5-11, 238, R-So.
Incoming recruits: TE Alec Dhaenens, 6-4, 240, Fr.; TE Jake Roh, 6-2, 215, Fr.
— Huff on Hardee: “He’s been Steady Eddie. He’s really smart. We can count on him for a lot of different things. Hopefully his role will continue to grow. He was good on (punt and kickoff return). Special teams, he’s gaining confidence. You’d like to see it carry over into offense.”
— The Broncos have lost key tight ends Linehan (2012), Paul (2011), Tommy Gallarda (2010), Richie Brockel (2009) and Chris O’Neill (2008) to long-term injuries in the past five seasons. They also lost freshman Hayden Plinke to suspension last season and Plinke is no longer in the program. “Seems like every year we have this conversation where we’re loving things, we’ve got a lot of guys, and then we just get filleted halfway through (the season),” Huff said.