No. 2 tailback, right tackle among question marks for Boise State football team this week

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

BACKUP TAILBACKS NEED TO STEP UP

Boise State junior tailback Derrick Thomas isn’t going to make excuses about the limited workload.

“That’s the No. 1 thing at that position is production,” he said. “Without production, there’s really not a purpose for you to be there.”

The Broncos are looking for a No. 2 tailback to support starter Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 18.5 carries per game. Ajayi handled 22 of the Broncos’ 29 tailback carries last week at Utah State — and generated 109 of the 120 yards. It was the first game without backup Aaron Baltazar, who is out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

“We’re not truly a one-back, pound-it-30-times-a-game, give-this-guy-all-the-carries type of offense,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said. “What I need is a guy, or maybe it is two guys, that can come in there and be consistent and go in there and not just be space savers but go in there and make things happen.”

Thomas and sophomore Jack Fields are the leading candidates, but they have not produced so far. They have combined for 41 carries for 112 yards — just 2.7 yards per carry.

They’ve had some bad luck. Fields got hit in the backfield on both of his carries against Utah State and Thomas fumbled a questionable snap in the wildcat.

“You have to earn your reps,” Bhonapha said. “If it’s one play and all you have to do is run a swing route, then you better run the best swing route, because then you start to build momentum on that. Things not going right is part of football. Some of it you can’t make a play on, but that’s what you’re there for is to make plays. You have to take advantage of opportunities and be a game-breaker.”

Offensive coordinator Robert Prince said it is important to give the backups a chance to get into a rhythm.

“Every carry is not going to be great,” he said. “They’ve got to get more carries to get a little bit lathered up.”

BAGGETT’S EMERGENCY START

Boise State redshirt freshman offensive tackle Steven Baggett found out three days before the Utah State game that he would make his first start, at right tackle. He had spent most of this season as the backup left tackle but worked on the right side last year as a redshirt.

He replaced injured starter Rees Odhiambo, who is week to week, and backup Jake Broyles, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in practice.

“I felt like I played pretty well,” Baggett said. “Nervous, of course, but after the first time you get out there that all goes away. … Just like in practice, I went out there and competed as hard as I could.”

His first reaction to the news about the start: a nervous excitement.

“As I got closer and closer to the game, it was more about me feeling confident in myself,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Baggett will start again this week or if Odhiambo will return.

“It would be cool to get a start at home, being in that atmosphere, playing on The Blue,” Baggett said.

He has been an up-and-comer on the offensive line all year. He arrived last year out of Arlington, Texas, at 6-foot-3, 248 pounds, but he has grown to 285 already.

“Just the way they feed you up here and (strength coach Tim) Socha,” he said of how he put on weight. “… It really wasn’t too hard for me. I put on the weight pretty well, pretty quickly.”

NOTES & QUOTES

—Prince on the Nevada defense: “They play very hard. They’re a very physical team. They don’t do a lot of blitzing, but when they do, it’s pretty effective.”

— Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo says he’s 100 percent recovered from a sprained knee sustained in the Wolf Pack’s second game. He missed two games and was limited in the run game in two more. The Pack had a bye last week. He will wear a brace. “I feel like myself again,” he said.

— Boise State linebackers coach Bob Gregory on Fajardo, who ran for 81 yards against the Broncos last year: “He’s deceptively fast. He can run. He might not be the shake, shake guy, but he hurt us last year running the ball.”

— Prince on Joe Southwick’s TD throw to Aaron Burks last week: “It was a great play by Joe and a good finish by Aaron. It was a great strike. He hit him right in stride. He wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger. The windows are always going to be tighter in the red zone and he wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger and that was awesome.”

— I asked sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon for his best and worst moments so far as a first-year starter. The worst: “Obviously giving up a touchdown against Washington the first game of the season.” The best: “My best is yet to come.”

— Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake is using the nickel position as a carrot for his young cornerbacks in practice. Against Southern Miss, true freshman Jonathan Moxey was the fifth defensive back (Deayon moves to nickel and the sub plays cornerback). Against Utah State, it was junior college transfer Mercy Maston. “He likes to see who’s more consistent throughout the week,” Maston said.

•••

OUR COVERAGE

Monday blog: Notes and video from the weekly press conference
Tuesday blog: Mountain West Football Report
Tuesday story: Broncos need more production at tailback
Wednesday story: Not much has changed at Nevada
Wednesday story: Scouting Nevada
Wednesday story: Boise State seeks to extend Nike contract
Wednesday blog: Joe Southwick makes Unitas list
Thursday story: Kicker Dan Goodale enjoys breakout season
Thursday blog: Live chat replay and other notes
Friday story: How Boise State changed its practices to deal with the demands of a fast-paced offense

•••

GAME NOTES

Boise State game notes
Boise State depth chart
Boise State stats
Nevada game notes
Mountain West notes

•••

NEVADA COVERAGE

Reno Gazette-Journal

You can follow beat writer Dan Hinxman at @danhinxmanRGJ.

•••

GAME FACTS

Nevada at Boise State

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bronco Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)

TV: CBS Sports Network (Dave Ryan, Adam Archuleta, Evan Washburn); channel 332/410 (HD) on Cable One, 221 on DirecTV and 158 on Dish Network

Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender

Records: Boise State is 4-2 overall, 2-1 Mountain West; Nevada is 3-3, 2-1

Series: Boise State leads 26-13 (BSU 27-21, 2012 in Reno)


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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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