Toughness tops spring wish list for Boise State football OC Mike Sanford

By Chadd Cripe
© 2014 Idaho Statesman

I met with Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates this week to preview spring football. I have posted highlights from Sanford and a quick positional preview for the offense below. I’ll post the same for Yates and the defense tomorrow. Our spring preview package runs in Monday’s newspaper.

Coach Bryan Harsin held his pre-spring press conference Thursday. Here is my report and the full video from that.


Sanford has three priorities for spring ball, which begins Monday:

— Build toughness. “It’s a new cast of characters up front and we want things to be built from the front and then we move out from there,” he said. “I want those guys to jell and coach (Scott Huff) to get those guys jelling. The biggest thing is just playing physical, playing tough, and then that permeates through the whole perimeter. … I want to see guys straining for their teammates, playing with a little nasty, having a chip on their shoulder.”

— Execution. “This is a completely new situation for a lot of guys — there’s a lot of familiarity with some of the concepts we’re going to be running, but also there’s a lot of new stuff. … The biggest thing is getting to a place throughout this spring ball that we feel really good about where the execution is and the knowledge of the players within the system so that they can apply it when they have their player-led practices (this summer).”

— Develop an attacking mindset. “We’re going to be opportunistic on offense,” he said. “Our offensive unit and our team and our program understand that we’re going to attack. You build that. That doesn’t happen on the first snap of spring ball.”

Other notes from Sanford:

— On first day of spring: “These guys know our staff but they don’t know us truly as coaches with a football on the field and we don’t know them as players with a football on the field because clearly we haven’t done that.”

— On working with Harsin to build the offense, which will be a combination of ideas from Arkansas State (Harsin’s previous school), Stanford (Sanford’s previous school) and Boise State: “(Harsin) is an incredible offensive mind. His system has constantly evolved. I’ve followed it. We’ve spoken (over the years). There’s a lot of harmony between the way the two of us see offensive football.”

— On QB Grant Hedrick: “The biggest thing is his desire to be great. He’s a talented athlete. I think he’s a really unflappable individual. The ups and downs of going through what he did last year, that hardened him, in a good way. He can throw the ball, too. He’s a guy that can spin it. I haven’t seen him throw in person live at all, but I have watched the tape. I think he can make all the throws.”

— On turnovers (Boise State had an uncharacteristic 24 last year): “When we coach ball security, it can’t be going through the motions, it can’t be routine-based — it has to be like the greatest thing ever. We had ball security every single day in drills (at Stanford) and I graded them every single game — the position group as a whole in terms of how their ball security was. Not fumble or no fumble, but how it actually looked on tape. … (Turnover margin) wins football games.”

— On tailback: “There might not be a ton of field credibility at that position outside of Jay (Ajayi), but seeing them move around, seeing them in the weight room, seeing their body types, between Derrick Thomas, Jack Fields and Devan Demas and obviously Jay, that’s a major Division I-looking running back crew — and coach (Kent) Riddle is the perfect guy to have coaching them.”

— On wide receivers: “That’s a group I’m looking forward to seeing. It’s probably the group I know the least about. … We’re going to find out who can catch the ball, who can get separation.”


Here’s a quick spring primer on each offensive position (I’ll do defense tomorrow). I’ll post extensive previews of each position throughout the spring.


9 Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 202, R-Sr.
Tommy Stuart, 6-0, 190, So.
15 Ryan Finley, 6-3, 186, R-Fr.
13 Richard Hoppe, 5-10, 153, R-Fr.

Alex Ogle, 6-3, 205, Fr.

Returning starters: None

Key returner: Hedrick played about half of last season because of injuries and suspension to Joe Southwick. Hedrick completed 69 percent of his passes. He passed for 1,825 yards and rushed for 277 yards with 22 combined touchdowns. However, turnovers were a problem with five interceptions and several costly fumbles.

Spring storyline: Hedrick needs to clean up his ball security and take command of a new scheme. Stuart and Finley, who will be limited by his shoulder injury, will begin jockeying for the backup job.


23 Derrick Thomas, 6-0, 208, R-Sr.
27 Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 220, R-Jr.
21 Jack Fields, 5-9, 195, Jr.
26 Devan Demas, 5-8, 172, R-So.
10 Jamel Hart, 5-9, 195, R-So.
35 Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 200, R-So.

Jeremy McNichols, 5-10, 190, Fr.
Cory Young, 5-10, 180, Fr.

Returning starters: Ajayi rushed for 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He could be the Mountain West preseason offensive player of the year.

Key returner: None of the other backs rushed for 150 yards last season.

Spring storyline: The Broncos need a solid No. 2 and probably a reliable No. 3. There’s talent in the group of backups, but none has produced consistently.


2 Matt Miller, 6-3, 222, R-Sr.
81 Dallas Burroughs, 5-8, 171, Sr.
20 Terrell Johnson, 5-9, 174, R-Jr.
14 Troy Ware, 6-2, 188, R-Jr.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 157, Jr.
19 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 178, R-So. (out for spring)
82 Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 174, So.
80 D.J. Dean, 6-0, 187, R-Fr.
83 Tanner Shipley, 6-0, 182, R-Fr.
39 David McKinzie, 6-0, 165, R-Fr.
Dusty Fisher, 6-2, 179, R-Fr.
A.J. Richardson, 6-1, 199, Fr.

Sean Modster, 6-0, 185, Fr.

Returning starters: Miller (88 catches, 1,140 yards, 12 TDs) and Williams-Rhodes (77, 702, six) provide a dynamic outside-inside duo at receiver.

Other key returners: Ware (10, 107, two) showed flashes of his potential last season.

Spring storyline: This should be one of the most competitive positions on the team. Among the intriguing candidates: Johnson, Sperbeck, Shipley and Richardson.


89 Connor Peters, 6-4, 250, Sr.
84 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 241, R-Jr.
85 Holden Huff, 6-5, 236, R-Jr.
93 Brennyn Dunn, 6-3, 220, R-So.
91 Jackson Reed, 6-4, 226, R-So.
98 Alec Dhaenens, 6-3, 232, R-Fr. (out for spring)
88 Jake Roh, 6-2, 210, R-Fr.

Chase Blakley, 6-4, 235, Fr.
David Lucero, 6-5, 220, Fr.

Returning starters: None

Key returners: Peters (seven catches), Huff (six) and Hardee (five) contributed last season. Huff is a two-year contributor, but he’s suspended for the season opener.

Spring storyline: Tight ends will factor heavily into the new offense and the Broncos have recruited four very good prospects in the last two classes — Dhaenens, Roh, Blakley and Lucero. That puts pressure on the three experienced players to perform this spring.

Note: Kyle Sosnowski, who did not play the last two seasons because of injuries, will not play again. The senior will remain in the program and help out while he finishes his degree. Sosnowski is from Capital High. He played in 12 games and started two as a redshirt freshman in 2011.


72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 285, R-Jr.
71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 307, R-Jr. (out for spring)
Jerhen Ertel, 6-5, 258, R-Jr.
73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 296, R-So.
70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 285, R-So.
66 Mario Yakoo, 6-3, 323, R-So.
60 Kellen Buhr, 6-0, 285, R-So.
79 Avery Westendorf, 6-5, 292, R-So.
74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 275, R-Fr.
75 Eli McCullough, 6-5, 271, R-Fr.
52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 279, R-Fr. (out for spring)
59 Mason Hampton, 6-2, 266, R-Fr.

Troy Bacon, 6-3, 280, Fr.
Andres Preciado, 6-6, 255, Fr.
Tennessee Su’esu’e, 6-2, 295, Fr.

Returning starters: Odhiambo (tackle) and Henry (guard) formed the right side of the offensive line last season.

Other key returners: Averill, Baggett and Yakoo all started games last season.

Spring storyline: This group is starting over this spring. With Odhiambo injured, the starting five in spring will be almost completely new. Ertel, a junior college transfer, and Lewis, who impressed teammates last year while redshirting, are interesting candidates at tackle. The No. 1 priority, though, will be finding a center. Averill and Tercek were recruited for that spot. So was Bacon, but he doesn’t arrive until August.


We’ll hold a live chat at 10 a.m. Tuesday to talk about spring football. You can sign up for a reminder below.


Former Boise State safety Jeron Johnson has signed a one-year contract extension to remain with the Seattle Seahawks. Story 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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