It seems like its been an eternity since Chris Petersen stunned #BroncoNation the morning of December 6th when it was announced that after years of speculation, he finally took another head coaching job. It only took a week for Bob Kustra and Mark Coyle to find their man to replace Pete, but it certainly didn’t feel that way to Broncos fans.
Since then lots has changed. Bryan Harsin and his young staff shocked Broncos fans by getting commitments from 4-star prospects Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Chase Blakley, showing everyone the kind of recruiting prowess and potential this staff has. Now that the recruiting games are somewhat over (at least for this recent class), the staff can finally pause their recruiting efforts to coach football! The Broncos hit the field for the first time under Harsin tomorrow morning, and unfortunately if you’re expecting a ton of news and updates from the local media, you will be a bit disappointed. Harsin is keeping things on the down low, possibly to keep the Broncos scheme anonymity intact until after the Ole Miss game.
Updates or no updates, the team will be practicing, and there is lots to sort out…..here are some things to keep an eye on this spring, and going forward into summer workouts and fall camp.
The QB “Battle” – It is natural that with a coaching change, every position is open for the taking. That said, Harsin and the coaches have made it clear that RS-Senior QB Grant Hedrick is the leader in the clubhouse. I know fans have a bad taste in their mouths about last season, and Grant was far from perfect, but he did some good things. Hedrick finished the 2013 season with a passing efficiency rating that ranked 23rd nationally at 150.0. Hedrick struggled with turnovers, often at bad times (ugh….that SDSU pick-6)…but 1825 passing yards, 22 total TDs, and 5 INTs in only 6 total starts isn’t exactly terrible either. Grant earned the right to be the “incumbent”. That said, nobody is guaranteed anything. Grant will have to fend off JC-transfer Tommy Stuart, who impressed fans with his highlight tape and has done nothing his entire life but exceed expectations. He won’t concede that starting spot without a fight. RS-Freshman Ryan Finley will attempt to compete as much as he can, but Harsin has warned that they’ll need to bring him along at a slower pace with Finley coming off of surgery. Put all that together, and the details suggest Hedrick will be a heavy favorite to win the job, but nonetheless fans will pay very close attention to the QBs come the spring game.
Will the future play-makers please stand up! – Jay Ajayi, Matt Miller, Shane Williams-Rhodes….fans know who the stars of today are on this Bronco offense. Jay and Shane however are already juniors and Matt Miller is a senior! The Broncos are in need of some future play-makers to step up and make a name for themselves. Unfortunately the RB depth behind Jay Ajayi is a little cluttered with Aaron Baltazar’s unfortunate departure (sigh). From Charles Bertoli, to Devan Demas, to Jack Fields, to Derrick Thomas…I swear all of these RBs have had bright spots, but none have solidified that #2 or #3 RB spot in the rotation much like Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper did behind Doug Martin. You can take your pick, all of them have talent. But someone needs to stand up behind Jay Ajayi and establish themselves.
The same can be said for the WR position. Matt Miller and SWR were awesome last season, but whoa boy does production fall off a statistical cliff after those two. The Broncos cannot continue to rely solely on these two in 2014, or 2015 will present some serious concerns at WR. Fortunately, there are lots of talented candidates waiting in the wings. A.J. Richardson is one of the more highly rated WRs to ever commit to Boise State. Tanner Shipley and Thomas Sperbeck both impressed during last August’s fall scrimmage. Troy Ware had some good moments last season sans fumble vs. Oregon State. Much like the RB spot, the talent is there….but who will step up? Junior Adams will have a fun time sorting through this crew. With SWR taking it easy coming back from surgery, the opportunity is there.
O-Line depth to be tested – Also noted in Chadd Cripe’s linked notes from the Statesmen is the fact that Rees Odhiambo will sit this spring out as a precautionary measure. Meaning Marcus Henry will be the only returning starter from 2013 to participate this spring. Travis Averill, Mario Yakoo, Steven Baggett, among others come into spring with some experience. This is a very talented group who will benefit from lots of reps this spring. Winning football games derives from how you play in the trenches. If the Broncos want to hit the ground running on offense in 2014, this O-Line unit will need to gel quickly.
Can Yates fix the Bronco Defense? – Joe Southwick this, Robert Prince that…..Grant Hedrick that, Robert Prince this…..talk about the offense all you like, the reason the Broncos struggled in 2013 is because the defense took a tremendous step backwards. The days of abusing opponents upfront and suffocating passing games under a dominant secondary appeared to be a thing of the past. Marcel Yates said it was hard to watch film of last season. LOL You’re telling us……everyone struggled. Freshman LBs Tanner Vallejo and Ben Weaver provide optimism, and inserting more depth with Joey Martarano coming into the fold is exciting. But this entire defensive unit sucked. No getting around it. The secondary has come under a ton of scrutiny from media and fans. Whether it was a scheme issue or talent issue is what we’ll begin to unravel this spring with Yates taking over. The introduction of stud recruit Dylan Sumner-Gardner and many redshirt corners like Dionza Blue and Cameron Hartsfield to name a few, should light a fire under this unit. Nobody’s spot is safe. The secondary battle, more than any other group, should be intense as Marcel begins to rebuild this unit. They know what happened last season was not satisfactory. Time to fix it.
The Broncos lose very few starters on defense going into spring. In fact, only two really. Unfortunately, those two are Demarcus Lawrence and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. Outside of Armand Nance, nobody really has an inside track on the D-Line starting spots. Kamalei Correa, Gabe Perez, Beau Martin, among other DEs figure to fight for those spots. RS-Freshman DT Nick Terry was one of the most highly rated DTs Boise State has ever landed. Can he potentially be our next 4-year starter at DT? God I hope so. The Broncos desperately need play-makers at DT to stand up. Nance has been very good, but he cannot do it all himself. The Broncos need to be four deep. Can the likes of Taimatuia, Terry, Ash, etc. take that next step? To return to national prominence, the Broncos will need to recapture their dominant ways on the D-Line.
Coach Harsin has challenged fans to break the 20,000 fans barrier at the spring game. The theme of this spring seems to be everyone needing to step up. The Broncos need young talent to step up at all positions, and the fans need to step up too. Coach Pete made it clear that things began to go stale here in Boise, even for him. The Broncos have every intention to kick this funk and fans need to do the same. We need to break that 20,000 barrier for the spring game and then attempt to sell-out every home game next fall. This is a team effort and we need to help this young team and staff as much as we can. There is a lot of mystery surrounding this 2014 Boise State football team. Lets start off things on the right note…
Go Broncos!!! #BleedBlue #Project20K