Friday, December 30, 2011

2012--Something to Prove

With the graduation of every large Boise State class, and 2011 was another big one, comes the lack of respect from around the nation.  We've already seen it from the way too early preseason polls for 2012, putting Boise State at #26 after likely finishing in the top four or five this year. 

People will give credit to Coach Chris Petersen and his staff, and very grudgingly give it to a senior class, but then they say that the coaching and the seniors are the only reasons why Boise State was good and once this class is gone, they'll go to the city of Mediocrity, the place they wish Boise State had been all along. 

So the challenge is there for the returning Boise State players.  Will the so-called experts be right?  Once Kellen Moore is gone, do the remaining Bronco players collapse, or will they follow the recent history of reloading to the point where they are firing on all cylinders by season's end?  As Bronco fans, we will be hopeful, but 2007 is a pretty good comparison. 

The team had lost a ton of talent from the 2006 season and started the year with a new quarterback.  Losses to Washington, Hawai'i and East Carolina, at least two of which should not have happened, put a damper on the season.  Normally when a team goes 10-3 you say that's a good year but not given the way the season concluded.  Boise State lost to Washington, not because they couldn't move the ball, but because they couldn't score in the red zone.  Time and time again, the Broncos moved the ball to the 20 or inside the 10 and could not score.  Hawai'i was indeed a solid team that went to the Sugar Bowl, but after the Sugar Bowl, we realized they were not a great team.  Georgia easily showed us that the way to beat Hawai'i was to have a pass rush with a pulse and put your corners on the line of scrimmage to take the short passes away.  Pretty easy, really, if you had a good defense.  And East Carolina...hell, when you have players comment that they wanted to go to the Hawai'i Bowl because they felt like they deserved a vacation, game pretty much over before it starts.

So even with all the losses from 2006, I just showed above that the 2007 team very easily could have gone unbeaten but did not.  When a quarterback focuses on one receiver and doesn't spread the ball all over the field, and the line cannot punch the ball in up close, it lessens your chances.  When you let another team's offense dictate the way you play defense, that's a can of worms you don't want to open.  And when you feel you deserve a vacation for a bowl game after losing twice in the season, there's some problems with goals and accepting less than stellar performance. 

My point for years is that the season is made or broken in the off-season, especially at the high levels of Division I football.  The main factor that influences the season is chemistry--each individual team either has it or it doesn't.  It's not something that can be artificial or manufactured.  You trust and respect your teammates or you don't.  You understand your role on the team or you don't.  Obviously, with the high quality of people that Coach Petersen and his staff bring to Boise State, each of those players is someone that the coaching staff wants and believes in.  If that belief is transferred to the players, it's a very tight-knit group, the sort of which we have seen at Boise State for the last four years.  The second biggest factor that influences the next season is in attitude and perseverance.  How does the team as a whole and each individual player approach the season?  With confidence?  With the burning desire to get better?  Unless each player can answer a resounding "Yes" to both, there's some attitude issues already and that's going to dog the team through the fall.  The attitude has to carry you through from right now through the end of the season.  Each player has to perform lights out for every practice, including summer workouts.  If a player or the team isn't ready in the summer to storm through the season, by the time fall practices start, it's too late.  The team has already lost.

So my argument is going to be that if you don't have chemistry and you don't have attitude, nothing you do in the fall is going to matter.  Doesn't matter how talented you are or if the ball bounces your way, you get the right calls on the field, etc. 

So if you really want to know how the 2012 Boise State football team will do, observe them around each other, then check out their summer workouts.  You can pretty much tell if they're going at it hard enough to beat LSU, Alabama, Michigan State or BYU.  For it's one thing to go through the motions, quite another when a team of that caliber is trying to keep you from going where you want to go. 

The 2012 team can either prove the experts right, or they can have their own say in the matter.  The clock is already ticking.

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