Monday, March 12, 2012

The Story Lines to Follow for Boise State Spring Ball

The media makes a big deal about so-called eight starters lost on defense and the "shoes to fill" on offense.  Those who follow the program closely know that many of those eight "starters" on defense platooned, were hurt part of last year, or started because of injuries to others.  We also know of the huge depth on both offense and defense built up by years of outstanding recruiting classes.

Of course, until those promising players actually step on the field, we don't know if they will produce at the level they are capable of.  Then, there's academic performance, attitude, strength and conditioning, and living up to the other responsibilities (staying out of trouble) that they are expected to do to be a part of the Boise State Bronco team.

With Spring Practice starting this morning, there are several things that Blue Football Through and Through will be following.  One is the battle to replace All-American Nate Potter, who likely will be one of a stellar class of Boise State seniors to be drafted into the NFL.  Faraji Wright is one of those guys I personally thought would have already been starting by now, but has not matured into the type of consistent road grader that Boise State needs for its offense to run the way its drawn up.

There are the five defensive linemen who graduated, and that is the biggest area hit on the team.  It was perhaps telling that Boise State recruited JC DeMarcus Lawrence with this last class.  This move tells us two things--1) they don't think there are two ends who are ready to play Top 10 football and 2) the coaches likely expect Lawrence to start.  Bronco coaches don't usually go after JC recruits and when they do, they have had outstanding success (Jerard Rabb, Winston Venable and Tyrone Crawford are just recent examples).  Other contenders at the position are Tyler Horn, Darren Koontz and Kharyee Marshall.  I would like to believe that recent d-line recruits are also good enough to step up but we'll wait and see how they do in spring ball.

Safety is the other are of the defense hit with the loss of amazing four-year player George Iloka.  But I don't see it as a concern.  Lee Hightower came on last year and played both corner and safety and seemed to get better as he got adjusted to the speed of college ball.  Other contenders are Hazsen Moss, who played outstanding on special teams, and Jeremy Ioane.

Then of course there's the kicker, which is the kicking position.  Boise State has had more troubles with this position than any other since Chris Petersen took over in 2006.  Never was this more the case than last season, when the crowd held their breath on mere extra points.  So far, Boise State has not taken my advice of hiring a kicking specialist to coach the kickers--to me, it's worth the money to spend a few hundred thousand dollars on another coach that actually knows the mindset of kickers and knows what to look for in recruits, then works with the kickers to make them better.  After all, that few hundred thousand dollars would have already paid off in the form of two BCS Bowls (upwards of $15-20 million) that were lost because of missed field goals the last two seasons.  But oh well.

Sean Wale was brought in to try to rectify the kicking game.  Boise State has not had a dependable field goal kicker with the game on the line since the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma (Anthony Montgomery).  Jake Van Ginkel was brought in with the Class of 2011 but didn't see the field.  Since the team never carries more than one scholarship for placekickers, the winner of the Kicker Derby will likely get the scholarship.

It will be an interesting Spring.  Key dates to remember:  Pro Day for last year's seniors is March 22, the annual Spring Game, one of the most attended in the nation, is April 14 at 5 p.m., with Boise State's final practice slated for April 16.  The Spring Game is the only practice which is open to the public.

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