Boise State wants its position back at top of the WAC |

Boise State wants its position back at top of the WAC

This is the third in a series of articles previewing Western Athletic Conference football teams. Today, the Appeal takes a look at Boise State.


Appeal Sports Writer

Something different happened to the Boise State Broncos ” their five-year stranglehold on the Western Athletic Conference ended.

The Broncos went 10-3, including 7-1 in WAC play, but for the first time since 1993, lost back-to-back games to end the season. The Broncos lost 39-27 to Hawaii to decide the conference title, and then dropped a 41-38 decision to East Carolina in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

No doubt that will be used for motivation as the Broncos open camp this week.

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“We have smart guys,” BSU coach Chris Petersen said at the recent WAC Football Preview in Salt Lake City. “You don’t have to say a whole lot. I think they have learned some lessons.

“Hawaii was a darn good team. They were better than us in that stadium and that night. The game that really sticks out is the last one. We rallied and competed to the end. We showed our competitive spirit. I felt like we didn’t put our best foot forward for four quarters. We won’t let that happen again. We’ll be playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

Petersen calls this a “unique” team. He estimates, including walk-ons, there will be more than 30 new faces on the roster.

“We have depth at a couple of positions that we’ve never had, and at a couple of positions we’re probably as inexperienced as we’ve ever been,” Petersen said. “I’m optimistic. It’s a unique opportunity to blend the old with the new.”

The Broncos have some gaping holes to fill on their offensive front. Left tackle Ryan Clady left early for the NFL, and left guard Tad Miller, center Jeff Cavender and right tackle Dan Gore are gone. The only returning starter is senior right tackle Andrew Woodruff (6-2, 320), who is expected to move to left guard.

“That’s one of the big question marks,” Petersen said. “We’re going to work hard through the fall camp to get it ironed out. We think we have some talent. We have young talent and some older guys that haven’t been starters but we need to get them in the mix. It will be a big question mark how we play early on.

“One thing that you can’t count, certainly at Boise State, is losing a junior (to the NFL). When you have as good a left tackle that is as good as we’ve had taken in the first round … I think we have some talent there. We’re excited about getting them on the same page.”

Redshirt freshman Nate Potter (6-6, 272) appears to be the front-runner to replace Clady at left tackle. His back-up will be another redshirt freshman Garrett Pendergast.

Senior Jon Gott (6-3, 286) should start at right guard, while redshirt freshman Thomas Byrd (6-0, 275) goes into camp as the top center prospect. Sophomores Kevin Sapien (6-4, 274) and Matt Slater (6-4, 281) will battle at right tackle.

Another big loss is quarterback Taylor Tharp, a one-year-starter, who threw for 3,340 yards and 30 scores last season. There’s senior Bush Hamdan (4 for 6, 98 yards), junior Nick Lomax (6 for 13, 76 yards), sophomore Michael Coughlin (6 of 14, 95 yards) and redshirt freshman Kellen Moore, who has impressed coaches with his knowledge of the offense.

“It’s still pretty open,” Petersen said of the quarterback battle. “We learned a lot, especially with Tharp. Coming out of spring (last year). I wasn’t convinced he was the quarterback. At least we were patient enough.

“The ideal situation is that you have a 2-year starter and it’s not an issue. I feel confident at that position. I know the guy we have there is going to be a good player, I just don’t know who it’s going to be. Bryan Harsin did a fabulous job with Taylor Tharp, and he’ll do the same thing with whoever the guy is there this year.”

The Broncos are loaded at both running back and tight end.

At running back, Ian Johnson returns for his senior season. Johnson had an off year for him, running for just 1,087 yards and 16 touchdowns. Injuries caused him to miss two full games.

Sophomores Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper played plenty in Johnson’s absence. Harper gained 672 yards and scored eight times while D. J. Harper gained 376 yards and tallied six TDs.

“I’m excited,” Petersen said. “Ian has been a heck of a player for us. He’s been such a factor for so long. he’s very motivated. One of the things that helps is that we don’t have to play him every down, and he can be pushed by those younger guys.”

Richie Brockel returns at fullback. He is a key component to the running game because of his blocking, and he’s shown that he can catch the ball out of the backfield.

At wide receiver, junior Jeremy Childs (82 catches, 1045 yards, 9 TDS) is the top returnee providing the school lifts his suspension which forced him to miss spring ball. Two sophomores ” Austin Pettis and Titus Young ” are coming off great freshmen seasons. Pettis caught 46 balls for 465 yards and six scores, and Young grabbed 44 passes for 639 yards and five TDs. Seniors Vinny Perretta (9-120) and Julian Hawkins (23-208) also are in the mix. Chris O’Neil (11-123-1) will see plenty of action at tight end.

The defense has always been underrated at Boise State, but the unit has always been near or at the top in critical categories. A year ago, the Broncos gave up only 21.6 a game, tops in the conference.

The linebacking crew of Kyle Gingg (5-11, 203), Tim Brady (6-1, 204), Derrell Acrey (6-1, 233) and Dallas Dobbs (6-1, 215) all saw significant time last season. Gingg and Brady are expected to start. Acrey and Dobbs will battle for time in the middle.

A plethora of redshirt freshmen are cast in reserve roles, according to Petersen.

Senior Mike T. Williams (6-3, 248), who Petersen call his “favorite player on the team” returns at defensive end. Williams finished with 28 tackles and six sacks last season. He’s joined by sophomore Ryan Winterswyk (6-4, 258), who had a team-leading nine stops behind the line plus 45 tackles.

Senior Joe Bozikovich (6-0, 273) and Reno’s Sean Bingham (6-3, 260) are expected to start at tackle. Bozikovich had 18 tackles while playing behind Ian Smart and Nick Schlekeway. Bingham had four tackles while playing defensive end last season.

The Broncos have two key holes to fill in the secondary, as junior cornerback Orlando Scandrick was drafted by the NFL and safety Marty Tadman, the quarterback of the defense, has graduated. Tadman had 93 tackles and 10 pass breakups, while Scandrick had 50 tackles and 5.5 sacks.

Kyle Williams missed spring practice, but is expected to start at one corner alongside Brandyn Thompson or Keith McGowan. Sophomore Jason Robinson is back at one safety slot, while Jeron Johnson is slated to start opposite him.

The special teams returns both starters from a year ago ” punter Brad Elkin (37.5 average) and place-kicker Kyle Brotzman (114 points), who converted 16 of 18 field goals.