New era, same expectations for Boise State | NevadaAppeal.com

New era, same expectations for Boise State

(Editor’s Note: This is the ninth and final story previewing football teams in the Western Athletic Conference. Today, the Appeal looks at Boise State).

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

It’s a new era for four-time defending WAC champion Boise State.

Dan Hawkins has shuffled off to the University of Colorado to test his coaching expertise in the Big 12, and offensive guru Chris Petersen is the Broncos’ new head coach.

The Broncos have won 62 games in the last five years, including a 9-4 record last year. Boise State’s four straight conference titles ties USC for the longest current streak in the country.

Don’t expect much to change. The Broncos are still the team to beat in the WAC, espcially when you consider they return nine starters on each side of the ball, including middle linebacker Korey Hall on defense and quarterback Jared Zabransky on offense.

“I’m anxious to get started,” Petersen said during the recent Media Day in Boise. “I’m so tired of talking about being a new head coach. It’s time to go out and work at getting better.”

Petersen was the architect of Boise State’s high-flying offense the last four years, but he was quick to stress how underrated the Broncos’ defense was.

“I believe championships are won with defense,” Petersen said. “The defense did a great job of getting us field position and changing the momentum of games.”

Boise State returns two starters at linebacker – the 6-foot-1 228-pound Hall and two-year starter Colt Brooks (6-1, 216). Hall is already 15th all time in tackles with 283 over his three-year career. He finished with a team-high 106 stops last year. Brooks was fourth on the squad with 80 tackles and six quarterback sacks.

The battle to replace Chris Barrios on the weak side is between sophomores David Shields (6-1, 225) and Kyle Gingg (5-11, 215). Both made nine tackles as freshmen. Josh Bean and Mike Altieri are the main back-ups.

Up front, the Broncos did lose Alex Guerrero, their best run stopper. Mike G. Williams (6-3, 244) returns at one end and Nick Schlekeway (6-4, 262) is the scheduled starter on the other side. Williams and Mike Dominguez figure to see plenty of action, too. Williams finished with 24 tackles and three sacks and Schlekeway was ninth on the team in tackles with 33. Ex-Reno High star Sean Bigham figures to get some time this season.

Senior Andrew Browning (6-0, 278), who is on the Outland Trophy watch list, returns at tackle. He had 35 stops last year. Tim Volk (6-2, 289), Dennis Ellis (6-3, 270), Ian Smart (6-3, 278) and Dan Gore (6-5, 300) will battle for time opposite Browning.

BSU returns plenty of experience in the secondary, but there will be some changes this year.

In an effort to get his four best athletes on the field at the same time, Gerald Alexander (6-0, 204) has moved from cornerback to strong safety. Marty Tadman (5-8, 182) is back at free safety. Tadman had 101 tackles and a team-leading five interceptions. Alexander had 50 stops at cornerback in 2005.

Sophomore Orlando Scandrick (5-11, 175), who started 12 games as a true freshman, returns at one cornerback spot. He’s a good cover corner and a hard hitter. He’ll be backed up by Austin Smith. Quinton Jones (5-9, 177), who is better known as a kick returner, is penciled in as the other cornerback. Redshirt freshman Kyle Wilson adds depth.

The Broncos’ offense averaged 36 points a game, and with most of the skill players back, there’s no reason to believe the Broncos won’t continue to shred opposing defenses.

Zabransky (6-2, 203) has won 20 games in his two years as a starter. He completed 202 of 342 passes for 2,562 yards and 18 scores. He’s rushed for 24 scores the last two years.

The big loss on offense was left tackle Daryn Colledge, who was a second-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers. Ex-Elko star Pete Cavender, a probable starter at right guard, was lost for the season because of a summer conditioning injury.

“We’re a quarterback-driven offense,” Petersen said. “If our guy (Zabransky) plays well, we’ll play well. Jared had a nice off-season and did a good job in spring football.

“We want more consistency, and we’re splitting hairs when I say that. He doesn’t have to win the game for us. He just has to run the offense. A good play can be taking a sack or throwing the ball out of bounds. He’s learned some lessons the hard way.”

Tyler Tharp and Nick Lomax are the back-ups at quarterback.

Zabransky has his three favorite receivers back – Jerard Rabb (6-2, 199), Legedu Naane (6-2, 228) and Drisan James (5-11, 186). Rabb led the team in catches (38) and receiving yards (572). James had 34 grabs for 518 yards and Naane, who came to BSU as a quarterback, caught 34 balls for 483 yards and a team-high six scores. Also back is sophomore Vinny Perretta, who had 12 catches for 169 yards.

Three-year starter Derek Schouman (6-2, 233) is back after an off year where he caught only 17 passes for 177 yards. Ryan Putnam, Jared Hunter and Sherm Blaser are the reserves.

“We have six or seven guys, who if the quarterbacks get the ball in the area, have a chance to make the play,” Petersen said. “We have good depth here.”

In the past, Bosie State has used a committee approach at tailback. That may change this year with three of the four top running backs having finished their eligibility.

Lee Marks is gone, but Ian Johnson (5-11, 194) returns. Johnson rushed for 663 yards and four scores. Backing up Johnson are Brett Denton (5-10, 191) and Jon Helmandollar (5-11, 215), who didn’t play last year for personal reasons. Helmandollar rushed for 231 yards and 14 scores, as he was used in short-yardage situations.

“I think we have a good one in Ian Johnson,” Petersen said. “We lost three senior running backs. They were so key, the team chemistry thing they brought. We’ve got to get chemistry where guys are playing for each other like we’ve had in the past.”

Brad Lau (5-11, 242) returns at fullback. Michael Lose (5-10,227) is the back-up, and Helmandollar also could play there.

To offset the loss of Colledge, the Broncos have moved talented Patrick Clady (6-6, 319) from right tackle to left tackle. Clady will play alongside returnee Tad Miller (6-4, 304), who starts at guard. Either junior Jeff Cavender (6-2, 286) or Jadon Dailey (5-11, 285) will start at center. Andrew Woodruff (6-3, 331) starts at right tackle and Ryan Keating (6-4, 319) has been moved to right guard. Jeff Biedermann and Jon Gott are the key reserves.

Punter Kyle Stringer, who averaged 41.5 last year, returns for his fourth year as the Broncos’ punter. Lee Montgomery, who was 61 of 62 on PATs and 6 for 10 on field goal attempts returns as the place-kicker.