Boise State University has been a fixture in the Top 25 college football rankings, and has been one of the top programs in the nation in terms of winning percentage for the past decade (according to Business Insider).
In spite of its success, though, there are bound to be bumps in the road as BSU prepares for the 2012 campaign. So what are those bumps? And what elements of the BSU game may keep Boise State head coach Chris Petersen scratching his head and trying to find answers when the Broncos open the season August 31 at East Lansing against Michigan State?
Here, for your consideration, are five things that may keep the Bronco head man awake at night:
BSU kicker Dan Goodale (41).
The first and most obvious point of concern is the Bronco kicking game. In 2011, the Broncos were 6-of-9 in field goals and even the extra-point attempts could be an adventure (BSU was 71-of-79 in PATs). In 2010, BSU was 16-of-24 in field goals and 70-of-72 in PATs.
If not for the kicking game, the graduating senior class may have been 53-0 instead of 50-3. Over the past four years, the Broncos have lost by a total of five points and were in position to win the games lost with field goals.
It is no surprise that the Broncos went out and recruited a kicker in the offseason and now have four kickers on the roster (an incoming freshman, a redshirt freshman, redshirt sophomore and a senior). Still, this has been a burr in the saddle of the Bronco head man for several years now.
Kellen Moore was more than just the winningest quarterback in the history of the NCAA, he was a cool hand in the last minutes of a game with the outcome in balance, his touchdown total rated him No. 17 all time in NCAA history, he was a Heisman Finalist in 2010 and the list goes on and on.
Boise State has four quarterbacks looking to fill his shoes in redshirt junior Joe Southwick (the first off the bench when Moore came out), redshirt sophomore Grant Hedrick (he also saw some action in 2011, though most of the time he ran the ball), redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea and true freshman Nick Patti (a finalist for the National Gatorade Player of the Year award).
During the spring game held mid-April, Patti and Southwick had strong games, but the coaching staff is keeping mum on who may be the starter come the August 31 opening game.
BSU safety Jeremy Ioane (10)
While the season numbers for 2011 were not bad, BSU's defensive secondary was prone to having holes punched in it late in big, close games. In the November 12 loss to TCU, the Horned Frogs passed for 473 yards and five touchdowns—well over the seasonal averages of 210 yards per game and 21 total touchdowns.
Injuries hurt the Broncos, and while the more experienced players, like Jerrell Gavins—who started the first three games of the season and then went down for the remainder of the year with an injury—were sidelined, and Jamar Taylor-out four games with an injury, younger players were put to the test.
Jeremy Ioane, a redshirt sophomore, is the most seasoned of the safeties with two redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen on the 2012-13 roster. As for the cornerbacks and other players in the defensive secondary, there are some seniors but there is also a lot of youth.
Former Bronco runningback Doug Martin (at Tampa Bay's rookie camp)
He was known as the "Muscle Hamster" at Boise State, and may be known by that moniker in Tampa Bay if he makes the Buccaneers roster, but Doug Martin brought a lot to the Boise State offense that will be missed. Not only was he a great runner (gained 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011, according to broncosports.com), but he was a blocking back, and caught 28 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns.
Martin was the kind of guy that gave the Broncos an extra threat wherever they asked him to play. He played in the defensive secondary early in his career, and would even return kickoffs when called upon. So the question is, who is the next go-to running back in the Bronco stable.
Redshirt senior Dan Paul is back for his final year at fullback while D.J. Harper (granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA following season-ending injuries in 2009 and 2010) is one of the strongest candidates for the other spot in the backfield.
There are a pair of redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen looking to jump into the battle for a starting spot, but Boise State will be looking for a total player—one who can not only run the ball, but catch it and help out with blocking duties. The bar has been set and with the Broncos wide-open offense, it may just come down to running back-by-committee in 2012-13.
Boise State's Shea McClellin (92)
Boise State's defensive front and linebacking corps only allowed 110 yards per game and yielded only nine rushing touchdowns in 2011. In the "tackles for loss" category, the Broncos had 81 tackles for 312 yards. But gone are Shea McClellin, Tyrone Crawford and Billy Winn, as well as linebacker Byron Hout.
There will be some familiar names returning for the Broncos, like defensive tackles Michael Atkinson and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, but both were a little shy in the sack column in 2011. Someone is going to have to bring the heat and they are going to have to do it right out of the gate. The Broncos have four true freshmen linebackers on the 2012-13 roster, two true freshmen defensive linemen and four redshirt freshmen linemen.
If the Bronco defensive secondary is going to have a chance at success, opposing quarterbacks can't have time to throw. If the Broncos want to take away offensive options, as they have in the past, they will need to shut down the running games and pressure the quarterback in the upcoming season.