The Boise State football team is getting ready for its only public scrimmage of fall training camp. Thousands of fans will show up to watch their beloved Broncos display their much anticipated progress.
Fans have to be excited and nervous to see what kind of team BSU will have in 2012. With all the lost starters from last year's amazing squad, so many questions remain going into the opener with Michigan State.
The biggest inquiry on the minds of most of those same fans is, of course, which player among the list of four capable candidates will replace Kellen Moore as the starting quarterback?
As spring camp ended, it looked like redshirt junior Joe Southwick had the upper hand, but things can change depending on what each player did over the summer and how much of the offense the others can grasp.
Quarterback isn't the only position battle fans are interested in. With so many gone from a dominating defense, it will be interesting to see which players are ready to step up for the Broncos.
Running back is another area of interest. The starter is set, but who will back him up, and what kind of the depth will Boise State have at the position?
Let's take a closer look at all of these questions and preview what you might be able to expect from the Boise State fall scrimmage.
The buzz around the quarterback spot this year has been tremendous. Replacing Kellen Moore isn't really possible, but someone will need to step in and become the new leader of the offense.
Southwick is the veteran of the group, and he does have an edge when it comes to his grasp of the offense.
However, redshirt sophomore Grant Hedrick has been around for a while, and you have to believe he has a chance to compete for the starting job.
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea didn't have the best spring scrimmage performance, but he is great athlete with an amazing arm. His arm strength has been said to be the best of the four quarterbacks, but arm strength isn't enough by itself to win the job.
Chadd Cripe did an outstanding job breaking down each quarterback in an article that appeared in the Sacramento Bee. Cripe quotes Broncos head coach Chris Petersen and his impression of Laughrea's arm:
Jimmy's got an arm like we've never had an arm at Boise State, in terms of how the ball jumps out of his hand. But again, he has to learn the system. He's making up ground.
True freshman Nick Patti came to Boise last January to compete for the opportunity to lead the Broncos' offense. He looked good in the spring, and considering the fact that he had little chance to learn the Boise State system, his performance raised a few eyebrows around town.
Patti is a fierce competitor and amazing athlete. You have to wonder, however, if a true freshman can take this job and make it his own with such quality players around him. If he is named the starter it will mean he is an even better player than most fans realize.
So who will win the starting job?
Well, in the public scrimmage look for the guy that separates himself from the others. Coach Petersen acknowledged that there has been separation at times among the quarterbacks in training camp. However, Tom Scott asked a very good question in The Scott Slant on Ktik.com. Scott makes the point that Petersen didn't say who the separation was between.
Most fans probably assume the separation was between Joe Southwick and the rest of the group after his spring performance. But, since Coach Petersen didn't clarify, it is anyone's guess.
In the scrimmage look for the quarterback that makes the others look like they are playing in slow motion. If this happens, you probably know who the starter is. If it doesn't happen, expect Boise State to wait to announce its starter until the last moment before they face Michigan State.
After all, that just seems like good strategy anyway.
The fall camp scrimmage should give Bronco fans an indication of how deep the roster will be when it comes to running back.
At this moment, the starter is set. Sixth-year senior D.J. Harper is poised to carry the bulk of the load for Boise State. He should have an excellent year if he stays healthy. He has missed two full seasons with knee injuries, and if he were to be lost for any amount of time this year, it could cause the Broncos to struggle.
Redshirt sophomore Drew Wright is penciled in as the current backup to Harper. He is a solid running back that should have a good season. If Harper were to miss any action, Wright could step up and Bronco fans can be confident that he would.
Beyond Harper and Wright, however, there are some serious questions.
Redshirt freshman Jay Ajayi is looking to rebound from a knee injury last year. He came to BSU with lots of hype and expectations, but has yet to live up to any of them. If he is healthy and running like most thought he would, he could be a very nice weapon for Coach Petersen. Only time will tell, but look closely at Ajayi in the scrimmage to see if he looks ready to compete.
True freshmen Jack Fields and Devan Demas are two others to look for. They have both made a bit of a splash in fall camp.
Jack Fields looks, and runs, a lot like Doug Martin, and his power and strength should be evident. Look for him to finalize the destruction of his redshirt during the scrimmage. If he plays like he can, coaches will have no choice but to get him some playing time.
Demas is another talented back, but it is anyone's guess at this point if he will redshirt or not. Perhaps coaches will keep him ready to go and preserve his extra year unless injuries occur and they need to utilize him.
It will be intriguing to watch as these running backs get their carries in the scrimmage.
The Boise State defense is going to look much different this season. The entire defensive line and linebacker corp will have new starters taking the field.
There are some veterans among the group, like redshirt senior defensive tackles Michael Atkinson and Darren Koontz. Redshirt junior Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe is also back as is Greg Grimes.
There are also some exciting new faces on the Bronco defense. Junior college transfer Demarcus Lawrence is making serious waves in camp, and he should be a breakout player for BSU in 2012. Redshirt freshman Sam Ukwuachu should also make some noise, and look for true freshman Sam McCaskill to make his case to play.
When it comes to linebackers, the Broncos have a lot of potential. J.C. Percy is a proven backer with veteran leadership that will be much needed on a young defense. Redshirt sophomore Tommy Smith is another player to watch, as is sophomore Blake Renaud. Both should get their playing time and both are quite capable.
The defensive secondary is solid. The starting group may be the best the Broncos have ever had. However, backups will be key for Boise State.
Junior college transfer Deon'tae Florence has made his mark already as a Bronco. In the team scrimmage held recently, Florence had two interceptions and forced a fumble that he returned for a touchdown. Florence is a welcomed addition to a defensive secondary in need of solid backups.
The biggest thing to watch in the Broncos scrimmage is how well the defense seems to be coming together. Last year's squad was like a well-oiled machine, but with all the new faces on the field, how will this group gel?
If the defense is better than expected, then you can expect a lot of success for the Broncos in 2012.
If you are attending the public scrimmage there are keys that you should look for:
First Key: Energy
Look for the energy of the team and coaching staff. When Petersen is excited about his team you can tell. Look for his excitement to be a key indicator of how the Broncos are really doing.
Second Key: Breakout Players
As mentioned, look for separation at quarterback and some breakout performances by running backs and defensive players. There should be some guys who step up and stand out.
Third Key: Gelling
It will be easy to see if this team is gelling together. Look for the offense to look fluid and the defense to run like a finely tuned machine.
If this is happening, opponents are in trouble. You have to believe this season has been a very fun challenge so far for Petersen. Coach Pete is known for his hunger to be challenged and he loves to breed competition in his practices. It is the kind of environment he, and the rest of his team, thrives in.
Look to Bleacher Report for a complete summary and analysis of the Boise State public scrimmage.