The 2012 campaign was, for the most part, a successful one for the Boise State Broncos football team. Chris Petersen’s squad finished 11-2 overall and posted a 7-1 conference mark, good enough for a share of the Mountain West Conference title.
A 28-26 victory over the Washington Huskies in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas on December 22 signals good things for the Broncos, primarily because the Huskies are Boise State’s opponent in the 2013 season opener.
However, Boise State will need to replace 14 graduating seniors that held starting positions for the team. In some areas, such as the quarterback and wide receiver positions, the Broncos look to be in pretty good shape for next season. In others, such as the offensive line and defensive secondary, there are holes that need to be addressed.
Here is an early look at what players will fill those holes made by the departing starters. Note that the potential replacements are all part of the current team and that this projection may change once the incoming recruiting class is finalized in February.
Departing Starters: D.J. Harper (RB), Dan Paul (FB)
Potential Replacements: Sophomore Jay Ayayi (RB), sophomore Connor Peters (FB)
Replacing D.J. Harper will be tough. The redshirt senior was really what made the offense go in 2012 and took some of the pressure off of Joe Southwick because of his speed and versatility. Harper rushed for 1,137 yards and scored 15 rushing touchdowns in his senior season.
There is hope that sophomore Jay Ayayi can make the loss of Harper a little easier to swallow, though. Similarly to Harper when he was the backup to Doug Martin in 2011, Ayayi rushed for over 500 yards on 82 carries this season and actually owned a better yards per attempt statistic (6.7) than Harper (5.0). Since Southwick will still be considered a work in progress heading into next season, expect Ayayi to be a big part of the offense in 2013.
Dan Paul was a four-year letter winner for the Broncos, but fullback is a seldom used option in Chris Petersen’s offense. As the second man on the 2012 depth chart, sophomore Connor Peters is the logical choice to replace Paul next season.
Departing Starter: Chris Potter
Potential Replacements: Sophomore Dallas Burroughs or redshirt junior Aaron Burks
Chris Potter is another versatile player that the Broncos must replace, both as a receiver and a punt returner. Potter was the third-leading receiver in terms of yardage for Boise State in 2012, catching 34 passes for 347 yards. However, the redshirt senior was particularly dangerous near the end zone, catching four touchdown passes, tied for second-most on the team.
The Broncos shouldn’t have much trouble finding a capable replacement for Potter, as a multitude of reserves saw significant time on the field in 2012. Leading the charge as potential starters are sophomore Dallas Burroughs, the younger brother of Mitch Burroughs, who possesses a ton of speed, and redshirt junior Aaron Burks, who was the team’s fourth-leading receiver this past season.
As the only departing senior, Potter leaves behind a receiving corps that should be pretty good next season. This is good news for Boise State, which has been hit or miss in that department ever since Titus Young and Austin Pettis left.
Departing Starter: Chandler Koch
Potential Replacements: Redshirt freshman Holden Huff or junior Gabe Linehan
Chandler Koch was listed as a departing starter, but in 2013, the Broncos may be getting more production in the passing game from the tight end position with his replacement.
Redshirt freshman Holden Huff was a pleasant surprise to many Boise State fans in 2012, establishing himself as the favorite to replace Koch because of his soft hands, catching 17 passes for 250 yards this past season. At 6’5’’ 213 pounds, Huff has more speed and height than Koch but is about 30 pounds lighter, which means that he is a greater asset in the passing game than he is as a blocker.
If Coach Petersen prefers a similar player to Koch, junior Gabe Linehan (6’4’’, 241 lbs.) is probably the right choice. Linehan and Huff could potentially split time in 2013 depending on the situation.
Departing Starters: Joe Kellogg (LG), Michael Ames (RG), Brenel Myers (RT)
Potential Replacements: Redshirt junior Spencer Gerke (LG), redshirt junior Jake Broyles (RG), redshirt freshman Reed Odhiambo (RT)
The offensive line is where the Broncos will have to find the most answers for next season. Three starters graduate from an experienced line that allowed just nine sacks all season, which, along with Air Force, tied for the best in the Mountain West.
Fortunately for Boise State, the line may still be experienced in 2013 even with the loss of Kellogg, Ames and Myers. As many as four redshirt seniors could start for the Broncos next season, and three of them (LT Charles Leno, Jr., C Matt Paradis and LG Spencer Gerke) either started in 2012 or saw significant playing time.
Keeping Southwick protected will go a long way in determining the success of the offense next season, which is looking to take the next step after moving on from Kellen Moore.
Departing Starter: Michael Atkinson (DT)
Potential Replacements: Redshirt sophomore Tyler Horn or recruits
Boise State isn’t losing a lot of bodies to graduation on the defensive line, but the Broncos only have one proven starter in the rotation in redshirt junior Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe. Horn could fill in as another starter, but would be a little undersized as an interior lineman and may instead fill the role of defensive end.
If Horn isn’t the answer, then the Broncos should be able to find a replacement among two junior college recruits and two commits from the recruiting class of 2013 in Kamalei Correa and Nick Terry.
Boise State has been the first or second-ranked run defense in the Mountain West the past two years and dominated the category in the WAC before that. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski will be able to work with what he’s got next season.
Departing Starters: J.C. Percy, Tommy Smith, Dextrell Simmons
Potential Replacements: Sophomore Blake Renaud, freshman Tyler Gray, redshirt freshman Ben Weaver or sophomore Corey Bell
Essentially the entire starting core at linebacker in 2012 will be gone, which means that a young group will have to take charge for the Broncos next season. Sophomore Blake Renaud and freshman Tyler Gray were reserves at the position in 2012, and it appears likely that Renaud will be pegged as a starter in 2013.
After Renaud, anything is possible. Gray will definitely be in the mix, but so could freshman Ben Weaver, who was redshirted this past season. Weaver was named the scout team’s Defensive Player of the Year, and the coaching staff is excited about what he is capable of doing. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Weaver crack the starting lineup by this coming summer.
Replacing Simmons will be tougher, as he was the nickel/hybrid linebacker of the bunch. Sophomore Corey Bell had 45 tackles in 2012 and appears to have the inside track for the starting job next season.
Departing Starters: Jamar Taylor (CB), Jerrell Gavins (CB)
Potential Replacements: Redshirt junior Ebo Makinde, junior Bryan Douglas or freshman Donte Deayon
The Broncos gave up only four passing touchdowns all season and were ranked sixth in the nation in pass defense, and Taylor and Gavins were major reasons why. The duo accounted for six of Boise State’s 18 total interceptions and made it very difficult for opposing quarterbacks to test Boise State deep.
Boise State has had issues with pass defense before, so it knows better than anyone how important replacing these two men will be. Junior Bryan Douglas should take over for Gavins if he is healthy by the start of the season, but if not, Donte Deayon and a couple of junior college transfers will fight for the spot.
On the other side, redshirt junior Ebo Mankinde will likely become the starter. Mankinde is the quickest defensive player on the roster, and that cannot be taken lightly.
Departing Starters: Michael Frisina (kicker), D.J. Harper (kick returner), Chris Potter (punt returner)
Potential Replacements: Redshirt sophomore Dan Goodale (kicker), sophomore Dallas Burroughs (kick returner and punt returner)
Departing placekicker Michael Frisina brought some stability to a department that was in desperate need of it before the 2012 season started, as the kicking game cost Boise State a BCS berth and perhaps a national title spot the previous two seasons. Replacing Frisina should be sophomore Dan Goodale, who was actually the starter in 2011 and missed a kick that would have beaten TCU and preserved an undefeated season that year. If Goodale struggles, don’t be surprised if he is relieved of his duties once again.
The Broncos featured two different return men in 2012, but don’t be surprised if sophomore Dallas Burroughs is both the team’s kick and punt returner next season. Burroughs has more pure speed than either Harper or Potter and could be a dangerous special teams weapon for Chris Petersen.