With national signing day behind us, fans will now look forward to the spring practices to assess how well their team may do in the fall.
Although teams can’t win a national title in the 15 days of practice allotted, the intensity of the workouts and the information gleaned from those sessions can go a long way in determining who has a leg up once the regular season starts in late August.
In Boise, Chris Petersen will have the luxury of having a lot of pieces back at the offensive skill positions, but the coaching staff will have work to do evaluating some other areas.
Let’s take a look at four main weaknesses that the Boise State coaching staff will have to address during spring practice. Note that the factors that went into the final decisions for this list include the perceived strength of the unit, the experience of the unit and how quickly the unit will need to gel with each other.
Thanks to a strong recruiting effort at the position, the Broncos could have picked up their next two starters at corner in Mercy Maston and Cleshawn Page. However, even if Maston and Page do end up becoming the starters, there is still work to be done during spring practice.
Because both Maston and Page are new with the program, it will take some time for the pair to learn Boise State’s nickel package, in which an extra defensive back is applied to the defensive set.
In addition, there is no guarantee that either player will end up starting for the Broncos. Ebo Makinde, Donte Deayon and Deon’tae Florence will also be fighting for a starting spot in 2013, with Deayon having the most upside of the trio.
Cornerback is not a position that Boise State will be weak at all season, more than likely. But heading into the spring practices, it is definitely an area where the coaching staff needs to make some decisions.
The argument that running back is an area of weakness for the Broncos is actually a difficult one to make.
Although D.J. Harper is no longer with the program, Boise State has a very capable man to fill the void in Jay Ajayi. The redshirt sophomore was second on the team in rushing in 2012 with 548 yards, and even managed to best Harper in yards per attempt (6.7 to 5.0).
Ajayi could be pushed in both the spring and summer practices by incoming freshman Aaron Baltazar, one of the prized pickups from the 2013 signing class. Baltazar is quick and agile, and will probably see some time on the field this coming season even if he isn’t the starter.
Thus, running back isn’t as much a weakness as it is an area where the coaching staff needs to evaluate who will be more effective in the starter’s role. However, if no decision is made in a timely manner, then it could become a bigger issue down the road.
Having two running backs that can get the job done is never a problem. But it is in the Broncos’ best interest to have pegged a starter by the beginning of the season, especially since Petersen likes to get things going with the ground game.
Three players from the 2012 offensive line are gone. Three players with lots of experience, including first-team All-MWC center Matt Paradis and second-team All-MWC tackle Charles Leno Jr., return.
This is not a unit that will have problems all season. In fact, thanks to the leadership of guys like Paradis and Leno, the offensive line may not experience many issues at all. But there is the danger that it could take some time for the new starters to gel with the returning starters, making this an area of concern for Coach Petersen.
Spring practice is the best time to work out some of the kinks. Although nothing can replace actual game experience, the time that this group spends with each other during the spring will be invaluable to Boise State’s success as a whole.
The responsibility of getting the running game going rests on these men’s shoulders. So does allowing Joe Southwick time to find his receivers.
Put simply, this is the unit that will have the biggest impact on the offense’s ability to move the football. Whether it is a minor or a major weakness (and admittedly, it probably leans closer towards “minor”), the coaching staff will want to have the offensive line in sync by the summer.
There is no area that has plagued the Broncos more in the past three seasons than in the kicking game. With uncertainty as to who will be the starting placekicker next season, this is again a weakness that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.
Boise State made a good move by signing JUCO freshman Tyler Rausa in the most recent recruiting class, and there is hope that Rausa could provide the stability that the Broncos have lacked in the kicking game over the past few seasons.
At the same time, it is difficult to place all your eggs in one basket. Especially considering that the basket hasn’t even played one game on the blue turf yet.
Rausa will battle for the starting kicking job with redshirt junior Dan Goodale, who lost his job this past season after starting for the Broncos in 2011.
It is hard to feel confident that you have smoothed out any issues in the kicking game during spring practice, due to the nature of the job. A team can’t truly be sure how strong they are at the position until their starter has made some high-pressure kicks in a game situation.
However, this is an area that the Broncos will need to keep a close eye on during the spring. If they’ve learned anything the past few years, it is that the difference between a potential national title bid and a return trip to Las Vegas is as little as three points.
The Broncos aren’t in bad position heading into the 2013 season. The offensive skill positions appear to be pretty solid, and the defense has players ready to take the starting spots from departed seniors.
Clearly, some of the areas that have been dubbed “weaknesses” in this article are simply areas where there are some things that could be smoothed out before summer workouts.
Boise State looks better than they were at this point last season. There is the potential that this team could be very scary heading into its season opener against Washington.
Thus, fans should be more excited than scared about what kind of reports will come from the 15 spring practices.