Boise State Broncos: Spring Practice Preview for the Offensive Line
Last week, we took a look at Boise State’s defensive line and its strengths and weaknesses heading into spring practice.
This week we’ll be doing the same thing for the offensive line, a unit that will ultimately dictate how well the Broncos’ offense does this coming season.
The coaching staff will be working hard in the spring to ensure that this unit is as prepared as possible by the summer, because the Broncos will be wasting talent at the offensive skill positions if the line is sloppy.
To reiterate, this segment will break down the strengths, weaknesses and key position battles for the offensive line unit.
Let’s take a look at the 2013 Boise State Broncos offensive line.
The Broncos are actually in pretty good shape on the offensive line heading into next season.
Chris Petersen’s team retains two of its five starters from 2012, including first team All-MWC selection Matt Paradis at center and second team selection Charles Leno Jr. at tackle. Also returning to the blue turf in 2013 is redshirt senior guard Spencer Gerke, who was originally pegged as a starter at the beginning of last year.
At first glance, it’s already encouraging that the Broncos will have returning starters at perhaps the two most important positions on the line, center and left tackle, (because quarterback Joe Southwick is right-handed). The fact that both positions are filled by players who were recognized as two of the best in the conference at their respective spots is just icing on the cake.
Put simply, the issues for the coaching staff concerning this unit could be much, much worse.
The Broncos had one of the best offensive line units in the Mountain West in 2012, allowing Southwick to be sacked just nine times all season. While that provides something to live up to, it also is a testament to the excellent understanding that the 2012 squad had of its tendencies.
Regardless that the two most talented starters return, it will be imperative during the spring practices to begin to reestablish that sense of trust and understanding with the new additions to the starting lineup.
With plenty of experience and senior leadership, the offensive line will be counted on to provide direction for the entire Boise State team in 2013.
The offensive line is a fairly solid unit heading into 2013, so it is rather difficult to pin down more than a couple of weaknesses for the Broncos in this department.
Obviously, there will be some concerns replacing left guard Joe Kellogg, right tackle Brenel Myers and right guard Michael Ames. Finding replacements for more than half the offensive line is going to be a challenge, regardless of who was playing the role of understudy in 2012.
More specifically, it is concerning that the Broncos will have to replace essentially the entire right half of the line due to the departure of Ames and Myers. While the left side will be expected to perform as well as last season, there will be some mystery as to how the right side will shape up.
It appears as though the right side of the line will have extremely limited experience in a starter’s role.
This could be a huge problem for a team that likes to get things going on the ground. If one side of the line is weak, the entire offensive scheme will be compromised.
But more than likely, the Broncos will be able to fill the gaps left by Ames and Myers. The coaching staff has not only big bodies to work with, but big bodies that have been with the team for a few years as understudies.
Although replacing the departing starters is a definite weakness, it isn’t like the Broncos are attempting to patch a water leak with scotch tape. The backups from 2012 are very capable of seizing the starting roles in the spring.
Key Position Battles
There are several position battles on the offensive line that will take place starting in spring practice, but at the risk of jumping the gun a bit, the battles aren’t entirely open.
The three starting positions to be filled are at right guard, right tackle and left guard.
At right guard, redshirt senior Jake Broyles will be one to keep an eye on, as the coaching staff will want to have as much senior leadership as possible on the right side. Keeping Broyles honest for the starting role will be Travis Averill, but the sophomore will really need to put on some weight before he can truly give Broyles a run for the job.
Right tackle should be pretty straightforward as well.
As Brenel Myers’ backup in 2012, Rees Odhiambo should be ready to step in as a starter this coming season. Odhiambo is actually a size upgrade from Myers, which gives him the edge over his competition for the job, Marcus Henry.
Henry is the same size as Odhiambo at roughly 6’3” 297 pounds, but has only been in the Broncos’ system for a year as opposed to Odhiambo, who redshirted his freshman season.
Finally, there is the battle for the left guard position. It’s hard to really call this one a “position battle”, because Spencer Gerke would have to do a lot in both the spring and summer to convince the coaching staff he wasn’t the right man for the job.
Gerke was originally supposed to start over Ames last season, and it would be very surprising if he lost the starting job in 2013. His closest competitor for the job may be Chris Tozer, a 6’4” 311-pound senior who will probably be used strictly as a reserve.
As mentioned previously, the coaching staff was lucky to retain its best contributors on an offensive line that loses over half its starters. Both Paradis and Leno Jr. will be counted on to provide leadership and direction for the new additions.
A cause for concern is definitely the fact that the entire right side of the line needs to be replaced, although it could be much worse. It is imperative that Broyles and Odhiambo, or whoever has the inside track to the starting positions during spring practice, develop a strong relationship to bolster that side of the line.
Communication issues on the offensive line can derail a team in October and November, but those skills are established in the spring.
Hopefully for Boise State, the transition to the new starters is a quick and relatively painless one. Joe Southwick is primed to have a very solid senior season, but only if he gets the type of protection that he received in 2012.
Games where the offensive line could have the most impact are: Washington, Fresno State, San Diego State and Utah State.
Be sure to return next week as we continue unveiling the spring practice previews by position. We will take a look at Boise State’s linebacker corps in the next segment.