Boise State Football: 5 Players with Most to Gain in Spring Practices
Spring practice for college football teams is nearing, and fans are beginning to get excited about the prospects of the upcoming season not even two months after the previous season concluded.
But more importantly than the excitement of the fans is the excitement from those players looking to make a statement early in 2013. These are the players that have something to prove to the coaching staff, with the hope of securing a starting spot when games begin in late August and early September.
Frankly, that’s the entire team.
There are definitely some players that have more to gain than others, though. Whether it’s a junior college transfer who doesn’t want to spend time on the bench after tearing it up for a year or two at a community college or an upperclassman who feels he has paid his dues to the team, there are players that will be giving that extra ounce of effort during every wind sprint.
For Boise State, there are a handful of players looking to impress the coaching staff this spring. They don’t all come from one position, either, which means the motive isn’t necessarily just a starting spot.
Here is a list of the five Broncos with the most to gain during the 2013 spring practices.
Cleshawn Page, Cornerback
Page is definitely a 2013 recruiting class signee looking to make an immediate impact on the blue turf.
The junior, who played two seasons at L.A. Harbor College before signing with the Broncos last year, will attempt to take one of the starting cornerback positions that are vacant with the departure of Jerrell Gavins and Jamar Taylor.
Physically, Page is a specimen very similar to Taylor, standing at 5’10” 190 pounds. He doesn’t appear to be afraid to come up and make a tackle, recording 44 of them for L.A. Harbor College in 2012. However, he only had four pass breakups last season.
If Page wants to make an impression on the coaching staff, he’s going to need to prove that he is a solid pass defender.
There is no doubt that with the departure of Gavins and Taylor, opposing teams will attempt to take their chances against Boise State’s secondary. Hopefully, Page (or whoever lands the starting job at cornerback) is up to the challenge of thwarting this attack.
Jay Ajayi, Running Back
Ajayi is a powerful back, but could be pushed by incoming freshman Aaron Baltazar.
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With the departure of D.J. Harper, the starting running back spot is vacant. As the team’s second-leading rusher in 2012, Jay Ajayi hopes to stake a claim to that spot as early as possible.
However, despite his impressive 2012 stats (548 yards on 82 rushing attempts, 6.7 yards gained per rush average), the position is not automatically Ajayi’s. It may be his to lose, though.
The Broncos made one of their better moves of the recruiting season by signing Chula Vista, California product Aaron Baltazar. Expectations of Baltazar are high, and some fans are hoping he could be the next great running back at Boise State.
Although it might be a stretch to say Baltazar could start as a freshman, it goes without saying that Ajayi will need to remind the coaching staff who was a solid backup to Harper last season during spring practices.
The running game is integral to the success of the Broncos offense, and Coach Petersen will use whoever he believes gives the team the best chance to win, seniority notwithstanding.
It wouldn’t be smart for Ajayi to constantly be looking over his shoulder, but rather to keep his head down and perform well in the spring. If he does so, it’s likely he’ll end up with the starting job with little complaint from anyone associated with the program.
Ryan Finley, Quarterback
Ryan Finley will not start for the Boise State Broncos in 2013. But he could be starting as soon as 2014, and has a chance this spring to move up on the depth chart.
Finley has been touted as a strong-armed quarterback who also has the potential to be dangerous because of his ability to run. Although he threw for over 3,400 yards and didn’t run a lot, Coach Petersen has apparently been impressed with his legs as well.
One thing that could also give Finley a leg up on the other quarterbacks vying to be Joe Southwick’s backup is his intellectual ability.
Finley reportedly has a 4.4 GPA at Paradise Valley High in Arizona. He should be able to learn the playbook rather quickly at Boise State.
As a prized recruit from the Class of 2013, Finley could make a huge impression on the coaching staff in the spring. The Broncos haven’t had a dual-threat quarterback since Jared Zabransky, which is an asset if Finley truly is the real deal as a passer.
Mercy Maston, Cornerback
Like fellow 2013 signee Cleshawn Page, Mercy Maston hopes to be on the field as a starter for the Broncos this coming season.
A junior like Page, Maston may be the best cover corner that the Broncos have in 2013.
In 2012, Maston recorded two interceptions and seven pass breakups in addition to 68 tackles for Bakersfield Community College in California.
Maston was originally recruited by San Jose State coming out of high school in 2011, but was unable to attend the university due to academic reasons. Now, he will get a second chance at Division I football at Boise.
If Maston wants to secure a starting cornerback spot before the season begins, he can do a lot for his cause during spring practices. Along with Page, Maston will be competing with current Boise State players Donte Deayon and Deon’tae Florence for those two spots.
As a junior college recruit, the coaching staff cannot be sure just how well Maston’s solid statistics will translate over to the faster Division I game. Luckily, Maston’s size (6’0”, 190 pounds) will give him an advantage over his competition for the job.
All he needs to do now is prove his worth in the spring.
Aaron Burks, Wide Receiver
Burks has the size and hands to be an effective starter for the Broncos, but needs to prove that to the coaches in the Spring.
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As a redshirt senior, and the Broncos' fourth leading receiver in 2012, you’d think that Aaron Burks would be pegged as a potential starter for 2013.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for Burks.
Since Burks primarily is lined up as the X-receiver in Boise State’s offense, he is stuck behind Matt Miller (the leading receiver from the 2012 squad) on the proposed depth chart.
At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Burks is definitely big enough to make an impact for the Broncos. It would be silly to say that Joe Southwick wouldn’t love another six-foot target on the field the majority of the time.
But unless Burks turns heads during spring practice, he’ll likely be used less in favor of Dallas Burroughs at the Z-receiver position.
The Broncos return a ton of pieces to the receiving corps in 2013, and there should be a lot of heated position battles heading into this season. Burks is one player that could stand to gain a lot from having a strong spring session, because he is one of the receivers trying to earn more playing time.