Boise State Football: Position-by-Position Spring Practice Preview
The approaching spring has a much different feel around the campus of Boise State University this year.
Last year the school was a buzz with huge worrisome questions surrounding their beloved football team.
How would Boise State replace Kellen Moore?
Would D.J. Harper be able to step up at running back?
How in the world will coach Chris Petersen rebuild a defense that lost all but three starters?
Bronco fans asked the questions and then watched with bated breath as spring practice rolled on.
Fast forward nearly 365 days later and the process begins again. However, this time around the questions aren't near as daunting, and after the season the Broncos experienced in 2012, many fans seem even more confident in their head coach and his team.
There will of course still be position battles this spring, and there are still holes to fill, but the amount of talent in the Boise State camp this spring should make fans excited rather than nervous.
Let's breakdown each position battle, and the players that will be vying for some playing time this fall.
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The quarterback battle in 2013 will not be the mystery it was last season.
However, it will still be a battle.
Coach Chris Petersen loves competition, and 2013 will be no different. The quarterbacks will be once again going all out to prove they have what it takes to lead the Boise State offense.
An offense, by the way, that coach Petersen made clear needs some tweaking. In a recent Idaho Statesman article, coach Pete was quoted as saying:
We’re going to look at our offense from top to bottom,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and there’s a lot of dead weight in it and we need to get rid of a lot of things. We’ve already had early discussions and it will be interesting to see where we go with this whole thing.
Look for Petersen to try to get the most out of his quarterbacks this spring as he crafts his offense.
Redshirt freshman Nick Patti will be looking to step up in a big way this spring. He is a very talented athlete, and there seems to be little doubt that he can play effectively at the collegiate level.
Patti had a real shot in 2012 as a true freshman landing the starting quarterback spot. However, it is going to be more difficult this year for him to win the job.
Last season it was anyone's competition to win. There was no returning starter, and a lot was up in the air.
But this time around Joe Southwick is back for his senior season, and it seems highly unlikely that he will be dethroned.
Look for Nick Patti to see some limited playing time in certain packages this fall, but the starter, barring an injury or camp collapse, will most likely be Joe Southwick.
But it doesn't mean Nick Patti is going to make it easy for him.
After his performance in the latter part of the 2012 season, Joe Southwick seemed to cement himself as the Broncos quarterback for 2013.
His confidence and mobility in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas should have Boise State fans excited.
If he can duplicate and even expand what he did late last season, the Broncos are going to be dangerous.
Jimmy Laughrea has a huge arm, and some may have thought he would be a surprise last spring in the quarterback competition.
However, his spring game performance left something to be desired and an injury left him sidelined for a while.
Laughrea does have a good arm, but that probably won't be enough alone to unseat Southwick. Still, if you have watched him play, at times, he looks like an incredible talent.
Hedrick has been no stranger to the field, but his snaps have been very limited. He is an amazing athlete, but his niche might be exactly where coach Petersen has him.
If you need an option play or even possibly a wildcat type play, Hedrick is your man. He can throw as well, but the spring game of 2012 exposed that area of his game as needing some work.
He is an asset to an offense that likes to give teams different looks.
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Boise State has a good stable of running backs going into the spring. Jay Ajayi is the most likely starter this fall, but he could get a push in spring camp.
In total, there should be six backs in camp barring injury or otherwise, and Bronco fans can be excited about a few of them at least.
Junior college transfer Derrick Thomas will be there as will redshirt freshmen Charles Bertoli and Devan Demas.Walk-on Jamel Hart will be looking to make a splash as will sophomore Jack Fields.
Watch out for this guy. Demas is a solid running back, and after spending a redshirt season, it will be very interesting to see what he does once he is unleashed.
Junior college transfer Derrick Thomas is a very good running back, and as a redshirt junior, he will actually be the old guy on the list.
Thomas should be able to step up this spring and establish himself as the number two back behind Jay Ajayi.
Fields is a good running back, but he was lackluster in the limited carries he got in 2012. Look for him to rebound nicely, and that all starts this spring.
Jay Ajayi had a good season last year, but look for him to have a great one this time around. In the mean time, look for him to have a productive spring and cement his place on the top of the depth chart.
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Boise State has no shortage of receivers. They return several key players at this position, including the number one and number two wide receivers from 2012.
Matt Miller and Kirby Moore will be back as will Geraldo Boldewijn, Aaron Burks, Troy Ware, Dallas Burroughs and Mr. Shake-n-bake himself Shane Williams-Rhodes a.k.a. SWR.
The leading receiver on the team, Matt Miller will certainly be looking to start his junior season off with a solid spring.
Miller has been consistent, and with an improved quarterback, 2013 should be a very good season for the receiver out of Helena, Mont.
Finishing strong has to be something Moore wants to do. This will be his last spring as a Bronco, and you can expect him to make it count.
Look for Moore to have a very good senior season, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him press Miller for the leading receiver spot by seasons end.
Boise State fans were taken by SWR in 2012. His electric moves and jaw-dropping cuts made Bronco fans and opposing defenses look on with disbelief.
His kick return late in the bowl game against Washington gave the Broncos excellent field position and directly contributed to a game-winning field goal.
Look for more electricity out of Williams-Rhodes in 2013, and it all starts this spring.
Of all the other receivers that will be in camp this spring, look for Aaron Burks, Troy Ware and Geraldo Boldewijn to make some noise.
Each of these guys has amazing talent, and they are going to be looking to do something special in camp.
Also look for newcomer and local talent D.J. Dean to be in camp ready to go. He will be interesting to watch to see how he stacks up.
Last but not least, Dallas Burroughs will be back. The speedster from Meridian, Idaho can be a deep threat weapon for the Broncos, and you have to believe the coaches will try to make that happen.
Fullbacks and Tight Ends
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Why fullbacks and tight ends together?
Because one of the fullbacks last season was a tight end, and it looks like it could be that way again in 2013.
Conner Peters is a 6'4", 253-pound junior tight end. He is also a fullback when needed.
Last season senior fullback Dan Paul was hurt for a considerable amount of time, so Peters stepped up. In 2013 the Broncos might be in a similar position as they only have one "official" fullback on the roster.
The only fullback in camp, Jamal Wilson seems to be the favorite for the job right?
With coach Petersen tweaking the offense maybe fullback will be diminished or replaced by some new position that coach Pete and offensive coordinator Robert Prince come up with.
Tight Ends are another story all together.
The position of tight end on a Boise State team is a difficult one. It not only requires a big, strong, athletic guy with heart, grit, power and soft hands when needed, but it also requires considerable brain power.
It is one of the most difficult positions to learn in a Chris Petersen offense, and for that reason it is not a position that the coaching staff can just plug in any guy and hope for the best.
In 2013, the coaching staff will have a few good options, and it starts with a couple of guys Boise State fans are familiar with.
Linehan should be a force in his senior season, but the quest for that starts this spring.
After dealing with some injuries, he should be ready to go. However, there will be some tough competition welcoming him back into camp.
Huff got some playing time in his redshirt freshman season, and he made it count. Look for Huff to compete for even more playing time in his sophomore effort.
He is a very athletic guy that proved he can play the position.
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The Broncos have a history of fielding a very good offensive line. They did it again in 2012, and they should do it in 2013.
When you look at the returning starters list, you might first think they could have a problem.
However, there are several guys on the roster who have had significant playing time even if they were not the "official" starter on the depth chart.
They also have some great talent waiting in the wings.
Charles Leno Jr.
Charles Leno Jr. is one of the returning starters, and his veteran leadership should be a real key on the line in 2013.
He will be playing his final season as a Bronco, and this spring he could be a very big influence on some of the new talent hitting The Blue.
Paradis is the returning starter at center. He is a key to the success of the line. Also a senior this fall, Paradis will want to make his final spring count.
Gerke has a considerable amount of playing time under his belt, and as a senior he should be passing on some wisdom when spring camp ensues.
However, don't expect him to give an inch when it comes to allowing a newcomer to move him off the top of the depth chart.
Another senior, Jake Broyles will be in camp this spring. He has had some injuries in the past, but 2013 is a brand new season, and he will no doubt be ready to compete for a starting spot.
When you look at the other talent on the roster when it comes to offensive line, there are several that could be solid starters one day.
Rees Odhiambo is a guy that was a backup last season but will be looking to start in 2013.
Look for redshirt freshmen Travis Averill, Steven Baggett and Mario Yakoo to step it up this spring. Also keep an eye out for junior college transfer and redshirt senior Chris Tozer to compete.
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The Broncos will have a bunch of new faces in camp this spring, and many of them will be in the defensive secondary.
After losing Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins, the defensive secondary has to be one the most intriguing and vulnerable spots on the Boise State roster this spring.
The competition in this area should be fierce, and with the talent that will be in camp, it should be a brutal battle.
Who will come out on top is anyone's guess.
When it comes to cornerbacks, this is where the biggest mystery resides. Junior college transfer and second-year Bronco Deon'tae Florence will be in camp, and he certainly has the talent to be a starter.
Redshirt senior Ebo Makinde will be back to finish strong, and if nothing else his attitude and senior leadership will be a huge asset in camp.
Although listed as a cornerback, Darian Thompson had some playing time at safety last season, and you have to think it will happen again.
A newcomer to watch might be redshirt freshman Chanceller James.
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Linebacker, when you say the word images of grunting, spitting, angry vessels of blood, sweat and opponents tears come to mind.
Boise State has had its share of good ones over the years, but the group in camp this spring might be one of the best they have ever had.
Linebacker isn't a glamorous position, and it is often overlooked. However, no one should overlook this spring battle.
A redshirt senior from Meridian, Idaho, Dustin Kamper is looking to go out with style. Look for him to step it up in camp.
Gray backed up J.C. Percy last season, so you know he had to learn a few things. However, Gray is four inches taller than Percy and just as athletic.
Tyler Gray will be a force this fall, but look for him to make a statement this spring.
Renaud backed up Tommy Smith last season, but it was the spring of 2012 that got some folks attention.
He did some good things all spring but then in the spring game, had an interception and made some pretty incredible plays.
Renaud should do it again in 2013.
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For Boise State the position of nickel deserves its own page. The Broncos have utilized the position in an effective way. It allows them to create defensive havoc on opposing offenses.
Hard to say, but spring should be informative.
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Defensive line is going to be a real strength for Boise State in 2013. With the talent they have coming back, the Broncos are going to cause trouble for offenses all season long.
When you look at the list of names, you quickly realize how many good players are back in 2013.
Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Armand Nance, Beau Martin, Robert Ash and Demarcus Lawrence will all be there. Lawrence and Tjong-A-Tjoe made life miserable for offenses in 2012, and it should only increase this year.
Look for junior college transfer Deuce Mataele to compete for one of the tackle spots this spring. Also look for Elliot Hoyte to turn some heads and defensive end Sam McCaskill to make his spring camp count.
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The 2013 Broncos will have an excellent punter and kickoff specialist in senior Trevor Harman. However, they must replace their reliable, inside 30-yards, field goal kicker Michael Frisina.
The Broncos went out and got a junior college transfer to attempt to do so.
Wale might also give Trevor Harman a push, if only a mild one at punter.
Kickoff returns and punt returns will be interesting.
Shane Williams-Rhodes, Dallas Burroughs and Jack Fields will be in the mix. But, with all the speed and talent on the roster, you have to believe several guys will be looking to impress.
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This should be a very good spring camp for the Broncos.
With everything that coach Petersen is planning to do and the talent that he has to accomplish it, Boise State fans have a lot to look forward to.
It will be interesting to see if Joe Southwick comes out of spring camp as good as he seems to be going into it. It will also be interesting to see how all of the junior college transfers do in camp.
Cornerback and field-goal kicker are a couple of mysteries, but by the spring game, it should be more clear as to who has the inside track on those positions.
The Boise State spring game is April 13, 2013, and you can get all of the details on that game here on Bleacher Report.
Remember to check Bleacher Report throughout spring camp for updates and information.