On Saturday, April 13th at approximately 5:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, the Boise State Broncos will take to the blue turf for the annual spring game.
It will be the first time since the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas that fans will be able to see the Broncos take part in a true game scenario, and will give fans something to talk about in the months leading up to the rematch with the Washington Huskies.
Chris Petersen’s team comes into 2013 with some pretty high expectations, which isn’t something that should bother this squad.
However, that means there will be a very different dynamic to this year’s spring game compared to the one Boise State experienced last season.
That being said, there is a completely different list of things to watch for during the 2013 edition of the spring game in Boise.
As a primer for the game, let’s take a look at a few of the most important things to look for this coming Saturday.
How Well the Offense is Clicking Out of the Gate
One of the things fans won’t have to hold their breath about is whether or not they have a capable playmaker at quarterback.
At the end of the 2012 season, Joe Southwick showed Bronco Nation just how good he can be, and really raised the bar of expectations for the 2013 campaign.
In addition to being an improved decision-maker and him starting to use his scrambling abilities to his advantage, Southwick became a much more efficient passer during the final quarter of last year.
Southwick probably won’t get much of a chance to show fans his running ability in the spring game, but he will get a chance to show how much of a command he has over the offense.
Generally, the first-team offense runs a fairly stock set of plays in the spring game, but that will still serve as a chance to see whether or not the offense has the ability to pick apart the defense with ease. It may even be more helpful to see how the offense works with fairly simple formations considering Petersen’s comments about slimming down the offensive playbook this season.
Above anything else, the hope is that the offense looks crisp, and that starts with Southwick.
This isn’t a green squad; most of the starters have had plenty of time working alongside one another in game situations.
Even players such as Jay Ajayi, who will be on display as the Broncos’ likely starter at running back, played quite a bit last season.
Watching the offense come out in the first series and look extremely sharp shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Rather, it should be what is expected of this team.
Evaluating the Defensive Secondary
At this stage in the year, the defensive secondary is still a work in progress for Boise State.
One of the potential starters at cornerback (Bryan Douglas) is recovering from a knee injury suffered last season and won’t see any spring game action. Mercy Maston, a Class of 2013 recruit who may see time at cornerback as well, has not yet joined the team. Both starting cornerback positions are still open.
But the nice thing about the spring game is that the secondary will get worked by one of the best offenses in the Mountain West Conference. More specifically, the corners will be matched up against a wide receiving corps that may be the best in the conference.
Admittedly, it will be hard to take a lot away from the play of the secondary from the spring game because it is still anyone’s guess as to which players will be slotted into starting roles by the time the regular season is set to begin.
At the same time, the game serves as a chance to either confirm strong spring practice performances or expose them.
Junior Deon’tae Florence and sophomore Donte Deayon, who are both vying for a starting cornerback spot, have each had a fantastic spring so far. But nothing is a replacement for actual game situations, and this weekend we will get the chance to see if those two can continue to impress the coaching staff.
Arguably the area where the Broncos needed to replace the most is the defensive secondary, and that will be an extremely important part of the team to watch on Saturday.
The Strength of the Kicking Game
Do not be surprised if this year’s spring game action is halted and Tyler Rausa or Dan Goodale is called out to kick a few field goals in front of the crowd.
More than anything, the Broncos could use some consistency in the kicking game. That’s what Rausa was brought in to do.
The sophomore transfer from Riverside (CA) City College isn’t going to be asked to kick extremely long field goals all the time. The coaching staff simply wants a guy who they can feel confident sending out on the field to kick a 30- to 45-yarder when the game is on the line.
The spring game provides a great opportunity to give Rausa some experience kicking in front of a crowd much bigger than anything he played in front of in high school or during his freshman season at Riverside.
It will be interesting to see how the young kicker responds, whether he gets the opportunity to come out and kick in the spotlight or whether he gets a few chances throughout the course of the game.
One thing is for sure: regardless of how it is handled, artificially creating the “big moment” for a kicker is essentially impossible. But that isn’t what the coaches want.
They simply want consistency. Someone on the team needs to step up and provide it.