The spring game has come and gone in Boise, and now fans of the Broncos must wait until August 5th (the first day of fall camp) before the team will resume practice.
So now begins the period of speculation and debate. While the true college football fan eventually gets tired of this period, it is nearly impossible not to get caught up in the conversations that will ensue over the next two-and-a-half months.
For Boise State fans, the expectations for the 2013 season are definitely high. The team brings back a lot of talent, particularly on offense, and is coming off an 11-2 season that could have been much worse.
Chris Petersen is one of the smartest minds in the college game, but that doesn’t mean his summer is going to be easier than anyone else in the country. There are still several concerns that will keep him up at night.
This slideshow will take a look at those specific concerns that Coach Petersen will be dealing with heading into the regular season. Some are personnel-based, while others are strategy-based. The criteria for these concerns is that they had to be significant enough to potentially cause the Broncos to lose at least a game this season.
Let’s dive into Coach Petersen’s five biggest coaching concerns post-spring practice.
If Blake Renaud (No. 13) gets hurt, the Broncos' linebacker corps is significantly weakened, with little depth.
Make no doubt about it: Looking at the potential starters for the Broncos, the team will be very difficult to beat. But what happens when several players go down with injuries at various points in the season?
It’s going to happen. Hoping it won’t is just foolish. The question is whether or not Boise State is prepared to handle such setbacks.
At places such as linebacker and the offensive line, the Broncos are lucky to be in pretty good shape despite losing several key pieces from the 2012 team. But looking beyond the first line of players at those positions, it’s hard to tell whether the team has the personnel to handle potential injuries.
At linebacker, Blake Renaud and Tyler Gray appear poised to take over for J.C. Percy and Tommy Smith. But if either Renaud or Gray gets injured, the depth at linebacker becomes significantly weakened.
Next in line is likely redshirt sophomore Ben Weaver, who was great as part of the practice squad last season but is really the only other linebacker people would have confidence in as a regular contributor.
Linebacker is only an example of the thin depth that the Broncos will have heading into the season. Several other areas will need players to step up at some point in 2013.
The nice thing about the Broncos is that they are fairly young, which means that there is a solid chance that an athlete no one has been paying much attention to could end up contributing to the team in a pinch.
But at the same time, a lack of depth has spelled trouble for teams in the past. Hopefully, that isn’t the case for Boise State.
Joe Southwick is a smart quarterback, but the offense is being simplified in hopes that production will improve compared to 2012.
Oftentimes, there are decisions that coaching staffs make in the offseason, confident that they will pay off in the long run, only to revert to whatever they were doing before the change because it proved to be a disaster.
Coach Petersen decided to thin the offensive playbook this year, citing the fact that there was “too much stuff” (Idaho Statesman) and pointing the team’s 30.2 points per game scoring output from 2012 as proof that it was failing.
Since Petersen is so smart and his strategies seem to work out more often than not, it seems somewhat dirty to question his decision.
But at the same time, this could be one that may not work out in favor of the Broncos.
Boise State may not have been as dominant offensively in 2012 as in prior years, but that may have been due in large part to the learning curve Joe Southwick dealt with at the beginning of the season. By the end, Southwick was efficient and the offense was humming.
It is understandable to simply work on repetition and not have the players worry about remembering so much, but perhaps the decision to cut things out of the playbook should have been postponed until a point in the season where it was clear that the offense was again struggling.
Joe Southwick is experienced and smart. The receivers are experienced and smart. The offensive line is experienced and smart. Yet the playbook is being simplified?
These are the reasons why the coaches are paid the big money, and we writers aren’t. Hopefully Coach Petersen is right with this one.
Bishop Sankey (No. 25) gave the Broncos trouble in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas last season and will be the main focus when the two teams square off in August.
Other than facing the No. 1 team in the nation, perhaps the most difficult season opening matchup is against a team that you beat at the end of last season.
Unfortunately for Broncos, that is exactly what they’re up against when they travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies on August 31st.
It wouldn’t be surprising to walk into Washington’s weight room and find a “Beat the Broncos” poster plastered on the wall. It would be equally as unsurprising to learn Coach Steve Sarkisian’s pep talks for the last four months have been built around the theme of getting revenge.
Put simply, the Broncos have a target on their backs from the get-go.
On the flip side, Coach Petersen is one of the best at preparing his team for big games, and the Washington game definitely falls into that category. The pride of the Pac-12 will again be at stake, and the Broncos have done a pretty good job against the conference over the last few years.
Still, figuring out a way to keep his team focused against the Huskies has to be a concern of Petersen’s. Boise State is coming off of a victory against Washington, and the Broncos have arguably improved much more in the offseason than the Huskies have.
This may be Coach Petersen’s most difficult motivating job yet.
Michael Frisina won the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas for Boise State last season, but graduated. Will someone else be able to step up and replace Frisina's consistency?
Surely, the kicking game has been a concern of Chris Petersen’s ever since Kyle Brotzman missed two seemingly easy field goals for the Broncos against Nevada in 2010 that ended any hope that Boise State would make it to the national championship game that season.
This year, that concern probably won’t go away until the kicking game shows some consistency, as the battle for the starting job will come down to a junior who lost his starting job last season and a sophomore JUCO transfer.
The junior, Dan Goodale, missed a huge kick of his own in 2011 against TCU, which resulted in the Horned Frogs escaping the blue turf with a 36-35 victory. The sophomore, Tyler Rausa, hasn’t proven anything at the Division 1 level, but has shown enough promise to be the likely starter for the season opener.
Regardless of who starts, the key will be consistency. The Broncos don’t normally ask their kickers to win games by booting unlikely 55-yarders. But they do need someone who can routinely make things inside 35 or 40 yards.
The unfortunate thing about this concern is that it will probably never fully go away. Each kick is a different monster, and only the kicker knows what is going on inside of his mind.
How are their nerves?
Only time and the right situation will tell.
Bryan Douglas (No. 1) may be Boise State's best cornerback, but the Broncos will still probably see a lot of teams try to air it out against a relatively untested set of cornerbacks.
This question has been posed time and time again ever since Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins finished up their eligibility for the Broncos.
It had to have been a concern of Coach Petersen’s heading into spring practice, because signing cornerbacks who would be ready to play this season was a point of emphasis in the recruiting Class of 2013 (JUCO recruits Mercy Maston has yet to join the team, but Cleshawn Page did participate in spring drills).
While it may not be as big a concern now (Donte Deayon looked impressive during spring practice, and Bryan Douglas is expected to return to the team by the start of the season), the defensive secondary is still regarded as the most unpredictable of the Broncos’ personnel heading into the 2013 campaign.
The coaching staff knows that opposing teams will be quick to test the secondary to see if they have rebuilt adequately, which will provide both the coaching staff and fans alike with plenty of information on whether or not Boise State has a real problem on its hands.
If the secondary, particularly the cornerbacks, are truly a weakness in 2013, expect to see a lot of different players cycled into the mix to find the most productive players.
More than likely, Petersen is already working on developing something of that nature, which only adds to his stress concerning the secondary.