Boise State enters the 2013 college football season with a fair amount of returning talent and a handful of fresh faces looking to make their presence known.
The Broncos do have to rebuild a portion of their defense, and the offensive line is a bit of a mystery. However, that seems to be the story every year, and yet the Boise State coaching staff always has the team ready to go.
Last season was the perfect example of that.
This season, the Broncos appear to have enough talent to make a heavy push toward another Mountain West Conference title and maybe even another BCS bowl game.
However, for both of those goals to happen, every player that steps on to the field for Boise State in 2013 will have to rise to the occasion.
Some more than others.
Head coach Chris Petersen teaches his players family unity over individual accolades, but football fans always have a way of lifting up heroes.That is no different for the Broncos.
There are several players on the Broncos' roster who have a little heavier load of expectations riding their shoulders.
Let's look at seven of those players and break down why fans are so excited to see what they will do come kickoff time.
Bronco fans are very excited to see Jay Ajayi's sophomore effort in 2013—and for several reasons.
First, he is fun to watch. He is a brutal runner but also has decent speed and deceptive agility.
Also, at 6'0", 215 pounds, he has enough of a frame to make defenders pay for each and every attempt to tackle him, and his downhill running style is a weapon opponents will have a hard time stopping.
Last season, as D.J. Harper's backup, Ajayi set a school record with a 6.68 yards-per-carry average. He played in 11 games, according to BroncosSports.com, and had 548 yards on just 82 carries.
In 2013, if he stays healthy, Ajayi should be a key part of a rejuvenated Boise State offense. Don't be surprised if he sets some other records.
Matt Miller is a wide receiver who has been a powerful weapon for Boise State over the last two seasons.
According to BroncoSports.com, Miller led the Broncos' offensive in receiving in every major category as a sophomore last year (66 receptions, 769 yards) after setting freshman records in 2011 with 62 grabs and 679 yards.
In 2013 the Boise State offense looks to be much better than last season. The passing game should be far more consistent and much more dominant.
All of that points to a very good season for Matt Miller. Boise State fans have to be excited to see what he does as a junior.
Demarcus Lawrence was incredible in his first season as a Bronco.
Lawrence transferred to Boise State last season from Butler Community College and amazed Bronco fans with his tremendous athleticism and ability to impact a game. And with last season's off-field troubles behind him, Lawrence should have the Bronco faithful chomping at the bit to see what he will do in 2013.
It should be fun to watch.
Talk about dynamite coming in small packages. In this case it stands 5'6"—or so the roster says—and weighs in at 158 pounds.
When Shane Williams-Rhodes, a.k.a. SWR, a.k.a. Shake-n-bake, a.k.a. "Who was that?" appeared on the scene, Broncos fans were left shaking their heads—in a good way.
The spring game of 2012 is when the public got its first look. At the time, Boise State fans were busy talking about the quarterback battle and who would replace Kellen Moore. There was even talk of retiring the No. 11 in honor of Moore.
But Williams-Rhodes, who donned the same number, made several fans forget, if just for a moment, about any QB drama.
He made moves that had several people asking, "Who was that?"
By the middle of the season, with his spins, cutbacks and should-be-patented shake-n-bake moves, the talk of retiring the No. 11 had quieted down. Not that people didn't still want it too happen. But by wearing the same number as Moore, SWR was doing it honor.
Fast forward to 2013, and you have to wonder what his encore will look like? Broncos fans are certainly excited to see what he does next.
Joe Southwick found himself in a nearly impossible situation in 2012.
First, how in the world would anyone replace Kellen Moore?
Second, how could the Broncos maintain their offensive power after losing key weapons like Moore and Doug Martin?
Lastly, many fans had put their hopes on a kid from Florida, dual-threat quarterback Nick Patti, whom some thought could be the "next Kellen Moore." So, when Southwick won the job, there were those who were left scratching their heads or complaining before a single snap had happened.
When Joe Southwick struggled early, the pressure became intense. The quarterback often gets too much praise or criticism, depending on the outcome of games. Southwick found himself on the bitter end of that spectrum in early 2012.
The season progressed, however, and Joe Southwick endured. By the end of the season he certainly looked like a Boise State quarterback.
Now, in 2013, with the lessons of last season fueling his confidence, Joe Southwick should finish his senior campaign in a big way. While some fans are still hoping for the next Kellen, Southwick need only be himself to find success this season.
If he starts and plays the 2013 season like he finished the 2012 campaign, the Broncos and their fans are going to be happy.
Then, in 2014, Patti can battle the rest of the Bronco QBs to be next on the hot seat, and that is going to be fun to watch as well.
Little is known by Boise State fans about Tutulupeatau Mataele.
Except for the fact that he actually goes by the name Duece—which, fans, players, coaches and just about everyone else is thankful for.
Mataele is a JUCO transfer from Mt. San Antonio College. After notching 39 tackles as a freshman in 2011, he led the team last year with 42.
When you watch his game film, it is clear that he is a very physical and athletic player. Many times he looks to be the most dominant and fastest moving player on the field. Of course, that is at the JUCO level, but his ability should translate.
Mataele had a good spring and looked great in the Blue and Orange spring game. If he is what he appears to be, folks are going to be hearing his name a lot in 2013.
Jay Ajayi is the most exciting running back on the Broncos roster.
But he's not the only ball-carrier who will be bringing Bronco fans to their feet.
In fact, the Broncos have a few other intriguing prospects, including yet another JUCO transfer.
Derrick Thomas comes to Boise from Butler Community College. As a sophomore, Thomas carried the ball 157 times for 829 yards, according to BroncoSports.com. He also had a 145 carries for 793 yards as a freshman for Butler.
At 6'0", 207 pounds, Thomas is similar in size to Ajayi, and this combination should be a powerful force. Thomas looked good at the spring game, and if you watch his game film, he plays in a manner similar to Ajayi.
If both stay healthy, this could be an amazing year for the Boise State ground game.