Boise State Football: Can Broncos Return 10-Win Plateau in 2014?
Many college football teams and their fans would be happy to finish the regular season with an 8-4 record. However, that's not nearly enough for those at Boise State.
The expectations and standards in Broncos' land are extremely high. It's part of what makes the Boise State program what it is today.
This season, and its result, probably has led some to speculate that Boise State has seen its best days as a program. Some might even be tempted to think that the historic run is over for the Broncos. However, the response to those who contemplate such things is very simple.
They must know very little about the history of Boise State football.
Boise State has played football since 1933 and ever since then, there has been a high standard for the program driven by hard work, determination and the character of those individuals involved. It is a program that has risen to the top of every level it has participated in, and one that continually moves forward, even in the face of adversity and setbacks.
Yes, there are times, seasons and moments that have been frustrating and disappointing. Still, the one constant has been the continual elevation of the program, even when experiencing the occasional fall.
Winston Churchill said it best when he stated, "Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it."
The contrary wind hit the sails of the Broncos' ship in 2013. It caused some to jump overboard, but the captain and the crew remained intact. The standards and principals at Boise State are still on board, and the ship is preparing to dock for necessary repairs in preparation for another journey in 2014.
Of course, there is still a bowl game to play, and you can expect head coach Chris Petersen to have his team ready to go. However, after that, there will be a full-scale renovation for a program that is not satisfied with "good enough."
A return to the top and double-digit win totals is not just a goal for this program, it is a minimum standard.
Let's look at how Petersen and his team can return to dominance in order to reclaim the mountain in 2014.
The Return of Scholarships
One of the things that will help the Broncos in a big way in 2014 and beyond is the return of three football scholarships per season.
Three may not seem like a large number, but if you multiply that by the past three years, you realize that there are at least nine scholarship players who are not on the roster at Boise State who could have been.
When the Boise State football program was put on three years probation in 2011, it also lost three scholarships per year for a total of nine. Those nine scholarships represent nine players who could have been attending Boise State since the 2011-2012 school year.
Nine scholarship players is a large number especially when considering depth at certain positions like defensive line or defensive secondary.
With the return of these scholarships, it gives head coach Chris Petersen a bit more to work with. Considering Boise State lost two crucial conference games this season, including one in overtime, a "bit more" couldn't come at a better time.
So Much Returning Talent
Boise State is a young team. In fact, the smallest class on the 2013 roster is the senior class with just 16 members. In total, the Broncos have 47 freshmen, 18 sophomores and 19 juniors this season.
One of the things that will help considerably next season is the amount of playing time that those young players have received this season.
The Broncos used several freshmen, and some of those players had breakout seasons. Linebackers Ben Weaver and Tanner Vallejo were certainly impressive, as was running back Aaron Baltazar, who unfortunately suffered an injury that ended his season early. He should be back in 2014.
Baltazar wasn't the only freshman running back to impress. Both Devan Demas and Charles Bertoli showed potential.
Other notable freshmen contributors were cornerback Jonathan Moxey and offensive linemen Steven Baggett, Mario Yakoo and Travis Averill. Quarterback Nick Patti got a few reps, as did punter Sean Wale. On the defensive line, the Broncos utilized ends Sam McCaskill and Gabe Perez.
The sophomore class is loaded with talent. Running backs Jay Ajayi and Jack Fields, wide receivers Shane Williams-Rhodes and Troy Ware, tight ends Jake Hardee and Holden Huff and offensive linemen Rees Odhiambo and Marcus Henry lead the class on offense.
On defense, the sophomore class includes a handful of safeties with Dillon Lukehart, Darian Thompson, Taylor Loffler and Jeremy Ioane. Cornerback Donte Deayon, defensive tackle Armand Nance and linebacker Tyler Gray are also notables.
The junior group features cornerbacks Bryan Douglas, Mercy Maston and Cleshawn Page, defensive linemen Demarcus Lawrence, Tyler Horn, Beau Martin and Justin Taimatuia and linebackers Corey Bell, Travis Saxton and Blake Renaud.
On offense the Broncos wil return such junior as tight ends Conner Peters and Kyle Sosnowski, wide receivers Dallas Burroughs and Matt Miller, kicker Dan Goodale, running back Derrick Thomas and quarterback Grant Hedrick.
To say the Broncos will be loaded next season seems to be an understatement. This Boise State roster, along with whatever recruiting class comes on board, should lead to very good things in 2014.
Crucial Games at Home
The 2013 football schedule for Boise State was challenging, as the Broncos had their six toughest games all scheduled on the road.
Boise State started at Washington, but also had to face Fresno State, BYU, Colorado State, San Diego State and Utah State away from the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.
Next season, that schedule will be reversed, except for the Washington game. The Broncos won't play the Huskies at home until the 2015 season. However, the opener in 2014 will be against Ole Miss in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome.
Colorado State, Utah State, San Diego State, Fresno State and non-conference rival BYU all must come to Bronco Stadium next season. The Broncos will also face UL-Lafayette at home.
The road schedule will also be much more manageable, as Boise will travel to Connecticut to take on the Huskies after the Ole Miss game. The Broncos will also play at Nevada, Wyoming, Air Force and New Mexico.
If the Broncos go undefeated at home next season as they did in 2013, the chances of them losing more than one or two road games seem slim.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Boise State should be in a great position to win at least 10 games In 2014.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure."
One of the things that makes head coach Chris Petersen so good is that he doesn't accept anything less than the best. That standard has been transferred to his coaches, his players, and it even reverberates through the fanbase.
Petersen will undoubtedly go back to the drawing board in an effort to analyze, dissect and repair any area that may need it.
The Broncos will not need much motivation in 2014. The 2013 season gave them plenty of that.
Every loss from 2013 will rest in the form of a much larger chip on the shoulders of returning players. Not only that, but the sights, sounds and comments from opposing teams and their fans will no doubt echo in the minds of each player in the offseason.
With so much talent coming back, more talent on the way, a much more favorable schedule and the simple motivation that has been nurtured in the blood, sweat and tears of the 2013 season at Boise State, it is safe to say that teams facing the Broncos in 2014 had better take notice.