Boise State Football: Bryan Harsin's 3 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice
When Bryan Harsin arrived in Boise to become the new head coach of the Broncos, there was much work to be done. Now, nearly four months later, the considerable amount of work that he, his staff and his players have put in appears to be paying big dividends.
Last week was the first Blue and Orange Spring Game with Harsin at the helm for Boise State, and overall it would have to be deemed a success.
The newly installed defense stole the show, with several players on that side of the ball making big plays and flying around the field. The offense, on the other hand, struggled at times. However, they also had some decent individual efforts that should encourage Boise State fans.
As spring practice ends, the Boise State coaching staff will now look forward as the first game of the season against Ole Miss rapidly approaches.
But before the staff can concern themselves with the details of the game plan against the Rebels, Harsin and his team will need to deal with some other concerns closer to home.
Let's take a look at three of the biggest concerns coach Harsin might have as the 2014 season approaches.
One of the key areas of concern for Boise State in last Saturday's scrimmage had to be the play of the young offensive line.
At times during the game, the defensive front dominated the offensive line in a way that could lead those watching to believe that either the defensive line is incredible or the offensive line needs to improve greatly before the season begins.
Not taking anything away from what looks to be a solid defensive line for the Broncos, but the latter seems to be the right interpretation of the events.
It takes time for an offensive line to gel together, but time isn't something Boise State has on its side right now. August 28 is only four months away, and prime time on ESPN against an SEC team is no place to attempt to get things together.
The Broncos return just two starters up front in 2014: redshirt juniors Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo.
Last season, Boise State was fortunate to start three seniors on the line, but this year, there isn't even a senior offensive lineman on the roster. Instead, players like redshirt sophomores Mario Yakoo and Travis Averill will be asked to step up, as will redshirt freshmen Archie Lewis and Eli McCullough.
The offensive line could make or break the early part of the Broncos' season this fall. Right now Coach Harsin has to be concerned with how his young players will respond.
Another major concern for Coach Harsin has to be the position of backup quarterback.
Last season, Boise State found itself in the unenviable position of watching its starting quarterback go down with an injury. However, the Broncos were much more prepared in 2013 with players like Grant Hedrick and Nick Patti waiting in the wings.
This season, however, Boise State is facing a considerable amount of uncertainty when it comes to who would step up if Hedrick went down.
Sophomore JUCO transfer Thomas Stuart and redshirt freshman Ryan Finley are the two most likely candidates to back Hedrick up. Nick Patti is no longer with the team, and true freshman Alex Ogle won't arrive until fall practice, and it is probably way too much to ask from him to be ready to play by the time the season rolls around.
Both Finley and Stuart had good moments in the scrimmage this spring. However, it was Finley who seemed to do a bit more on the field, despite the fact that he is still recovering from shoulder surgery last season.
If Finley, a 6'4" pocket passer, can improve even more as his healing continues, he may be a viable option, but it is still an uncertainty.
Thomas Stuart brings a different dynamic to the table. He is more of an athletic, mobile quarterback who tends to make plays on the run. He would bring something that looks more like the game of Hedrick, but his newness to the program may be too much to overcome as well.
No matter who wins the job, Coach Harsin and his staff are probably praying that Hedrick stays healthy all season long.
Improving the Offense
Overall, it is the offense that clearly needs the improvement after spring practice, but that is to be expected. An offense takes more time to install than a defense, and learning plays and perfecting timing only comes with repetition.
One thing the Broncos have going for them on offense, however, is the considerable amount of talent they have on the roster.
Grant Hedrick looked good this spring at quarterback, and his experience starting last season will be a huge benefit in 2014.
Running back Jay Ajayi looks better than ever, and backup running backs Devan Demas and Derrick Thomas looked impressive as well.
At wide receiver, Boise State has one of the best receivers in the Mountain West Conference in Matt Miller and one of the most dynamic players in Shane Williams-Rhodes.
Other wide receivers that looked good this spring and should make an impact are redshirt junior Troy Ware and sophomore Thomas Sperbeck.
At tight end, the Broncos have several players capable of stepping up, and the offensive line is young, but it doesn't lack ability.
As the opening game against Ole Miss approaches, fans can expect this kind of talent to come together, especially when considering the Broncos have a head coach with an obsession for offense and a young offensive coordinator not short on creativity.