David Fox Rivals.com College Football Staff Writer
By recent Boise State standards, the Broncos are undergoing an overhaul.
Going into 2010, the Broncos returned 20 starters. This season, Boise State returns a "mere" 14, lead by fourth-year starting QB Kellen Moore. The Broncos also are replacing a coordinator for the second consecutive season, with Bryan Harsin, an assistant at Boise State since 2002, leaving to become offensive coordinator at Texas.
A year after the Broncos promoted Pete Kwiatkowski to take over for Justin Wilcox - who went to Tennessee - at defensive coordinator, Boise State picked a familiar face to run the offense. Brent Pease, Boise State's wide receiver coach since 2006, briefly took an assistant's job at Indiana before returning to Boise State to replace Harsin as offensive coordinator.
If Petersen and his staff spend time in the film room this spring, it's likely for more than just breaking down personnel - after all they're confident in what they have in Moore and others by now. Instead, Boise State is preparing for its move to the Mountain West Conference.
Here's a look at Boise State as the Broncos begin their first spring in a new conference.
BOISE STATE AT-A-GLANCE
Kellen Moore returns to lead the Broncos offense.
COACH: Chris Petersen LAST SEASON: 12-1 overall, 7-1 in the WAC. Beat Utah 26-3 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
SPRING DATES: March 7-April 16
RETURNING STARTERS (minimum seven starts last season)
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH: Senior QB Kellen Moore likely will enter the 2011 season as a preseason first-or second-team All-American. Moore set career-highs last season in yards (3,845) and passing efficiency (182.63). Joining Moore in the backfield is Doug Martin, who carried the ball 201 times for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns. The defense remains stocked at core positions. The tackle tandem of Billy Winn and Chase Baker and E Shea McClellin are starting together for the third consecutive season. While E Ryan Winterswyk is gone, he will be replaced by Tyrone Crawford, who recorded seven sacks as a backup last season. Boise State returns a deep rotation at linebacker with J.C. Percy, Hunter White. Aaron Tevis and Byron Hout are back, too, but they are expected to miss the spring with injuries.
HELP IS NEEDED: Boise State's most pressing project for the spring will be to find replacements for WRs Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who combined for 142 catches, 2,166 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. The most prolific remaining receiver is Tyler Shoemaker, who had 582 yards and five touchdowns last season. After that, Boise State has questions. The Broncos have some work to do in the secondary. Departed S Jeron Johnson led the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons. CB Brandyn Thompson and OLB/S Winston Venable also are gone. K/P Kyle Brotzman had the worst game of his career in the loss to Nevada last season, but the Broncos will miss him. He did double-duty as kicker and punter for four seasons, making 67 field goals, averaging 44.6 yards per punt and setting the WAC career scoring record. Freshman Jake Van Gikel could take over kicking duties in the fall, but kickoff specialist Trevor Harman has a big leg. Fifth-year senior Brad Elkin could take over punting duties.
3 GUYS TO WATCH
WR Geraldo Hiwat: Other than Shoemaker, Hiwat is the most prolific returning receiver - with 11 catches for 160 yards last season. Originally from Amsterdam, he played one year of high school football in Boise before redshirting. He's big (6-4/200) and athletic, and now he has some football experience under his belt.
T/G Brenel Myers: Hopes were high last season for Myers after he started the Fiesta Bowl against TCU at the end of the 2009 season. Myers, though, started just two games last season before losing his starting job. Both spots on the right side of the offensive line are open, so Myers could step in and take one of the spots. Myers is built more like a guard (6-2/277), but he has played tackle for the most part. The Broncos tinker with their line quite a bit, so that flexibility is an asset.
DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe: He's not going to crack the starting lineup because of Baker and Winn, but Tjong-A-Tjoe expects to get plenty of time in the line rotation. In limited work last season, he had 24 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.
THE PRESSURE IS ON
RB D.J. Harper: The senior can be an explosive running back, but he's played only three games in each of the last two seasons because of injury. Petersen likes to have a rotation at running back. With Jeremy Avery and Jarvis Hodge gone, there's a spot open for someone to back up Doug Martin. Harper is more than capable if he can stay healthy. Harper has 62 carries, 444 yards and five touchdowns in six games the last two seasons.
A new conference provides new challenges for the coaching staff, and the top players at two position groups (wide receiver and secondary) must be replaced, a change of pace for a team that returned nearly every starter a year ago. There's no reason to doubt Boise State will continue to be successful in the Mountain West, but the move adds a bit of intrigue to the preparation for 2011.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.