June 27, 2008

Coach: Chris Petersen (23-3 in two seasons) | Staff
In 2007: 10-3 overall, 7-1 in the WAC (second in league).
Returning starters: Offense: 5. Defense: 6. Special teams: 1 | Depth Chart
Key losses: Offense — C Jeff Cavender, T Ryan Clady, T Dan Gore, G Tad Miller, TE Ryan Putnam, QB Taylor Tharp. Defense — CB Orlando Scandrick, E Nick Schlekeway, T Ian Smart, S Marty Tadman.
Final 2007 Rivals.com ranking: 31st. | Complete Final 2007 Rankings
2008 Breakdown: Offense | Defense | Special teams | Coaching | Schedule | Depth Chart

OFFENSE

THE SCHEME: This is a varied attack that will operate from a conventional two-back, two-wide receiver, one-tight end set on one down, then morph into an empty backfield, five-wide look the next. It's all about variety and stretching defenses horizontally and vertically. And when you're talking Boise State, you always have to talk gadget plays. Keeping defenses on their toes – and having a little bit of fun – is key on the famed "Smurf Turf."

STAR POWER: Senior tailback Ian Johnson is a national name who forever will be remembered for proposing on the sideline after the legendary 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The guy has his own Wikipedia page, for crying out loud. Anyway, no current running back has more career rushing yards (3,417), rushing TDs (45) or career touchdowns (46). Johnson has become bigger and stronger, looking to be more durable after injuries led to an uneven 2007. Still, he finished with 1,041 yards and 16 TDs even though he missed two games and saw minimal action in another because of injuries. He wants to finish with a bang, so look out. Depth is good behind Johnson, too.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: At 6 feet 6 and 272 pounds, redshirt freshman Nate Potter looks the part of a left tackle. But there's no way he'll be able to duplicate the play of departed Ryan Clady, a first-round NFL pick. Still, coaches are high on Potter and believe he has a bright future. The future begins now for Potter, who needs to get stronger.

IT'S HIS TIME: While the search for a new quarterback is sexy, the race to find four new starting linemen is every bit as important. The lone veteran is guard Andrew Woodruff, who has started at three spots in his career. Redshirt freshman Thomas Byrd is penciled in at center, but he's just 5-11 and 270 pounds. He looked good when he sat out last season as a redshirt, offering hope he can emerge as a key cog in the Broncos' overhauled front wall.

STRONGEST AREA: The receiving corps is downright scary with Jeremy Childs' return after a suspension. He missed the bowl loss to East Carolina and spring drills after snagging 82 passes for 1,045 yards and nine TDs last season. Childs has good size (6-0/191) and is a physical receiver who can run. Austin Pettis is a big target who came on late last season. Titus Young is a home run threat. An added bonus: Vinny Perretta is back after missing much of 2007 with injury. Perretta is the guy who threw the TD pass in overtime against Oklahoma in the '07 Fiesta Bowl. Look for coaches to line him up all over the place again—wide receiver, tailback, quarterback.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: The quarterback battle between redshirt freshman Kellen Moore – Gatorade's Washington player of the year in 2006 – and senior Bush Hamdan may not be decided until late August. Hamdan is steady, but Moore is explosive. And sophomore Mike Coughlin – who, like Hamdan, played sparingly last season – could nose in on the competition, too. Bottom line: Boise will get something figured out at this spot.

143-59

That was the Broncos' scoring advantage in the first quarter last season.
OVERVIEW: The Broncos' offensive cup runneth over with a multitude of skill-position talent. But that's nothing new, right? The dizzying stats come hard and fast for what always is one of the nation's top offenses. Boise State is the highest scoring team in the nation since 2000, averaging 41.8 points per game. And when it comes to winning at home, no school has been better the past five seasons than the Broncos' 32-1 mark. Much of that has to do with the offense, which will fly high again if the line develops and a steady hand at quarterback emerges.

GRADE: B

DEFENSE

THE SCHEME: The Broncos operate a standard 4-3 scheme that is short on bulk but long on speed. To combat that lack of girth, Boise State often stunts and overloads one side of the ball. It can pay off with big plays, but the movement also can leave the Broncos susceptible to getting burned. Still, it's easy to play risky on defense knowing a prolific offense usually can cover mistakes.

STAR POWER: Cornerback Kyle Wilson found a spot in the starting lineup midway through his freshman season and never has left. Now a junior, Wilson notched 41 tackles in 2007 along with two picks and eight pass breakups. He's one of the WAC's top cover men and also excels at supporting the run.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: Safety George Iloka is a rangy true freshman from Sugar Land, Texas., who graduated high school early and enrolled in time for spring drills. He has impressed many with his speed and instincts. Iloka could be a playmaker for a defense that always can use more.

IT'S HIS TIME: Check out sophomore end Ryan Winterswyk, a 6-4, 261-pounder who impressed during his debut season. After a sensational spring, Winterswyk looks primed to become a major force off the edge as a run stuffer and pass rusher. Offenses will know where he's lined up. Winterswyk will combine with Mike T. Williams, an all-star candidate who notched six sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and four pass breakups in 2007, to give the Broncos two good pass rushers.

STRONGEST AREA: The linebacking corps is loaded with experience; five players who saw significant duty are back. Still, the unit was shaken up in the spring because the linebackers didn't make enough big plays last season. Key moves include sophomore Derrell Acrey taking over in the middle for senior Kyle Gingg, who slides back to his more comfortable slot on the weak side. Gingg led the team with 94 tackles last season. Senior Dallas Dobbs – who started seven games last season – will push Acrey, while senior Tim Brady is back to patrol the strongside.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: Keep an eye on how the secondary develops in this pass-happy league. Cornerback Brandyn Thompson impressed as a true freshman last season and must take the next step after Orlando Scandrick surprisingly left early for the NFL. Safety Marty Tadman also is gone, leaving a big hole. At least one corner spot is in good hands with Wilson. There are several good options at safety, including Jeron Johnson and Jason Robinson, who were part-time starters at the safety spot opposite Tadman in 2007. Ellis Powers also is an option after returning to safety from linebacker.

OVERVIEW: The defense is experienced, but it has to get tougher, stronger and more physical - especially at tackle and linebacker. The unit got run over on the ground during the team's late-season swoon that saw Boise drop its last two games. Wilson is a playmaker, but more are needed on defense. The last time we saw this defense, East Carolina was trampling it for 322 rushing yards in the Hawaii Bowl.

GRADE: C+

SPECIAL TEAMS

Is there a better kicker in the WAC than sophomore Kyle Brotzman ? He hit 16 of 18 field-goal attempts last season, when he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. He also may punt this fall after he saw spot duty in that role last season and averaged 44.5 yards. Brad Elkin will compete for punting duties after booting 27 times for an average of 37.5. The return game will be overhauled, with Young and Perretta handling punts and Harper and Martin kickoffs.

GRADE: B.

COACHING

Is there a hotter young coach in America than 43-year-old Chris Petersen? Boise's fair-haired boy has enjoyed a ton of success in his two years since Dan Hawkins left to coach Colorado. That's the thing about Boise coaches: They typically have success, then bolt. Before Hawkins, Houston Nutt and Dirk Koetter also left for bigger jobs after short-but-successful stints at Boise. Petersen may be different. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin is another hot commodity. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox hasn't gotten enough credit because the explosive Boise offense usually steals the headlines. But Wilcox is a sharp mind and great teacher.

GRADE: A.

DATE OPPONENT
Aug. 30 Idaho State
Sept. 13 Bowling Green
Sept. 20 at Oregon
Oct. 1 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 11 at Southern Miss
Oct. 17 Hawaii
Oct. 24 at San Jose State
Nov. 1 at New Mexico State
Nov. 8 Utah State
Nov. 15 at Idaho
Nov. 22 at Nevada
Nov. 28 Fresno State

SCHEDULE

When the calendar turns to October, Boise State will have played only three games. Let's hope the Broncos don't get bored by the slow waltz out of the gate. The non-conference schedule is challenging, beginning with a visit from Bowling Green. Trips to Oregon and Southern Miss will be tests, as well. From Oct. 11 to Nov. 28, Boise plays eight games in a row. The make-or-break stretch is Oct. 22-Nov. 22, when the Broncos play four of five on the road. Still, none of the trips are daunting.  If everything goes as planned, the WAC title will be on the line when Fresno State visits for the season finale Nov. 28.

OUTLOOK

If we've learned one thing the past 10 seasons, it's never to doubt Boise State – no matter what issues the program faces. Boise is 102-24 (.809) since 1998, the best winning percentage in I-A in that span. The Broncos will be in the hunt to reclaim the WAC title they lost to Hawaii in 2007 after ruling the conference from 2002-06. A kind schedule that finds Fresno State visiting helps, too. The guy who changes light bulbs in the scoreboard always will have a job in Boise, but he may not be as busy – or happy – if a decent quarterback fails to emerge. And don't forget about the rebuilt offensive line. In the end, Boise's coaches will get it all figured out and challenge for the WAC title. But this isn't a BCS-buster team.

OFFENSE
QB Kellen Moore, 6-0/181, R-Fr.
Bush Hamdan, 6-0/194, Sr.
RB Ian Johnson *, 6-0/198, Sr.
Jeremy Avery, 5-9/169, Soph. .
FB Richie Brockel *, 6-2/243, Jr.
Andy Silsby, 5-11/219, Jr.
WR Jeremy Childs *, 6-0/191, Jr.
Titus Young, 5-11/170, Soph.
WR Austin Pettis *, 6-3/198, Soph.
Vinny Perretta, 5-10/191, Sr.
TE Chris O'Neill, 6-3/244, Sr.
Tommy Gallarda, 6-6/237, Soph.
T Nate Potter, 6-6/272, R-Fr.
Garrett Pendergast, 6-4/270, R-Fr.
T Matt Slater, 6-5/263, Soph.
Kevin Sapien, 6-4/261, Soph.
G Andrew Woodruff *, 6-2/320, Sr.
Ben Iannacchione, 6-3/261, Sr.
G Jon Gott, 6-3/286, Sr.
Kevin Sapien, 6-4/261, Soph.
C Thomas Byrd, 5-11/270, R-Fr.
Cory Yriarte, 6-1/275, R-Fr.
K Kyle Brotzman *, 5-10/177, Soph.
KR D.J. Harper, 5-9/187, Soph.
(NOTE: *--denotes returning starter; %--denotes returning starter who has changed positions.)

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.




 

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