Boise State Broncos
2012 was a down year for Boise State, a down year is one with 2 losses and that is where Boise State was at 11-2. The defense was stellar once again and Boise State showed it could win some close game through adversity.
Chris Peterson has averaged 12 wins a year in his seven seasons at Boise State. Peterson has an astounding career record of 84-8 at Boise State and shows no signs of letting up. There have been some NFL whispers in recent years and one wonders if they start to get louder if Peterson stays put or makes the jump.
Boise State has always benefitted from smart quarterback play where big plays and the lack of turnovers seems to be the recipe for success. That wasn’t the case last year with signal caller Joe Southwick having an efficient yet unspectacular year. Southwick threw for 2,700 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, numbers that aren’t bad just not the lofty numbers we are accustomed to seeing from a Boise State quarterback. Southwick is back for his senior season and he should fair a little better with another year under his belt and a strong running game. True, leading rusher D.J. Avery is in the NFL but the next three leading backs are all back including a very talented Jay Ajayi who posted 548 yards and a 6.7 YPC average as a freshman. Ajayi is a draft prospect I currently have ranked for the 5th round in 2016. Ajayi just needs to show he can become more involved in the passing game as he only caught 1 pass a season ago. Jack Fields will be the backup and is a better receiver but he struggles breaking tackles and his chances on the field will be limited since Ajayi is so hard to bring down and has an amazing leg drive which will result in a number of short yardage touchdowns. Tight end Gabe Lineham isn’t utilized much as a receiver and he may have a chance as a fullback at the next level. At 6’3” 250 pounds he is a nice straight line blocker who could make a roster as a special teamer and a blocking specialist.
Best Draft Prospect: Jay Ajayi RB 5th Round 2016.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Boise State will have a number of players on the field that can make big plays and catch the football. Matt Miller leads the receiving corps as he posted 62 catches as a freshman and 66 as a sophomore. Miller lacks the top end speed and that is something missing from the Boise State team but he has everything else you are looking for. Terrific route running ability, hands and vision make Miller a constant threat, but Boise State has so many other options that the double team is something we don’t see employed on Miller very often. Geraldo Boldewijn is healthy and should be a major factor in the passing game as well as fellow starter Kirby Moore. I talked about the tight end spot where Gabe Linehan is listed as the starter but he isn’t utilized as a receiver as much as a blocker. Look for second year player Holden Huff to be used in some two tight end sets, as an h-back or in passing situations as the Broncos try to take advantage of his 6’5 frame and capitalize on his athleticism by creating mismatches. Boise State also has a dynamo in Shane Williams-Rhodes who is used as a ball carrier, receiver and a return specialist on kickoffs and punts. Williams-Rhodes is used in a limited role as his 5’6” 155 pound frame is not exactly what you see out of the normal football player. It looks like Boise State has trimmed down the playbook after averaging 30.2 points per game last season. While 30 points seems acceptable it was the lowest total they have had in the 2000’s.
Best Draft Prospect: Matt Miller WR 4th Round 2015.
There are changes along the line as only two starters return but the two coming back are both all-conference performers. Center Matt Paradis is one of the most underrated centers in the country and could go even higher than the 7th round projection I have set for him. Charles Leno Jr. is back at left tackle and the junior has started since day one at Boise State. Leno is a little undersized at 6’4” 295 pounds but his footwork is so good that I don’t think he needs to be moved into the interior line at the NFL level. Leno also projects as a 7th round selection but he will be available in 2015. Spencer Gurke will start at left guard and the senior has a ton of experience at various positions all along the line. The right side is new with sophomores Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo becoming starters Jake Broyles is available if anyone struggles and he has experience at guard and tackle. Boise State will take the ball right up the gut behind Paradis and should employ a power running game that will set up favorable passing downs and big plays.
Best Draft Prospect: Matt Paradis C 7th Round 2014 and Charles Leno Jr. OT 7th Round 2015.
Boise State is always a team that you think about scoring 50 points a game and using gadget and trick plays to their advantage. Last year was a perfect example of why Boise State is always at the top of the Mountain West and in the National Championship picture, it’s all about defense. Boise ranked 8th in scoring defense and was #5 in the nation against the pass. Boise was also a top ten team, when it comes t sacking the quarterback and they bring pressure off the edge with Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukwuachu. Both players project as 3rd round picks for me in 2015 and 2016 respectively but I have both listed at the linebacker position due to size. Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe leads the defensive tackles and has the ability and productivity to get a camp invite and looks like a player we will see on a practice squad somewhere. Tjong-A-Tjoe had 40 tackles with 4.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks as a junior. Tyler Horn is the other defensive tackle and he had 5 sacks so you can see that pressure along the edge does lead to the players in the middle getting some sacks and adding to the difficulty of blocking this line.
Best Draft Prospect: Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe DT UFA 2014.
Stopping the run from the linebacker spot seems to be the Achilles Heel on paper when looking at the defensive prospects. Corey Bell is the rover player who will move around and he is the top returning tackler in the group with 46 stops a season ago and Corey Renaud with 45 is not far behind. We won’t see the linebackers blitzing the quarterback much as the Boise line usually comes at the offense in waves and the linebackers are responsible for plugging up the gaps. I mentioned ends Demarcus Lawrence and Sam Ukwuachu above and both are NFL prospects due to their ability to pressure the quarterback and making shedding blocks seem routine. Lawrence had 9.5 sacks leading Boise State last year while Ukwuachu had 7 stops for loss and 4.5 sacks as a freshman. Lawrence could make some All-America lists but I don’t see him as a threat declaring a year early. The problem here is depth. There just isn’t depth at linebacker and an injury to th starters could prove very costly to this unit.
Best Draft Prospect: Demarcus Lawrence 3rd Round 2015, Sam Ukwuachu 3rd Round 2016.
It’ hard to imagine Boise State having a year as effective against the pass as they did in 2012 when they were #5 in the nation and gave up about 170 a game through the air. Jamar Taylor is gone at cornerback and both the starters are new to the secondary in Bryan Douglas and Donte Deayon. Boise is untested at corner but that is not the case at safety where the Broncos have one of the best starting duos in the nation and both have serious NFL careers ahead of them in junior Jeremy Ioane and sophomore Darius Thompson. I have Thompson listed as a 4th round prospect for 2016 and Ioane as a 6th rounder for 2015. Thompson evens slips into the cornerback position from time to time and it is something I assume we will see happen again during 2013. Both players had 3 interceptions last season. Ioane looks to be the players with the better tackling skills while Thompson is better at coverage and his athleticism is off the charts. Deon’tae Florence and Chaz Anderson are the top two corners on the depth chart off the bench and both are freshman so this secondary should have a few years they can play together and provide the Broncos with stability. If Boise State continues to get pressure on the quarterback at a rate they have in past seasons it will mask some of the holes and deficiencies at the cornerback position.
Best Draft Prospect: Darian Thompson S 4th Round 2016.
Shane Williams-Rhodes is the best prospect available but it is hard to imagine a player his size making it at the next level as the cases or success stories are few and far between. The kicker position has been a bit of a struggle ever since that 2011 miss which likely cost Boise State a BCS birth when they lost against TCU 36-35. Dan Goodale (who missed the kick) and juco transfer Tyler Rausa are currently battling for the position and that spot is up in the air and could be one where we see both taking some kicks during the season. Trevor Harmon is back at punter, he needs to improve his hang time but he did show improvement last year with the placement of his kicks.
Best Draft Prospect: N/A
The opener at Washington is tough as Washington is seeking revenge after their close bowl loss a season ago. Boise State has three other tough road games and winning all three may be a tall order against Fresno State, BYU and Utah State. I don’t think this is a year where Boise State is in the Championship talk but they could still win the conference and have at least 11 wins setting up for a big 2015.
I don’t see a 1st or 2nd rounder right now as we have seen in the past but the sheer number of prospects coming from Boise State continues to increase. The last few first rounders (Ryan Clady and Doug Martin) have not only been high picks but are NFL stars so the argument that this smaller school does not produce prospects for the next level is absolutely false