Boise State 2014 Football: A few thoughts

The roar of the crowds.  Music blaring through the loud speakers.  The cadence of drums in the distance.  All of this can only signify one thing: the arrival of the 2014 Boise State Broncos football season.

After an 8-5 campaign last year and the transfer of Head Coach Chris Peterson to the University of Washington, expectations around the Treasure Valley have certainly been tempered.  Yes, new Head Coach Bryan Harsin has brought a lot of buzz and energy to the team, yet expectations are nowhere near the levels of years past.  This is the same program that over the last seven years has won two Fiesta Bowls and beaten high ranked teams such as Oregon, Georgia, and Virginia Tech.  If attendance at the last scrimmage is to be of any indication, Boise State fans aren’t quite ready to jump back on the Boise State bandwagon.

Coach Harsin has brought with him a slogan of “Attack the Future”.  He lived up to those words at the scrimmage by getting plenty of situational action for the second and third team, especially on offense.  Senior Grant Hedrick (69% completion rate, 16 TD’s, 1825 yards) returns to quarterback the Broncos.  The senior should have more opportunities to use his legs in the running game this year.  Hedrick proved to be an ideal dual threat quarterback in certain situations last year.  It wasn’t until he became the full time starting quarterback in which his running game was virtually taken away from him.  Ryan Finley, returning from shoulder injury last year, has shown no ill effects from the injury and appears to have locked up the No. 2 quarterback position.

At the skill positions, Boise State returns some of the top stat leaders to appear in a Bronco uniform.  The questions remain as to who will provide depth at these positions.  Junior Jay Ajayi (1425 yards, 18 Rushing TD’s) returns at running back.  He proved to be durable last year, but should he fall a group of young and inexperienced running backs waits behind him.  Devan Demas showed flashes of electricity late last year and has the inside track as the No. 2 back.

The same worries can be said for wide receiver.  Matt Miller (88 rec., 1140 yds., 12 TD’s) and jack-of-all trades playmaker Shane Williams Rhodes (77, 702, 6) return as two of the top receivers in the Mountain West.  The battle for the third receiver was on full display at the scrimmage as Coach Harsin rotated candidates in and out during the two hour scrimmage.  Troy Ware and Dallas Burroughs are two returning players that have seen adequate playing time throughout their careers with very little production.

The offensive line has to replace three starters and is very young.  If the limited plays in the scrimmage seem to be any indication, the tight end position seems to be a returning part that has been missing from the offense the last two years.

On defense, coordinator Marcel Yates is looking to instill swagger back into a unit that slumped mightily last year.  Gone were the hard hitting days of Jeron Johnson in last years downward spiral of the defense.  It didn't take long for the defense to announce their new authoritative arrival this year.  On the first play from scrimmage, cornerback Jonathan Moxey delivering a bone crushing hit to receiver Thomas Sperbeck.  The hit drew a penalty flag for targeting, but with that first play the tone had been set.  The defensive line lost a few players, including second round draft pick DeMarcus Lawrence, and is looking to build depth to unit that dealt with many injuries last year.  The linebackers are a solid group, led by top returning tackle leader Ben Weaver.  It is the secondary that appears to be the strongest unit on this defense.  Both safeties return, as do five players at the cornerback position that saw significant playing time last year.  Also waiting in the wings is four star recruit and true freshman Dylan Sumner Gardner.

With all these unknowns heading into the season, the die-hard fans showed up for the scrimmage and rose to their feet as the Broncos raced from the tunnel.  The crowd roared and showed their appreciation to the hometown team.  The roar subsided to a mere applause until Bryan Douglas took the opening kick of the scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown.  Through the yelling and screaming of joy, one thing was for certain:  Football was back and the fall atmosphere was here to stay


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