HEAD COACH: Chris Petersen, 84-8 (7 years) |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Robert Prince |
DEF. COORDINATOR: Pete Kwiatkowski
Boise State has streamlined its offensive playbook to remove what coach Chris Petersen called “dead weight” accumulated during 12 seasons of Petersen as offensive coordinator (2001-05) or head coach (2006-12). The catalyst: A subpar offensive showing last season, when the Broncos averaged 30.2 points per game — the program’s worst output since 1998.
The tweaks should work, given the returning talent. The Broncos have a returning starter at quarterback, senior Joe Southwick, and retained four of last season’s top five rushers and six of the top eight receivers, statistically. The offensive line boasts All-Mountain West center Matt Paradis, third-year starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and veteran utility man Spencer Gerke, all seniors.
Sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi, a powerful runner who averaged 6.7 yards per carry as the backup last year, leads a young stable of running backs. Junior Matt Miller, who has 128 catches and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons, tops a deep receiving corps that could get breakout seasons from senior Geraldo Boldewijn and sophomore Shane Williams-Rhodes. Sophomore tight end Holden Huff, who is 6'5", provides a mismatch over the middle.
The Broncos have been so good on defense the past five seasons that’s it’s easy to assume the group will be terrific again in 2013. But that was the thought on the offensive side last year. Boise State lost three of its top four defensive tackles, all three starting linebackers and both starting cornerbacks. That exodus includes three All-Mountain West first-teamers.
Junior end Demarcus Lawrence could earn some All-America buzz. The former junior college transfer led the Mountain West with 9.5 sacks last season despite missing two games for a violation of team rules. He also was fifth on the team with 48 tackles and first with four forced fumbles. The other starting end was supposed to be Sam Ukwuachu, who had 4.5 sacks en route to Freshman All-America honors. However, he was dismissed from the team in early May. Senior returning starter Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe leads the tackle rotation.
Junior linebacker Blake Renaud, a hard-hitting 249 pounds, should clog the middle. He’s backed by two returning starters at safety, junior Jeremy Ioane and sophomore Darian Thompson.
Perhaps the biggest concern is at cornerback. Bryan Douglas tore an ACL last season and will have to work back into game shape during fall camp. The rest of the corners have joined the roster in the last year.
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Joe Southwick, QB – Southwick made steady progress in his first year as a starter, throwing for 2,730 yards and 19 scores. Expect the senior to thrive in his second season under center.
Demarcus Lawrence, DE – Led Boise State’s defense with 9.5 sacks last season and will be counted on even more with the dismissal of Sam Ukwuachu.
Matt Miller, WR – Earned second-team All-Mountain West honors in 2012. Miller was Boise State’s leading receiver with 66 receptions and five touchdowns.
The Broncos are looking for a kicker — again. Junior Dan Goodale, who missed the potential game-winner in 2011 vs. TCU, and sophomore transfer Tyler Rausa are competing. Senior punter Trevor Harman returns. But the most intriguing special teamer is Williams-Rhodes, the ultra-quick, 5'6", 158-pound receiver. He provided a key kickoff return in last year’s bowl win and likely will return punts, too.
The Broncos should be much improved on offense and experience some growing pains on defense — a reversal of last season. Depth could be an issue, particularly on defense.
The key to the season might be how they start. Six of the first eight games are against 2012 bowl teams — and four of those are on the road. The Broncos will compete in the new Mountain Division of the Mountain West, where up-and-coming Utah State and always-tricky Air Force are their top rivals.
As usual, an undefeated run and BCS berth seem possible. Petersen, in fact, has lost a combined total of two games in four seasons with a returning starter at quarterback. But the margin for error may be small with new players providing much of the depth and so many tests on the road.
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Athlon looks at the 10 greatest players since 1967.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive end from Caldwell, Idaho, is one of the great defensive players in school history. He was a two-time first-team all-conference selection (2010, WAC and 2011, Mountain West) and finished his illustrious career by starting 37 consecutive games. McClellin was a part of one of the winningest senior class in NCAA history by posting a 50-3 record over his four-year career. He posted 130 total tackles, 20.5 sacks and 33 tackles for a loss over his 49 game career. He also proved his versatility by intercepting four passes and returning one 36 yards for a score in 2010. The stabilizing force for the Broncos defensive line for the better part of four seasons was selected with the No. 19 pick by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft — making him only the fourth BoiseState player ever drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft (Ryan Clady, Doug Martin and Kyle Wilson).
Statue of Liberty and marriage proposals aside, Ian Johnson will go down in Boise history as one of the most productive players to ever suit up for the Broncos. All told, Johnson carried the ball 752 times (strangely, the identical number of carries as another talented RB on this list) for 4,184 yards – good for second-best in school history. His 25 rushing scores in 2006 are second-best and his 58 total rushing TDs rank first in school history. His 1,713 yards in ’06 are a single-season school record. His 4,953 career all-purpose yards were good for fourth all-time in school history. The Broncos were 44-7 in Johnson’s four seasons at Boise State. And, of course, he scored the most important two points of his career — and in Boise State history — when he took the Statue of Liberty hand-off and raced around the left end and into NCAA history in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. Five seconds later, he was engaged to be married to long-time girlfriend and BSU cheerleader Chrissy Popadics.
A local product from Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho, Potter is a key member of a senior class of Broncos that will go down in school history as one of the best classes in NCAA history. He played on four teams that combined to go 50-3 and was a three-time first-team All-Conference performer protecting quarterback Kellen Moore. The 6-foot-6, 295 pounder missed only four games in his 53-game career and ended as an All-American as a senior.
It didn’t take long for Broncos fans to realize how good Wilson would be. As a redshirt frosh, Wilson capped a freshman All-America season by making 10 tackles in the historic 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. As a sophomore, Wilson earned second-team all-WAC honors after 41 tackles, two INTs, a sack and blocked kick. In 2008, he led the team in INTs (5), passes broken up (10) and passes defended (15) as a junior. He also scored on three punt returns (33 returns for 470 yards) and was awarded All-America honors by several publications. As a senior, Wilson led the team to a second unbeaten season in his four-year tenure and playing a huge game against TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl win. Boise went 49-4 in his time on campus. Wilson was selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
As a redshirt sophomore, Zabransky took over the Boise offense and led the Broncos to an 11-1 record in 2004. Despite a tough start against Georgia in 2005, Zabranksy still started all 13 games, leading Boise State to a 9-4 record (with losses to Oregon State, UGA, Fresno State and Boston College). As a senior, Zabransky topped his career with an unbeaten 13-0 record and memorable performance against Oklahoma in the historic 2007 Fiesta Bowl win – where the QB earned Offensive MVP honors. His 66.3% completion rate was a single-season school record at the time. He finished with a fourth-best 144.99 career QB rating, a fourth-best 8,256 passing yards and fourth-best 58 TD passes.
As a redsirst freshman, Clady started 11 of 13 games in 2005. After several All-America awards, Clady switched to left tackle for 2006 and started all 13 games, helping lead the Broncos to a historic unbeaten season and Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. He started every game as a junior in 2007 and was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He has become one of the league’s elite backside protectors in only a few seasons.
As a two-time All-American, Minter set the single-season rushing record for Boise as only as sophomore when he posted 1,526 yards in 1978 (later broken). As a senior, Minter became the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,475 yards – a mark that still stands today. His 37 career rushing TDs were a school record at the time and are still good for third-best today. Minter helped lead the 1980 Broncos to the I-AA National Championship.
If it were not for No. 1 on this list, Dinwiddie would go down in Boise history as the greatest quarterback in school history. Boise owned a 33-6 record with Dinwiddie as the quarterback, and he left school with his name atop every major passing list in school history. His 9,819 career yards were a school record. His 82 career TD passes were a school record. His 4,356 yards in 2003 are still a single-season record. His 532 yards against Lousiana Tech in 2003 are a school record. The most impressive marks from Dinwiddie were his efficiency, however. He set an NCAA record with a career QB-rating of 168.79 (later broken), and his 188.18 QB-rating in 2003 is a school record - and technically is better than Colt Brennan's recognized 186.0 NCAA QB-rating record.
This two-time All-American is the only Boise State Bronco to be inducted into the NCAA Football Hall of Fame. The monster defensive lineman dominated Big Sky competition and earned the 1981 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He helped lead the Broncos to the I-AA 1980 National Championship and was drafted in the ninth round of the 1982 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
There is little more a coach or fan base can ask of a quarterback than what Moore accomplished during his time at Boise State. He is the winningest quarterback in NCAA history and became the first signal caller to reach 50 wins (50-3). He never missed a game in his career, and if it wasn't for Case Keenum, would have thrown more touchdown passes than any player in NCAA history. His finished with 142 passing touchdowns for his career against only 28 interceptions. He was second in the nation in QB-rating as a sophomore (161.65), led the nation in QB-rating as a junior (182.63) and finished third nationally during his final season (175.19). He rewrote the Broncos record book by tossing a total of 14,667 yards, also the fifth highest total in NCAA history. He owns school and conference records for career and single-season touchdown passes and completions as well as six of the top 10 single-game passing outputs in program history. His 16 career 300-yard games are a school record and he led his team to three conference championships and won three conference player of the year awards (WAC in 2009 and 2010, Mountain West in 2011). There is no hole on the 2010 Heisman Trophy Finalist's resume as it is impossible to truly evaluate Moore's overall value to the Boise State program.
Down 29-24 to Eastern Kentucky in the I-AA championship game and facing a fourth down and less than 0:10 to play from the Colonel 14, quarterback Joe Aliotti rolled right and threw back across the field to a wide-open Duane Dlouhy in the end zone to give the Broncos a 31-29 win and the national championship.
Sophomore Jared Zabransky threw for three TDs and ran for another to lead Boise State to a 53-34 win over visiting Oregon State, giving the Broncos their first-ever win over a Pac-10 school. The triumph avenged a loss to the Beavers a year earlier and extended BSU’s winning streak to 13 games, a string they would eventually push to 22.
Eight months later, with the nation still not convinced of Boise State’s prowess, despite the Fiesta win, the Broncos traveled across the country to whip Virginia Tech in northern Virginia, 33-30. Kellen Moore’s third TD pass of the game, a 13-yarder to Austin Pettis with 1:09 left, secured the victory and further established BSU as a national power.
Tied 10-10 with Texas Christian in the fourth quarter of the Fiesta Bowl and facing a fourth-and-nine from its own 33, Boise State got tricky again. Punter Kyle Brotzman threw a 30-yard pass to tight end Kyle Efaw on a play called “The Riddler,” prolonging a drive that ultimately ended in Doug Martin’s two-yard TD run in a 17-10 victory.
After years of modest success, the Broncos earned a Fiesta Bowl berth and upset heavily favored Oklahoma. Trailing 35-28 with less than a minute left, the Broncos used a hook-and-lateral play to earn the tying touchdown. After spotting the Sooners a TD in overtime, BSU pulled within one and then shocked everyone by lining up for a two-point conversion. Quarterback Jared Zabransky faked a pass and hands the ball to Ian Johnson on the Statue of Liberty play. Johnson waltzed into the end zone to give Boise State a 43-42 win and then proposed to his girlfriend, a BSU cheerleader.
HEAD COACH: Les Miles, 85-21 (8 years) |
OFF. COORDINATOR: Cam Cameron |
DEF. COORDINATOR: John Chavis
Zach Mettenberger is back for his second year as a starter after a junior season that was ushered in with huge expectations — perhaps too big — and wavered between disappointing, mediocre and effective. He wound up with 2,609 passing yards, but only 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has a reputation as a strong tutor of quarterbacks, and he could be a huge influence on Mettenberger in a season in which LSU needs its quarterback to be productive.
In the backfield, Jeremy Hill exploded as a go-to back midway through his freshman campaign and led the Tigers with 755 rushing yards. His status, however, is in doubt after he was arrested in late April after allegedly punching a man outside of a bar. If Hill is not available, LSU, as usual, has other quality options in the backfield. Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard both spent time as the lead back last season.
Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were special at times in 2012, but way too ordinary at others. They need to limit their drops and improve their route-running. Junior college transfer Quantavius Leslie could give LSU a home run threat.
The Tigers go into the season with four veterans up front, augmented by a host of promising newcomers. The one major hole is at center, where Elliott Porter takes over for three-year starter P.J. Lonergan. The right side seems fairly locked down, with Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander back at guard and tackle, respectively.
The rebuilding of the defense begins up front, although this isn’t exactly a starting-from-scratch project. In fact, the experienced players back — Jermauria Rasco, Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson and Danielle Hunter — may be more athletic and potentially more explosive in terms of generating a pass rush than the recently departed group.
No player was more valuable to the LSU defense in 2012 than departed linebacker Kevin Minter, who more or less took away the middle of the field. A talented six-man 2012 linebacker recruiting class helps fill the gaps along with one of the state’s best prep players, Kendell Beckwith. Senior Lamin Barrow should also be an anchor after he played a strong second fiddle to Minter with 104 tackles.
There will be some new faces in some prominent roles in the secondary. Cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins were forced into action as true freshmen last fall and showed flashes of a bright future. But both also have to get better across the board for the secondary to improve after a late-season fade cost the Tigers wins against Alabama and Clemson. The safety spots seem to be in good hands, with senior Craig Loston — if he can stay healthy — and junior Ronald Martin.
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Zach Mettenberger, QB – Showed signs of being an All-SEC-caliber quarterback at times and now has a new offensive coordinator to help him find consistency.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR – The Tigers need Beckham to limit his drops and use his athleticism (16.6 ypc) to produce big plays.
La’el Collins, OL – Gives the Tigers a veteran to plug in at left tackle or one to keep at left guard if a younger lineman emerges. Either way, he is the anchor up front.
Lamin Barrow, LB – Overshadowed by Kevin Minter, but he was one of the stalwarts in a linebacker corps that helped camouflage some inexperience and youth in the secondary.
Anthony Johnson, DT – Blossomed as a sophomore as a run-stuffer and pass-rusher and comes back as LSU’s best and most experienced man on the front four.
Yes, LSU even got stung by early departures in the kicking department when wacky but talented punter Brad Wing left for the NFL. But another strong-legged Australian, Jamie Keehn, showed his value in the bowl game when he averaged 44.6 yards per kick. The placekicking spot is up for grabs between junior James Hairston, who has kicked off the last few seasons, and walk-on Colby Delahoussaye.
The Tigers were hit hard by early departures to the NFL, leaving only 10 starters returning in 2013. The cupboard isn’t bare for Les Miles, but the Tigers are behind Alabama and Texas A&M in the SEC West pecking order. LSU won’t abandon its run-first approach on offense, but Cameron, the new coordinator, is tasked with getting more production from Mettenberger. The defense has plenty of young talent and will get better as the season progresses. However, there will be an adjustment period with the departure of six key linemen, an All-SEC linebacker and two starters in the secondary.
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Zach Mettenberger needs a big season for LSU to contend in the SEC West.
LSU had national title aspirations in 2012 but losses to Florida and Alabama pushed the Tigers to a 10-2 mark at the end of the regular season.
Getting LSU to a spot in the national championship will be even more challenging for Les Miles in 2013, as the Tigers lost a handful of key contributors on defense, and the offense is still a question mark.
Mississippi fans are still angry about this one. With 0:04 to play, LSU quarterback Bert Jones faded back, pump faked and threw an interception – in only three seconds. Or so said the Tiger clock operator. The one second remaining on the clock gave Jones the chance to hit Brad Davis in the corner of the end zone to give the Tigers a 17-16 win over the Rebels and extend the LSU winning streak to 12 games.
Trailing underdog Kentucky on the road, 30-27, with just 0:11 left and the ball on their own nine, the Tigers made history. After a 17-yard toss from Marcus Randall to Michael Clayton, Randall heaved the ball downfield, where it was tipped and wound up in the hands of Devery Henderson, who finished the 74-yard TD hookup. Kentucky players had already doused coach Guy Morriss with Gatorade, and some fans were tearing down the goalposts to celebrate the upset, but LSU’s “Bluegrass Miracle” spoiled the fun.
LSU spotted Ohio State a 10-0 lead and then roared back to score 31 consecutive points en route to a 38-24 win over the Buckeyes and a second BCS championship. QB Matt Flynn, who missed the SEC title game win over Tennessee with an injury, threw four touchdown passes to help the Tigers become the first two-loss champ of the BCS era.
The Tigers’ stifling defense controlled Oklahoma’s Heisman-winning QB, Jason White, holding him to 13-of-37 passing, and LSU used TD runs from Skyler Green and Justin Vincent and an interception return by Marcus Spears to overcome the Sooners, 21-14, and win their first BCS title.
The top-ranked and defending national champion Tigers were down, 3-0, in the fourth quarter of their Halloween night game with Mississippi, when all-America and eventual Heisman winner Billy Cannon took a punt at his own 11-yard line. Heading up the right sideline, Cannon shrugged off seven would-be Rebel tacklers and went 89-yards to give LSU the lead. Later in the game, he secured LSU’s 7-3 win by teaming with Warren Rabb to stop an Ole Miss runner at the Tiger one on fourth down.
Capone is one of only eight LSU players in history to be named a two-time All-American, as he earned such recognition in 1972 and 1973. He led the Tigers to three straight bowl appearances. Inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame in 1988, Capone is considered one of, if not the, best linebacker in LSU history. After one year in the World Football League, Capone played a few years in the NFL with Dallas and New Orleans. (Editor’s Note: This one was a brutal decision as Charles Alexander, Al Richardson and Ben Wilkerson all got serious consideration for this slot).
After his redshirt seasons, Faneca was voted SEC Freshman of the Year by the Knoxville News Sentinel in 1995. He was a second-team All-American the following year and became an Outland Trophy finalist by the 1997 season – the first in school history. He started 36 games in his LSU career and allowed only one sack, finishing with 210 pancake blocks. He was selected by the Steelers with the 26th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. He went to nine Pro Bowls and won Super Bowl XL.
As a true freshman, Landry started 10 games on what turned out to be the first LSU National Championship team since 1958. The elite safety is credited with 48 straight starts for the Tigers, finishing with 315 tackles and 12 interceptions – good for seventh and third highest in school history. A three-time All-SEC performer, Landry earned All-American honors as a senior before being drafted with the sixth overall pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
This talented cornerback is probably the best coverman in school history. A two-time All-American – the school’s first in nearly two decades – Webster anchored the outside of the 2003 National Championship team. Webster tied an LSU single-game record with three interceptions against Florida in 2002 and finished second all-time in school history with 16 interceptions. He also owns the school record for passes broken up with 49. He totaled 115 tackles and was selected in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He was a key member of the Super Bowl XLII team that stopped the most prolific offense in NFL history, the New England Patriots.
Originally a tight end, Spears switched to defensive end after his freshman season and became one of the most dominant D-lineman to ever play at LSU. Spears started 38 of his 50 total games at end and finished with 152 tackles, 19 sacks and 34.5 tackles for a loss. He won two SEC Championships and helped lead the Tigers to the 2003 BCS National Championship. A game in which his most memorable play took place. Early in the third quarter, Spears intercepted an Oklahoma pass and rumbled 20 yards for a touchdown that turned out to be the game-winning points of the 21-14 title victory. Spears was selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
Reed re-wrote the LSU and SEC record books in 2001 when he caught a school record 94 passes for an SEC record 1,740 yards on his way to becoming a consensus All-American selection. As the Biletnikoff Award winner – given to the nation’s best receiver – Reed led the country in yards and yards per game (145.0). He finished his career as the SEC’s all-time leading receiver with 3,001 yards on 167 receptions. In his final game as a Bayou Bengal, Reed set Sugar Bowl records with 14 catches for 239 yards and two scores. Reed owns 17 school or SEC records and was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
The best player to take snaps for LSU has to be Jones. The Tigers went 26-6-1, went to three bowl games and won an SEC Championship in Jones’ three years at LSU. His senior season, Jones became the first LSU quarterback to be named a consensus All-American. The strong-armed passer finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1972 and his 3,225 yards and 28 touchdowns were a school record at the time. Jones went on to be the second overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts.
Faulk will go down in history as not only one of the most productive LSU Tigers in history but one of the most prolific SEC runners in history. The three-time All-SEC choice was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 1995 before leading the league in rushing as a junior and senior. He is LSU’s all-time leading rusher (4,557) and is the SEC’s career leader in all-purpose yards with 6,833. His 53 total TDs scored also set and SEC record that stood until Tim Tebow broke it. Faulk was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft and has been a key contributor on four Super Bowl teams – three of which won the Lombardi Trophy.
There have not been too many players in any school’s history to put together a year like Mr. Dorsey did in 2007. Dorsey led his team to an SEC Championship, a BCS National Championship, he claimed SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors to go with his Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy, Nagurski Trophy and Lott Trophy. As a two-time All-American, there really wasn’t anything Dorsey had left to accomplish when he was drafted with the fifth pick in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He started 26 of his last 27 games and finished his career with 170 total tackles, 27 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks.
This guy did it all. He played running back, return man and defensive back. He is also the only three-time All-American in LSU history and only the second LSU Tiger to be named to three All-SEC teams. Each year he played, the versatile competitor won at least nine games with the Tigers’ overall record finishing at 27-7 during his three year run in Baton Rouge. Casanova was so versatile, in fact, that only six years after being drafted in the second round by the Bengals in the 1972 NFL Draft, went into medicine AND politics. He has his medical degree in Ophthalmology and was elected to the state Senate in Louisiana’s 26th district.