The Broncos return only seven starters, but remains the team to beat in the Mountain West.
By: Steven Lassan | 5/2/12, 6:03 AM EDT
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You can read the entire Boise State preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 National Edition magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
#24 Boise State
Mountain West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Chris Petersen, 73-6 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Robert Prince | DEF. COORDINATOR: Pete Kwiatkowski
The Broncos must replace the winningest quarterback in college football history (Kellen Moore), one of the best tailbacks in the nation (Doug Martin), a consensus All-America left tackle (Nate Potter) and the school record-holder for touchdown catches in a season (Tyler Shoemaker). Even for an offense that has been consistently exceptional for more than a decade, that’s a tall order.
The backbone of the offense likely will be the experienced offensive line, which returns three starters and a total of nine players with starting experience, and D.J. Harper, a senior tailback. Harper has scored at least two touchdowns in five straight seasons and gets a sixth because he missed most of two seasons with knee injuries. He has waited all those years for a chance to be the featured back — and this is it. He’s averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his career.
The passing game is loaded at every spot but quarterback. Junior Joe Southwick, a two-year backup, will enter fall camp as the front-runner after a terrific showing in the Spring Game, but true freshman and early enrollee Nick Patti made a strong first impression and could challenge him. At receiver, the Broncos have plenty of options — most notably Matt Miller, a Freshman All-American in 2011. The tight ends will contribute, too, led by athletic junior Gabe Linehan.
Will the Broncos play in a BCS Bowl in 2012?
The Broncos played dominant defense for much of the past four seasons but are in rebuilding mode this year. The top five defensive linemen are gone, leaving a gaping void. Senior Michael Atkinson and junior Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe are proven performers at tackle, but three of the top four ends in spring ball haven’t played a snap of major college football.
The linebackers and nickels are sound but not spectacular. Senior weak-side linebacker J.C. Percy, who has finished second on the team in tackles twice, should have a big year, and sophomore middle linebacker Blake Renaud starred in the spring.
Senior cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins are the cornerstones of the defense. Taylor is a two-year starter and likely all-conference performer, while Gavins played like an All-American in the first three games last season before a knee injury forced him to take a medical redshirt. Sophomores Lee Hightower and Jeremy Ioane could form a long-term pairing at safety.
QB Kellen Moore
Moore set an NCAA record with 50 career wins, ranked second in career TD passes and fifth in career passing yardage. He also set Boise State single-season records with 43 TD tosses, 326 completions and completion percentage (74.3).
D.J. Harper, RB Has struggled to stay healthy, but may have to carry the offense early in the year with an inexperienced quarterback.
Jamar Taylor, CB Injuries derailed a promising 2011 season, but Taylor still finished with two interceptions and 27 tackles last year.
Mike Atkinson, DT With five key contributors gone from the line, Atkinson will be the focal point for the rebuilding efforts on defense.
|Aug. 31st||at Michigan State|
|Sept. 15th||Miami (Ohio)|
|Sept. 22nd||Brigham Young|
|Sept. 29th||at New Mexico|
|Oct. 6th||at Southern Miss|
|Oct. 13th||Fresno State|
|Oct. 27th||at Wyoming|
|Nov. 3rd||San Diego State|
|Nov. 10th||at Hawaii|
|Nov. 17th||Colorado State|
Even casual college football fans know that Boise State would be riding a three-year unbeaten streak if not for two missed field goals. If anything, that situation has become worse. The Broncos will enter fall camp with four players competing for the starting job. The three kickers on campus struggled in spring ball. The special teams are under the direction of tight ends coach Scott Huff, who will strive for continuity after the successful six-year run of Jeff Choate, who left for Washington State.
The Broncos have finished in the top 11 of the AP top 25 for four straight years, and coach Chris Petersen insists that this will be a “reload,” not a “rebuild.” He’ll need strong play from his new quarterback and reconfigured defensive line, and some luck with injuries at a few key positions (tailback, linebacker, defensive tackle). He also will need a large but rather anonymous senior class to lead this team through a daunting road schedule that includes trips to Michigan State, Southern Miss, Hawaii and Nevada. At the least, the Broncos hope to capitalize on their second and last chance to win a Mountain West title before moving to the Big East in 2013.