3 REASONS ITS BUSINESS AS USUAL
1. Chris Petersen: The Broncos coach is 73-6 in six seasons, winning at least 10 games every year. He went 10-3 with a youthful team and new quarterback in 2007 and 12-1 with a new quarterback in 2008.
2. Seniors: Its easy to overlook the experience on this team because of the missing marquee names. But the Broncos boast 24 seniors, many of whom have played key roles in the past, and might be more motivated than ever. These past seasons weve definitely had players who have been ready to shine and been waiting for their opportunity, senior tailback D.J. Harper said. Everybody is looking for that opportunity to make the big play, and I think everybody is really excited for that.
3. The schedule: Its a familiar formula for the Broncos a daunting opener followed by a manageable set of 11 games, in which they could be favored across the board. The Broncos have lost more than one game before November just once in the past 10 seasons (2005).
3 REASONS TO WORRY
1. Quarterback: Even the great Kellen Moore struggled to put points on the scoreboard early in his first season as starter. So did Taylor Tharp in 2007. The offense is going to have to fight through some hiccups against Michigan State, BYU and Southern Miss and the defense is going to have to provide some breathing room.
2. Depth: Freshmen and sophomores will be scattered across the depth chart. If injuries begin to mount, as they have in recent seasons, this team could start to look like that green 2007 squad. Tailback, defensive back, linebacker and the defensive line, in particular, could get young in a hurry.
3. Defensive line: The Broncos rebuilt line likely will include four freshmen and sophomores among the top eight, including three who havent played major college football. Pete Kwiatkowski has coaxed outstanding results from some inexperienced players and young lines in the past; this is another challenge.
Gone are Shea McClellin, Tyler Shoemaker and Nate Potter. The next wave of Idaho-raised stars? Maybe these guys:
1. J.C. Percy (Blackfoot High): The senior linebacker walked on and has played in every game during his career. No returning player has more career tackles.
2. Mitch Burroughs (Meridian High): The senior wide receiver quietly made 49 catches for 500 yards and a touchdown last season. He excelled during fall camp and should have another big year.
3. Corey Bell (Capital High): The sophomore nickel plays a position that lends itself to memorable plays sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles and big hits. He also will be active on special teams and is known for his energy, which should attract fans.
4. Matt Paradis (Council High): The former walk-on defensive lineman has become the starting center as a junior.
5. Tyler Horn (Mtn. View High): Horn made 1.5 sacks in a limited role last year. The sophomore defensive end should get much more playing time this year, splitting time with Demarcus Lawrence.
Boise State likely wont match this years total of six NFL Draft picks next April. But there is some pro talent on this roster. The top candidates:
1. Jamar Taylor: The senior cornerback has the size, speed, experience and talent to make an impact in the NFL and Boise State defensive backs have fared well in the draft. A big interception year would help.
2. D.J. Harper: The senior tailbacks two torn anterior cruciate ligaments may give scouts pause. However, he always has tested well in the types of drills that the NFL uses to evaluate players at the scouting combine.
3. Jerrell Gavins: The senior cornerback will be questioned because of his size (5-9, 169), but if he plays this season like he did the first three games of last season, hell get a shot.
4. Mike Atkinson: The senior defensive tackle from Windsor, Ontario, already has been drafted by the CFL. He might get a look from the NFL if he dominates this season.
5. Dan Paul: The 6-foot-1, 262-pound fullback missed last season with a groin injury. If hes able to stay healthy this season, hes an NFL prospect.
Tailback Ian Johnson (2006-08) and quarterback Kellen Moore (2009-11) were the faces of Boise State football the past six seasons. Who fills that role next? The leading candidates:
Matt Miller: The sophomore wide receiver from Helena, Mont., tied for the team lead with 62 catches last season. He was a local legend in Montana and a huge recruiting get and hell be remembered for turning his first college catch into a touchdown in last years opener against Georgia. His combination of humility, calm and talent drew immediate comparisons to Kellen Moore.
D.J. Harper: The tailback could be a terrific story as a sixth-year senior who finally gets the lead role in the backfield. The Broncos need a strong running game this season and Harper has shown a knack for the highlight-reel run he scored on a 71-yarder against Virginia Tech in 2010 and a 60-yarder against Fresno State in 2009.
The new QB: In most years, the most famous member of the Boise State football team is its quarterback. Junior Joe Southwick, the presumed starter, brings a gunslinging swagger to the position that could be fun and his more outgoing personality, compared to Moore, could play well with the fans and the media.