BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
MATT MILLER, WIDE RECEIVER
Fellow wide receiver Kirby Moore has noticed one difference in particular in Miller this season: Improved speed.
I like to think I got a lot faster, Miller said. That was one of my main goals this offseason. Hearing Kirby say that makes me feel pretty dang good.
Miller tied for the team lead with 62 catches and caught nine TD passes last season as a freshman, but he averaged 11.0 yards per catch, 5 yards fewer than Tyler Shoemaker.
It kind of left me one-dimensional at times, not really running those deep routes as much as I wanted to, Miller said of his speed.
Miller likely will battle often with projected first-round pick Johnny Adams, the Michigan State cornerback.
Hes going to be a great challenge for all the wideouts, Miller said.
DEXTRELL SIMMONS, NICKEL
Simmons watched the senior class exit after the bowl in December and realized how little time he had left at Boise State.
I didnt want to leave it as I didnt contribute, the senior said. The way I figured that I could contribute was to start.
Simmons improved his focus and dedicated himself to learning the defensive playbook. That led to an outstanding fall camp, which won him the starting job.
He summed up his style of play in a word: Nasty.
Hes just been really energetic, upbeat, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. It seems like hes enjoying it a lot better. Hes got a great attitude very encouraging to the other guys. Its awesome. Its very noticeable. The guy has brought a lot more energy and passion to his every day work ethic.
LEE HIGHTOWER, FREE SAFETY
The true sophomore steps into one of the premier spots on the Boise State defense one occupied by George Iloka (2008-11) and Marty Tadman (2005-07) for most of the past seven years.
Hightower started the last four games at cornerback last season but will make his debut at safety against Michigan State.
He practiced at safety when he arrived last August but was forced into action at corner because of injuries.
This is what you come to college for, what you play college football for, he said. Especially at a school like Boise State. Im excited for it.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said Hightower could play every defensive back position.
He did a good job last year for us, he said. Its another opportunity to go out there and show what he can do.
MICHIGAN STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
WILLIAM GHOLSTON, DEFENSIVE END
The 6-foot-7, 278-pound junior is projected as a 2013 first-round pick in the NFL Draft. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last season and then gave everyone a glimpse of his potential in the Outback Bowl with five tackles for loss, including two sacks.
He finished the season with 16 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Hes a big man, Boise State senior tight end Chandler Koch said. Its definitely going to be interesting to block him. Were going in there confident and well see. Well just have to figure out some way to get him blocked.
Michigan State right tackle Fou Fonoti knows firsthand how difficult that can be. He said it seems unreal that Gholston can move so well at his size.
He plays with such passion, such enthusiasm, Fonoti said.
MAX BULLOUGH, LINEBACKER
The 6-foot-3, 252-pound middle linebacker is considered one of the nations top defenders. He has high expectations for the Spartans terrific defense.
We want to be dominating, he said. We want to be great. We want to be better than last year. We know what it took to be how good we were last year, but now we have all the components in place. We have the potential to be better.
Bullough is continuing a family tradition. His dad and paternal grandfather played at Michigan State, and his younger brother is on the team. His maternal grandfather played at Notre Dame. Several uncles also have played at the two schools. His dad also was a linebacker.
Its a little bit of pressure, but its not stress, Bullough said. Its fun for me. ... Everybody wants to be like their dad when theyre young.
ANDREW MAXWELL, QUARTERBACK
The former Elite 11 quarterback gets his first chance to run the Spartans offense, as a junior. He was named the starter after the bowl game in January following three-year starter Kirk Cousins, who is now in the NFL.
Coaches have been so impressed that theyve said they expect little difference in the offense despite the QB change.
His football IQ is through the roof, senior right tackle Fou Fonoti said.
Like Boise States Joe Southwick, Maxwell bears the burden of replacing a player who was the face of the program.
Maxwell also must break in a new crop of receivers.
Ive just tried to stay the same person that Ive been since I got on campus, he said. Im not trying to be Kirk Cousins. Im not trying to fill his shoes. Im trying to be myself.