Boise State's Linehan off to promising start in return

The senior tight end is back on the field after a 2012 injury.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comAugust 6, 2013 

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

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— The Boise State football team welcomed a missing piece back into the offense as fall camp began Monday.

Gabe Linehan, who was out for most of last season and was limited to drill work in spring ball, participated in his first 11-on-11 action since a brief appearance Sept. 29 at New Mexico.

Linehan had surgery to repair a hamstring injury in October.

“It’s been tough,’’ he said. “When you’re injured, personally you feel like you’re not exactly part of the team. You can’t do things with your teammates that you wanted to do. So it’s just really special, especially after having a little hiatus there, to be back and going, fully contributing and fully active with the things you’re supposed to be doing as a teammate.

“I’m trying to savor every minute of it. It seems like it’s going to end in a second, so I’m just trying to savor what’s left.’’

Linehan leads an inexperienced group of tight ends that sustained a major loss this summer with a knee injury to junior Kyle Sosnowski, who will miss the entire season.

Junior Connor Peters (small role last year) and sophomore Holden Huff (17 catches last year) are the only other experienced, scholarship tight ends. Sophomore walk-on Jake Hardee, of Bishop Kelly High, is coming off a breakout spring and it’s possible a true freshman — Jake Roh or Alec Dhaenens — will crack the rotation that usually runs five deep.

The youth increases the importance of Linehan, who made 23 catches for 252 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. He made just one catch in 2012.

“That’s huge for us, having a guy who’s played in games and done a lot of things around here,’’ tight ends coach Scott Huff said.

Linehan’s value was clear last year, when the Broncos tried to delay surgery and get as much out of him as they could. He appeared in each of the first four games.

“He wasn’t the same player,’’offensive coordinator Robert Prince said, “so I thought he made the right decision to shut it down and get surgery. I think he’s improved tremendously.’’

Linehan's injury was an avulsion fracture, which caused the hamstring to separate from the bone. It left him with the uneasy feeling of not being able to trust his body — a feeling, he says, that is gone.

“I’ve done so much intense therapy that I have the confidence that I’ve strengthened my hamstring enough to be able to be as full speed as possible,’’ he said. “Confidence comes with your preparation and your training.’’

And now Linehan is set for what could be a memorable senior year.

He graduated with a marketing degree in May, which allows him to increase his attention on football, and coaches still see the tools that could make him an all-around tight end — a dangerous receiver and devastating blocker in one.

“We’re expecting a senior leader, a go-to guy,’’ Huff said. “He’s got to take the next step in the run game. He’s got to run good routes, be a playmaker for us. He’s got to be everything — like our tight ends typically have been.’’

That has been Linehan's goal for his four years as a Bronco.

He was closing in on it a year ago.

“It’s that one last shot,’’ he said of his senior year. “Everything has kind of come to this. It’s kind of the pinnacle of your career. I’m ready to do as much as I can for the team and make sure I’m satisfied with myself and how I’ve helped the team.’’

Click here for complete coverage of Boise State football's fall camp, including photo galleries and videos.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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