Perpetual work leads to new gig for Bishop Kelly grad: BSU starter

Former utility man Spencer Gerke will start at left guard against UW on his birthday.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comAugust 21, 2013 

BRONCOS' BIG BOARD Boise State on Tuesday released a rendering of the new video board - dubbed Double R Vision after one of two sponsors that will be featured on the frame. The blue areas on the sides are speakers for the new sound system. The HD, Daktronics video board will be 37 feet, 2 inches tall and 58 feet, 9 inches wide - about five times the size of the current board. It is scheduled to debut Sept. 28 against Southern Miss, at the latest.

COURTESY OF BOISE STATE

  • BOISE STATE OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART

    Left tackle

    Charles Leno Jr. (6-4, 295, R-Sr.): He leads the team with 26 career starts. He also is among the strongest players. "He knows what the tradition at left tackle has been here," offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. "I think he takes that very seriously."

    Steven Baggett (6-3, 285, R-Fr.): Arlington, Texas, product redshirted last year.

    Left guard

    Spencer Gerke (6-3, 303, R-Sr.): He has played in each of the past 26 games, seeing time at left guard, center and right guard. He started six games last season.

    Chris Tozer (6-4, 319, R-Sr.): Walk-on earned two All-Nor-Cal honors at Foothill Community College.

    Center

    Matt Paradis (6-3, 300, R-Sr.): Paradis walked on as a defensive lineman from Council, won Defensive Scout Player of the Year honors and moved to offense. He made the All-Mountain West first team in 2012 in his first season as a starter.

    Travis Averill (6-3, 296, R-Fr.): Anaheim, Calif., product redshirted last year. He also can play guard.

    Right guard

    Marcus Henry (6-3, 285, R-So.): He'll make his first college start just outside his hometown of Bellevue, Wash. "He's not trying to block you," Strausser said. "He's trying to put you on your back."

    Mario Yakoo (6-3, 323, R-Fr.): San Diego product redshirted last year and is pushing for playing time.

    Right tackle

    Rees Odhiambo (6-4, 307, R-So.): He could be the Broncos' next outstanding tackle with his size, strength and athleticism. "He's got so much talent that if he could ever get to the point where we can count on him every play, he's going to be a heck of a player for us," Strausser said.

    Jake Broyles (6-5, 286, R-Sr.): He started the past two season openers at right guard, but injuries limited him to three starts in 2011 and one in 2012.

— Spencer Gerke joined the Boise State football team with simple goals.

"I just wanted to have fun, get better and make friends," he said. "… You're getting your education paid for, and you get to go out and have fun with your friends every day."

A starting job for the season opener his senior year — on his birthday?

That's just a bonus.

Gerke, a Bishop Kelly High graduate, is expected to start at left guard Aug. 31 at Washington. He turns 23 that day.

"It's almost surreal," he said, "but you keep having to pull yourself back down and stay grounded."

Gerke's family moved to Boise from Southern California when he was 10. He quickly became a Broncos fan.

"I don't think I've missed a home game since 2000," he said.

That made for an easy decision when the Broncos offered him a scholarship before his senior year at BK. Those memories also have driven Gerke, who said he struggled on the field his first two years in the program, to become one of Boise State's most versatile players.

"The thing that stands out about Spencer Gerke is how much Boise State football means to him," offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. "It's extremely important to him and that's how he approaches it, and that's how he works."

Gerke (6-foot-3, 303 pounds) spent the past two seasons as the offensive line's utility man. He played left guard, right guard and center in games - making two spot starts at left guard in 2011, two starts at left guard in 2012 and four starts at right guard in 2012.

"People tend to make a big deal about it," he said, "and I kind of just see it as that's my role and that's what I had to do. I was good at it and Strauss trusted me."

Gerke has earned his starting chance this year with constant improvement. Redshirt freshmen Mario Yakoo and Travis Averill have forced the starting five to stay sharp if they want to keep their jobs.

"I give Spencer so much credit," Strausser said. "We always feel like at a certain point a guy has a hard time really making those big gains, and yet every year he has made those big gains."

Strausser also appreciates Gerke's intelligence — the coach can get his point across in a few words — and vocal leadership, which is rare on the offensive line.

Gerke hopes he can help bridge the gap between the Broncos' five seniors and the other 12 linemen, all of whom are freshmen or sophomores.

The starting lineup will feature three seniors — Gerke, center Matt Paradis and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. — and sophomores Marcus Henry (right guard) and Rees Odhiambo (right tackle).

"I'm trying to stay positive, trying to be a good influence on the younger guys and trying to be a role model," Gerke said. "And if I'm not playing well, those guys aren't going to trust me. They're not going to look up to me."

Gerke already has set an example off the field.

He earned his criminal justice degree in December and is pursuing his master's in the same field. He made the Academic All-Mountain West team last fall.

He hasn't set his post-football goal, yet, but it's likely to be grander than having fun and making friends.

He hasn't ruled out firefighting — his dad commuted from Boise to Los Angeles to complete his career as a firefighter there — but he's got an eye on law enforcement.

"You always want to reach that pinnacle point — federal law enforcement, the Secret Service," Gerke said, "But I don't know. We'll see what happens."

The same qualities that have positioned him for a memorable senior year will serve him well there.

"He's a very smart player on the field, he knows his assignment and he's very physical," Paradis said. "I trust playing next to him. I know he's going to get the job done."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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