Air Force at Boise State: Players to watch

ccripe@idahostatesman.comSeptember 13, 2013 

Shane Williams-Rhodes

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

BOISE STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

SHANE WILLIAMS-RHODES, WIDE RECEIVER

Williams-Rhodes showed last week the talent that has made him a hot topic since he was recruited. The slippery, 5-foot-6 utility man made a team-high seven catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns (12.7-yard average), carried twice for 26 yards (13.0 average) and returned three punts for 71 yards (23.7 average).

“You get the ball in his hands and exciting things are going to happen,” quarterback Joe Southwick said.

The Broncos will have to get creative now that teams have seen Williams-Rhodes. Coach Chris Petersen expects teams to avoid him in the punt game. And Williams-Rhodes expects bigger defenders to get in his face at the line of scrimmage.

“The way I look at it is if I become a factor in the passing game, then they’ll definitely start pressing,” Williams-Rhodes said, “so I’ve got to start figuring out ways to get off the line.”

TYLER HORN, DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Horn is tied for the team lead with 14 tackles through two games — with seven in each. He has made a successful transition from end to tackle, where the Broncos needed him because they have fewer options. “He’s fitting right into that position and he’s playing hard,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “I’m sure he would like to be a defensive end, but he’s doing a great job. He’s battling in there.”

AARON BURKS, WIDE RECEIVER

Burks has been the Broncos’ preferred deep threat so far this season. He made a 54-yard TD catch and drew a pass-interference penalty last week after failing to connect with QB Joe Southwick in the opener. “It was a little bit of a monkey off the back,” Burks said. “I felt like all camp, through our practices, we were connecting on that deep ball. So to finally do that in the game, put points on the board, was a good thing.”

AIR FORCE PLAYERS TO WATCH

JALEEL AWINI, QUARTERBACK

The sophomore made his first start last week in the loss to Utah State, replacing the injured Kale Pearson (torn ACL). He led the team with 48 rushing yards and was 4-of-12 for 61 yards passing. Most of the incompletions were drops, including three in the end zone.

Awini was the Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year in high school. He earned first-team all-conference honors in football and baseball and the conference sixth man award in basketball.

“I’ve been really impressed with Awini — the way he’s able to step in,” Air Force safety Christian Spears said. “He’s a poised player, a good passer. The stats might not show it, because there were some drops that I know the guys feel bad about and are working to fix right now.”

Awini will share the field with a Boise State defense that isn’t much more experienced than he is. It’s possible the Broncos could play three freshman linebackers at one time. “He looks like a good player,” Boise State junior defensive tackle Tyler Horn said. “We have some guys who have only played two games, too.”

JOEY NICHOL, LINEBACKER

The junior inside linebacker leads the team with 20 tackles and is considered the emotional leader of the defense. He made a career-high 13 tackles last week. “He’s done an outstanding job — becoming more of a vocal leader, probably the most vocal of anyone out there on defense, and he backs it up with his effort,” Air Force safety Christian Spears said.

ANTHONY LACOSTE AND JON LEE, TAILBACKS

LaCoste, a senior, and Lee, a junior, have combined for 236 yards and two touchdowns this season — with an average of 6.55 yards per carry. LaCoste played safety for part of last season before returning to tailback. Lee was the team’s third-leading rusher with 545 yards last season. He has a career average of 6.97 yards per carry.

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