Boise State football spring recap: Work done, work to do

Here's a look back at camp, and a look ahead to the 2014 season

ccripe@idahostatesman.comApril 15, 2014 

— The words arose often through the Broncos' spring practices, which ended Monday with the 15th workout.

"We're just not there yet," coach Bryan Harsin said Saturday, talking about the variety of offense he hopes to utilize with a sentence that could apply to several areas.

But time, for now, is on the Broncos' side. They have another four and a half months to prepare for the season opener against Ole Miss - or more time than has passed since Harsin was hired.

The summer, always important, will be a critical time for a team that needs to develop size and strength on the offensive line, learn the details of new schemes and find some playmakers to complement the trio of tailback Jay Ajayi and wide receivers Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes.

"These guys have to work like crazy in the summer," offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said.

3 THINGS WE LEARNED

It's not a quick fix: The offense hasn't looked like its old self since Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and friends left after the 2011 season. They got a new coordinator in 2012, a new scheme in 2013 and a new coordinator and scheme in 2014. "I'm excited about this offense," Ajayi said. "We really haven't even showed a lot of what we have in store yet."

Finley can play: Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Finley was an unknown commodity going into spring ball. He was recruited by the prior staff and barely practiced last fall because of a shoulder injury. Now healthy, he already has emerged as the backup and should contend for the starting job in 2015.

Marcus Henry, Corey Bell fit: Henry, the starting right guard last year, moved to center and looked like a fixture there. Bell, the second-leading tackler as a linebacker last year, moved into the defensive backs room and became one of the top ballhawks as the nickel safety.

3 UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Playmakers: Wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, tailback Devan Demas and tight end Jake Roh showed potential in the scrimmages. But players like wide receiver Troy Ware, wide receiver Dallas Burroughs, tailback Derrick Thomas and tailback Jack Fields failed to take advantage of ample opportunities. "There are guys who are inconsistently making plays for us," Sanford said. "We need to see those guys in fall camp (become) consistent playmakers."

Offensive line: The Broncos' best offenses have been the ones that could rely on the run in key moments - at the goal line, on fourth down, in the closing minutes. The young line needs to develop. "We've got to get back to just knowing that we can move people off the football," Sanford said.

Pass defense: The defense controlled the action in the two scrimmages open to the media, but big plays in the pass game still were a problem. "That's where you can get beat the fastest," Harsin said.

3 EMERGING PLAYERS

Jake Roh, TE: The redshirt freshman was one of the top recruits in the 2013 class and earned strong consideration to play last fall. He impressed throughout spring ball, culminating with a two-catch, 41-yard performance in the Spring Game.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner, S: The true freshman and top-100 recruit spent the spring with the second-team defense and was on the field with the first team at times in the Spring Game. He criticized himself on Twitter for playing like a freshman, which prompted this reply from former star Jeron Johnson: "Patience! Don't happen overnight. Keep grinding it's (going to) come to you."

Justin "Jaytee" Taimatuia, NT: He made 29 tackles last season and, like many JC transfers, has thrived in his second year. He was banged up this spring, but fought through pain and continued to make his presence known on the defensive line. "My whole focus is to attack and not let last year affect how I am right now," he said. "… I've got to be physical and fast at the same time. Playing last year really helped me out."

4 VETERANS UNDER PRESSURE

Grant Hedrick, QB: Hedrick can write his own legacy as the senior quarterback leading the program through a massive transition. He needs to improve his decision-making and limit his turnovers by addressing the details of his position. "He's proven he's a worker and proven that he'll do the work to get it done, and he's also proven he has the tools to do it," Harsin said.

Rees Odhiambo, LT: Last year's starting right tackle will step into the lineup in fall camp at the position that has sent Daryn Colledge, Ryan Clady, Nate Potter and likely Charles Leno Jr. to the NFL. And Odhiambo, a junior, will do it without the benefit of any spring practices to learn the new offense because he was injured.

Darian Thompson and Jeremy Ioane, S: The Broncos' dominant defenses of recent years were made possible by dynamic safety play. That was missing last year. Thompson, a junior, and Ioane, a senior, will be pressed by new defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, the former defensive backs coach who recruited them during his previous stint with the Broncos.

3 WIDE-OPEN JOBS

Cornerback: Junior Donte Deayon, an All-Mountain West second-teamer who made six interceptions last year, is locked into one spot. The other is up for grabs. Sophomore Jonathan Moxey, who played sparingly as a true freshman, started the Spring Game. He'll be chased by seniors Mercy Maston, Cleshawn Page and Bryan Douglas. "It's neck and neck right now," Douglas said. "… It's definitely hard, but it all comes back down to the details and who's going to be more consistent."

Wide receiver: After Miller and Williams-Rhodes, there's a gaping void for a playmaker who should benefit from the defensive attention paid to the two stars. Sperbeck, Burroughs, Ware, Tanner Shipley and D.J. Dean are among those in the mix.

Defensive ends: Senior Beau Martin and sophomores Kamalei Correa, Gabe Perez and Sam McCaskill - the four ends with game experience - combined for 8.5 sacks last season. Demarcus Lawrence, who left a year early for the NFL Draft, collected 10.5 by himself. The starting jobs likely will be decided by fall camp production.

INJURIES: SO FAR, SO GOOD

All of the Broncos are expected to be full participants in fall camp, Harsin said after the Spring Game. Some could be limited early in the summer conditioning program. Among the most notable injuries: Linebacker Ben Weaver, the leading tackler last year, and Odhiambo, missed all of spring ball.

UP NEXT: FALL CAMP

The Broncos open camp Aug. 1, which gives them almost four weeks of practice to prepare for the season opener against Ole Miss. The eighth practice will be a scrimmage, Harsin said, and that will determine most of the starting lineup.

SEASON OF CHANGE IN BOISE

The Broncos enter 2014 with a head coach (Harsin), offensive coordinator (Sanford) and defensive coordinator (Yates) who were not on the staff last year. That hasn't happened since Dirk Koetter became the head coach in 1998. The Broncos do return 14 starters, including Hedrick at quarterback.

SEASON OF HOPE IN OXFORD

Ole Miss returns 16 starters and 60 lettermen, including star quarterback Bo Wallace. The Rebels have won two straight bowl games and made noise in the ultra-competitive world of SEC recruiting under third-year coach Hugh Freeze. "The expectations for us are just growing and growing, and I feel like some of the other teams around the conference lost some of their key players," defensive end Robert Nkemdiche told ESPN.com. "I feel like it's our turn to take over and do big things."

PROJECTED STARTERS

Offense

QB: Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 195, R-Sr.

RB: Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 216, R-Jr.

WR: Matt Miller, 6-3, 220, R-Sr.

WR: Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 160, Jr.

WR: Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 174, So.

TE: Jake Roh, 6-3, 226, R-Fr.

LT: Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 300, R-Jr.

LG: Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 330, R-So.

C: Marcus Henry, 6-3, 285, R-Jr.

RG: Travis Averill, 6-3, 304, R-So.

RT: Archie Lewis, 6-3, 277, R-Fr.

Defense

DE: Beau Martin, 6-2, 254, R-Sr.

DT: Tyler Horn, 6-5, 276, Sr.

NT: Armand Nance, 6-0, 311, Jr.

Stud: Gabe Perez, 6-4, 235, So.

WLB: Ben Weaver, 6-0, 240, R-So.

MLB: Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 227, So.

Nickel: Corey Bell, 5-11, 208, Sr.

CB: Donte Deayon, 5-9, 152, Jr.

CB: Jonathan Moxey, 5-9, 179, So.

S: Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 192, R-Sr.

S: Darian Thompson, 6-2, 205, R-Jr.

Specialists

K: Dan Goodale, 5-10, 195, R-Sr.

P: Sean Wale, 6-2, 188, R-So.

LS: Kevin Keane, 6-0, 215, Jr.

KR: Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 176, R-Sr.

KR: Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 190, R-So.

PR: Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 160, Jr.

2014 SCHEDULE

Aug. 28 (Thursday): vs. Ole Miss (Atlanta), 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Sept. 6: vs. Colorado State, TBA

Sept. 13: at Connecticut, TBA

Sept. 20: vs. Louisiana, TBA

Sept. 27: at Air Force, TBA

Oct. 4: at Nevada, TBA

Oct. 17 (Friday): vs. Fresno State, 6 p.m., ESPN

Oct. 24 (Friday): vs. BYU, 7 p.m., ESPN/ESPN2

Nov. 8: at New Mexico, TBA

Nov. 15: vs. San Diego State, TBA

Nov. 22: at Wyoming, TBA

Nov. 29: vs. Utah State, TBA

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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