Boise State football fans — and even us media types — will get their first real, long look at the 2017 Broncos at Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day.
The event begins at 1:45 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium, exactly a week before the season kicks off against Troy. Admission and parking are free. Fans can enter the stadium through Gates A, D and P, beginning at 1 p.m. Former Boise State offensive lineman Faraji Wright, aka Rexx Life Raj, will be playing some songs, his debut as the in-house DJ at all home games.
After the team’s practice, which will feature live 11-on-11 work, fans can get autographs and photos with players, coaches, the spirit squad and Buster Bronco. Fans can grab the team’s schedule poster at the entrances or midfield after the practice.
Since this is my first time seeing the team work in full-team situations, here’s what I’m keeping my eye on:
▪ Who isn’t on the field: Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Thursday that sophomore running back Alexander Mattison will not be taking part in the practice. The assumed No. 1 running back has been dinged up in recent weeks, but Harsin expects him to return next week and to play against Troy. At last year’s event, tight end Jake Roh had a huge knee brace on, and missed the first two games, so despite only one major injury (safety Evan Tyler tore his ACL), this might give a glimpse at who may not be 100 percent come Sept. 2.
▪ Position battles: How Boise State will use its non-Cedrick Wilson wide receivers is interesting, particularly with true freshmen Octavius Evans and CT Thomas expected to play. Offensive coordinator Zak Hill comes from a pass-heavy background, so with the offense fully his, how those mostly inexperienced receivers mix in will be important. On the offensive line, is the starting five set, or is there still movement? Left tackle Ezra Cleveland hasn’t played but could be in line for a major role right away. Also, how the defense uses its linebackers, particularly on the strong side, is potentially fluid. The same goes for cornerback, where Michael Young and Reid Harrison-Ducros are competing opposite Tyler Horton.
▪ Tight ends: Roh is healthy, and even though junior Jake Knight left the team during fall camp, the group is perhaps the deepest on the team, as Roh is joined by fellow senior Alec Dhaenens, junior Chase Blakley, sophomore Matt Pistone and redshirt freshman John Bates. One of the most common questions I get is, “Will the tight ends be involved more?” Yes. Outside of Roh, only Dhaenens (eight) had ever caught a pass in college football before the 2016 season. The unit had 29 catches last season, but with question marks at receiver, tight ends can help alleviate the pressure. They can help in improving red-zone efficiency, too. Harsin said Blakley has put together a strong camp, and as the 6-foot-6 Bates improves, he can be a major weapon.