Boise State will try to block a talented, veteran, SEC defensive line with one of the least-experienced offensive lines in the country Thursday night against Ole Miss.
The Broncos return five offensive linemen with a combined total of 26 career starts, tied for the seventh-fewest starts in the country. They also don’t have a senior in the position group.
“I’ve got a pretty good idea of what we have,” offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “There’s always a guy or two where the anxiety can either make them better or make them worse. Obviously we hope that that makes them better, but you never know till you actually get to see them.”
Junior center Marcus Henry leads the group with 12 starts, all at guard. Junior left tackle Rees Odhiambo has eight starts, sophomore left guard Travis Averill has three, sophomore right guard Mario Yakoo has one and sophomore right tackle Steven Baggett has two. Redshirt freshman Archie Lewis also could start or play at right guard.
Many of those starts came late last season in the Mountain West.
“The SEC, that’s a whole different animal,” Huff said. “I don’t know necessarily if that’s apples to apples, the stuff that happened last year.”
The group is the biggest question mark on the team this year. They’ll block for one of the nation’s top running backs, Jay Ajayi, and try to fix an uncharacteristic problem from last year: 26 sacks allowed.
“Oh yeah, there’s pressure on us for sure,” Baggett said. “We want to go out there, answer the call and do the best we can.”
The Rebels’ line includes junior end C.J. Johnson (7.5 career sacks), sophomore tackle Robert Nkemdiche (the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2013), senior tackle Bryon Bennett (21 starts), junior tackle Woodrow Hamilton (returning starter) and junior tackle Issac Gross.
The Broncos have raved about Gross, but he has been dealing with a neck injury. The Rebels are hopeful that he will play.
“I like the guy,” said Huff, a former center. “He’s tough. You even see some games he’s not wearing gloves. I like that. I respect that.”
Coach Bryan Harsin and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford gave the same answer when asked about their level of confidence in the line coming out of fall camp.
“A lot better now than it was in the spring,” Harsin said. “Through fall camp, I’ve been very happy with the type of effort they’ve given. When we get out there, they’re going to go fight for four quarters. How that translates into one-on-one battles, I don’t know.”
Other offensive line notes:
— Huff wanted toughness and physicality out of his group. He’s pleased with the toughness. He wants more physicality. “It’s a thing that comes a little bit with maturity and game reps,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at after the first game.”
— Huff on Baggett: “Mr. Consistent. He does everything right, plays with good posture all the time. He’s a smart guy. I really trust him. We talk about your playing time is based on your consistency, how much we can trust a guy. I can basically tell you every play pretty close to what I expect from him, so you love that in a guy, where he’s not up and down — one minute he looks like Ryan Clady and another minute he looks like coach (Thomas) Byrd.”
— Huff on Averill: “He’s been very consistent as well. He’s got a decent amount left in the tank.”
— Huff on Yakoo: “Mario’s a big, strong guy. We’ve got to get him to play with good pad level consistently and he can be a force to be reckoned with.”
— Baggett on his approach this fall: “Just go out and work the best I could, as hard as I could, every day. That’s what I did. Every day coming in with the same attitude, the same mindset to get better.”
— Baggett on winning a starting job: “It’s very big to go out there and prove that I can play.”
Boise State arrived in Atlanta on Tuesday. The team visited the College Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Randy Trautman, A true Bronco in the College Hall of Fame pic.twitter.com/St0F5YsUsy— Marcel Yates (@CoachYatesBSU) August 27, 2014
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