Boise State coach Bryan Harsin after first spring scrimmage - March 22, 2018
A football season provides precious few guarantees, especially when prognosticating what one particular player may accomplish.
But going into his redshirt junior season, tight end Matt Pistone will probably, finally haul in his first catch this fall.
“Yeah, I would think so,” Boise State tight ends coach Kent Riddle said.
Pistone, a 6-foot-3, 256-pounder who thus far has almost exclusively been employed as a blocker, was one of the Broncos’ standouts the first two weeks of spring practices. The team is off this week for spring break, but resumes practice Monday, wrapping up with April 14’s spring game.
With Boise State losing Jake Roh and Alec Dhaenens, who had a combined 149 career receptions, it has been a welcome sight for a player like Pistone to take a step up. He has yet to have a catch in a game, while senior Chase Blakley and sophomore John Bates have three apiece in their careers.
“Matt Pistone is out there making plays,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s doing a great job at tight end, which is an area that we have questions because of the guys we lost. We feel like the guys we have are really good, but we don’t know that.”
Redshirt freshman Daniel Cantrell, the offensive scout team player of the year, has often served this spring in the H-back role Pistone was in most of his career. The team also adds scholarship freshmen Tyneil Hopper and Cole Ramseyer this summer.
Riddle said the unit “is in pretty good shape” despite the major losses. The group had 56 catches last season after having just 29 in 2016. Having Blakley healthy, along with Pistone’s improvements and Bates’ continued growth, will be key if there is to be little or no dropoff.
“I think we’re expecting big things from all those guys this fall,” Riddle said. “They have a big chore to replace Alec and Jake, but we think we have the crew to do it.”
ANOTHER LEAP FOR SPECIAL TEAMS?
Riddle is also Boise State’s special teams coordinator, and like his tight ends, that group made big strides forward in 2017. The Broncos were 13th nationally in punt return yardage allowed and 28th in yardage gained, after having been 85th and 86th, respectively, in 2016. They also were 12th in kickoff returns, 49th in net punting and kicker Haden Hoggarth was 46th in field-goal percentage.
Hoggarth, punt returner Avery Williams (two punt return touchdowns), punter Quinn Skillin and kickoff specialist/punter Joel Velazquez all are back.
Though the Broncos lost some key special teamers such as running back Ryan Wolpin and snapper Brock Barr, many of the coverage units return, too. That has Riddle optimistic for even more improvements.
“I’d like to see them all take another huge stride.” he said. “... I’d like to see us score on a couple kickoff returns. I’d like to see us get up to four punt return (touchdowns). I’d like to see us block more punts.”
PRO DAY, CLOSED SCRIMMAGE NEXT WEEK
One of the final pro days in the nation will be Boise State’s, which is set to be held Tuesday. The Broncos’ pro hopefuls will do on-field workouts and meet with NFL and CFL representatives. The current Broncos are set to practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a closed scrimmage Saturday.
Harsin said after the team’s first scrimmage Thursday that safety Kekoa Nawahine had an interception, fellow starting safety DeAndre Pierce performed well, and senior safety-turned-running back Skyler Seibold saw plenty of solid work.
Boise State spring game information
The football team’s spring game will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 14 at Albertsons Stadium. Tickets are $10, all general admission, and can be purchased at the athletic ticket office that day, or at BroncoSports.com/tickets.
Free parking is available across campus, with the exception of the West Stadium Lot, which will be reserved for Stueckle Sky Center guests. The Sky Center will open at 1:30 p.m., and the main stadium gates (A, D, N and P) will open at 2:15 p.m. Also, 2018 schedule posters will be available for the first 5,000 fans.
Following the game, access to the Blue will be available to all attendees.
Prior to the game, the 2018 Hall of Fame class will be recognized. Boise State will hold its annual gear sale at the Allen Noble Hall of Fame, from noon to 2 p.m. for BAA members, and to the general public starting at 2 p.m. Fans also may tailgate at DeChevrieux Field and check out 2018 season tailgating options.