Boise State Football

Boise State football’s annual Spring Game is today. Here’s what to watch.

Coach Bryan Harsin recaps second Boise State football spring scrimmage

Boise State coach Bryan Harsin discusses what he saw at the Broncos’ closed spring scrimmage March 30, 2019.
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Boise State coach Bryan Harsin discusses what he saw at the Broncos’ closed spring scrimmage March 30, 2019.

After Saturday, the next shot most fans will have to preview the Boise State football team will be just a few days before traveling to the Florida State game.

The Broncos’ annual Spring Game at Albertsons Stadium (3:30 p.m. Saturday) concludes their practice slate until fall camp. Tickets are $10 at the Athletic Ticket Office on the stadium’s west side or at BroncoSports.com. Parking is free in the east lot, and fans can meet players and coaches on the Blue afterward.

In the game, the team will be split into two squads: Boise State and the Broncos. Scoring will be traditional, with two 10-minute quarters in the first half, then two 8-minute quarters with a running clock in the second half.

“It’ll be fun, get out there and compete, fly around live, it’s something we look forward to, all the hard work is building up to this game,” senior wide receiver Akilian Butler said.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Jaylon Henderson: Yes, the true freshmen (Hank Bachmeier and Kaiden Bennett) will be on display for the first time publicly, but Henderson is light years ahead of where he was last spring. He’s the only healthy quarterback to appear in a college game.

“He’s been really consistent,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “... He’s done a really good job, he’s throwing well, throwing on time, his command has been solid.”

WR Akilian Butler: Part of a deep, experienced group, the redshirt senior has been a reliable presence for all those new quarterbacks. After missing most of 2017, he had 25 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns last season.

“(Butler) continues to keep showing up, he’s made big plays, big catches,” Harsin said. “You’re seeing his experience ... that’s showing up at practice.”

NT Scale Igiehon: You won’t find many 6-foot-2, 300-pounders like the sophomore from Texas. He’s shed 45 pounds since arriving last summer and, after 23 tackles (3.5 for loss) as a true freshman, he’s terrorized the offense in the spring.

“Scale’s been cleaning it up real nice in there,” junior middle linebacker Benton Wickersham said.

CB Jalen Walker: The definition of a pinch hitter his first two seasons (his two starts for Tyler Horton were against Oregon in 2017 and Oklahoma State last year), he’s poised for a much bigger role as a redshirt junior with Horton’s graduation.

“I think Jalen Walker has done a phenomenal job … his effort, his technique, the way he’s come out to practice has been the best I’ve seen,” Harsin said.

A few others Harsin and teammates have noted are stepping up this spring to keep an eye on? Junior defensive back Kekaula Kaniho, redshirt freshman receiver Stefan Cobbs, redshirt freshman tight end Tyneil Hopper and junior offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland.

QUESTION MARKS?

Quarterback: Of course! Four scholarship players are fully healthy (Henderson, Bachmeier, Bennett, Riley Smith), along with redshirt freshman walk-on Zach Matlock. Redshirt sophomore Chase Cord has thrown some in practice, but won’t play. The veteran defense has given them some troubles, but the QBs can make good impressions in front of the crowd in a game-like setting.

Running back: Harsin said last week it has been a challenge to balance breaking in a new quarterback and new running backs. With Alexander Mattison’s 1,415 yards and 17 touchdowns gone, there’s no clear heir apparent. Junior Robert Mahone and sophomore Andrew Van Buren are the most likely choices, but two true freshmen enter the fold this summer.

Defensive changes: There’s a new coordinator in Jeff Schmedding, and he’ll add some wrinkles. His defense at Eastern Washington last season had a knack for getting turnovers and turning them into touchdowns. Can the tenacity translate from a red field to a blue one? Plus, there are new faces coaching cornerbacks (Jalil Brown) and inside linebackers (Zac Alley), while Spencer Danielson moves to defensive line.

Special teams issues: Saturday’s game will include live special teams work between possessions. The problems in the kicking game last year were numerous, and the Broncos have placed a lot of focus here this spring. Schmedding and Lee Marks entered spring as co-coordinators, but Schmedding is moving out of the role since being promoted to defensive coordinator. Joel Velazquez will handle most, if not all, of the kicking and punting Saturday.

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Dave Southorn is a 2004 graduate from the University of Colorado. He has covered Boise State athletics since 2005, and worked at the Idaho Statesman since 2013. He’s won multiple Idaho Press Club awards and once won a contest designing a play for the Seattle Seahawks.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.
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