Boise State Football

Spring answers, fall questions as the Boise State football team heads into summer

The public work is over.

The private work begins.

The Boise State football team concluded spring ball Monday with its 15th practice and begins a 3 1/2-month period of largely self-directed work that coaches say is critical to success.

The next formal practice is Aug. 6 — 29 days before the highly anticipated season opener against Washington at Albertsons Stadium.

“We just need to grind,” senior center Marcus Henry said. “We’ve got to get better every day. We’re on the right track, but if we don’t get better every day it’s not going to end up how we want it to end up.”

Here’s a look back at what the Broncos accomplished this spring and a glance forward at what to expect in fall camp:

Quarterback

Spring review: Sophomore Ryan Finley, the backup last season, started with the first team in the opening and closing scrimmages of the spring, holding onto the edge he built last season. Sophomore Tommy Stuart and true freshman Brett Rypien made significant strides through the spring and will chase Finley all summer.

Fall preview: Finley will enter fall camp as the front-runner for the starting job. If he performs well the first week of practice, he’ll be difficult to beat.

Quotable: “I like where Ryan is at. He understands what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s been in the fire, so to speak. Now what does he do this summer? How does he take advantage of that? Come fall, the first few practices, how does he take advantage of that?” — coach Bryan Harsin

Tailback

Spring review: Sophomore Jeremy McNichols didn’t scrimmage because of hernia surgery, senior Jack Fields missed the Spring Game on Saturday with a strained back and junior Devan Demas lost two fumbles in the Spring Game, resolving little in the race to replace Jay Ajayi. At least redshirt freshman Cory Young impressed Saturday.

Fall preview: This might be the most intriguing position in fall camp, unless somebody makes a run at Finley. The Broncos need to count on a tailback as they break in the new quarterback — the offensive line returns intact, so the run game should be a strength — but none of these guys is a proven commodity.

Quotable: “You hope you have a group of guys that you can really utilize their talents and that gives us variety. At the same time, you have to have someone when it’s crunch time to go to.” — Harsin

Wide receiver

Spring review: The Broncos have a rock-solid trio of starters in senior Shane Williams-Rhodes and juniors Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson. Redshirt freshmen A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster showed promise in the spring as coaches try to identify a second wave of receivers to fill the depth chart.

Fall preview: The Broncos’ already shaky depth dwindled with injuries to senior Troy Ware (status TBD), sophomore Tanner Shipley (medically retired) and junior Rick Smith (status TBD). That opens the door for incoming freshmen Bryan Jefferson and Akilian Butler to compete for immediate playing time.

Quotable: “(Richardson) had a really good spring coming up to spring break and then was just kind of OK for a week. For him to step up (Saturday) was nice. Some big-time grabs. A.J.’s a guy who’s got to come along for us.” — Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz

Tight ends

Spring review: Sophomore Jake Roh followed his fantastic freshman season with a standout performance in the Spring Game — four catches for 88 yards. Redshirt freshmen Chase Blakley and David Lucero were involved in the pass game, too.

Fall preview: The Broncos are loaded at tight end for the future with four players who are sophomores or redshirt freshmen. Sophomore Alec Dhaenens, the primary fullback last year, is the other. Roh could be an All-Mountain West pick if he develops into a dynamic blocker.

Quotable: “Every day, we’re just becoming a stronger group.” — Roh

Offensive line

Spring review: Injuries to left tackle Rees Odhiambo and right guard Mario Yakoo allowed coaches to experiment with starting right tackle Steven Baggett at right guard and sophomore backups Archie Lewis (right) and Eli McCullough (left) at the tackles. Baggett, Yakoo and Lewis likely will compete for the two starting spots on the right side.

Fall preview: The Broncos return all five starters but need to solidify the No. 2 line in camp. The returners have combined for 96 career starts.

Quotable: “Our goal every day is to set the tone for the offense and be the leaders out there. That’s definitely a challenge we’re willing to take on.” — Henry

Defensive line

Spring review: Senior Tyler Horn has shifted back to his original position, end, and seems likely to start there. The Broncos’ line depth showed during the spring, and the group wasn’t even at full strength.

Fall preview: The Broncos likely will field one of the deepest defensive lines in the nation with Horn and senior Rondell McNair at end, junior Sam McCaskill, senior Tutulupeatau Mataele and senior Antoine Turner at tackle, senior Justin Taimatuia and senior Armand Nance at nose and junior Kamalei Correa, junior Gabe Perez and redshirt freshman Jabril Frazier at stud.

Quotable: “It’s crazy how much depth we have, but it’s so interchangeable. ... You can make so many packages. We have our heavy, we have our speed, we can mix it up. Everybody is trying to whup everybody’s behind.” — Turner

Linebacker

Spring review: Junior Ben Weaver benefited the most from spring ball after missing the spring last season with an injury. That slowed him for much of the 2014 season, and he still finished with 62 tackles, third on the team.

Fall preview: The depth chart will feature leading tackler Tanner Vallejo at middle, third-leading tackler Weaver at weak side, fourth-leading tackler Tyler Gray at weak side, eighth-leading tackler Joe Martarano at middle and special teams ace Darren Lee as a swingman.

Quotable: “A lot of the meetings aren’t really learning. It’s refining what we already know and picking up on new things.” — Weaver

Defensive back

Spring review: True sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner spent the spring with the first team and gained valuable experience. Senior Mercy Maston and sophomore Kam Miles performed well enough at nickel to convince coaches they can keep Vallejo, last year’s nickel, at middle linebacker. And junior Jonathan Moxey, the lesser-known of the returning starters at cornerback, was a spring standout. They join senior stars Darian Thompson (safety) and Donte Deayon (cornerback).

Fall preview: Junior Chanceller James is expected to return from his knee injury to compete with Sumner-Gardner for a safety job. Maston and Miles will compete at nickel. And six incoming freshmen will fight for playing time as backups and special-teamers because the Broncos are thin across the secondary.

Quotable: “We’re both striving for more. We want to take our level to the next and bring the secondary with us as a whole. We can’t do it by ourselves. There’s going to be five DBs on the field. We can’t just do it with me and him. We need everybody else to step their game up.” — Deayon, on the approach he shares with Thompson

Special teams

Spring review: Junior kicker Tyler Rausa looks like a solid replacement at the only open spot among the specialists.

Fall preview: You never know for sure what you’ll get out of a kicker until he performs in games, so Rausa will be the question mark. Junior punter Sean Wale, senior long snapper Kevin Keane and kick returners Williams-Rhodes and Deayon are proven performers.

Quotable: “It’s been a very long two-year wait. It’s something that I think worked for the better. ... When I first got here and coach (Scott) Huff told me about redshirting, I kind of looked at it as a negative thing. I kind of got down on myself. But then when he explained it to me, ‘You’ve got these next two years to work on your game, work on yourself as a player,’ I think it has tremendously helped me, and my game is a lot better.” — Rausa

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