Boise State Football

Boise State football camp report: Five position battles to watch at Friday’s scrimmage

The Boise State football team will hold its annual open fall scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Albertsons Stadium. Admission and parking are free. The Bronco Walk will take place at 4 p.m. and gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Only the A, D and N gates will be open. Concessions also will be open at select locations. The first 10,000 fans through the gates will receive a 2015 schedule poster.

HERE ARE FIVE POSITIONS TO WATCH:

1. Quarterback: Sophomore Ryan Finley was clearly the favorite but true freshman Brett Rypien showed promise when the quarterbacks were last seen by outsiders, in the Spring Game. Sophomore Tommy Stuart also could be a factor. This scrimmage should provide a strong indication of who will take charge of the offense Sept. 4 against Washington.

2. Tailback: Sophomore Jeremy McNichols, who played as a true freshman last year, and senior transfer Kelsey Young lead five contenders for the starting job. Scrimmages are critical tests for tailbacks because they get a chance to show what they can do after contact.

3. Nickel: Senior Mercy Maston, a former cornerback, and junior Chanceller James, a safety, are competing for the starting job. Both have starting experience and are coming off injuries in 2014.

4. Offensive line: The Broncos have five returning starters and a sixth player with significant starting experience, so somebody is going to get left out. If sophomore Archie Lewis slides into the right tackle spot, that leaves juniors Steven Baggett (right tackle last year), Mario Yakoo (right guard last year) and Travis Averill (left guard last year) to compete for the two guard spots.

5. Strong safety: Sophomore Dylan Sumner-Gardner, the prized recruit, used a strong spring to move close to a starting job. But defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said sophomore transfer Kam Miles, who played nickel in the spring, has competed well with Sumner-Gardner in fall camp. Both played at West Mesquite (Texas) High.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Tight end Alec Dhaenens of Fruitland High found a role at fullback as a redshirt freshman.

He wants more as a sophomore.

“I got stronger during the summer,” he said. “I came in thinking that I can contribute more as a tight end and less as a fullback and I’ll be able to block more and be more on the line.”

Dhaenens finished with a unique stat line last year: two catches, 4 yards, two touchdowns.

He’d like to expand his game in that area, too, by running downfield routes.

“Hopefully this year I get more opportunities to make big plays like that,” he said.

His debut season, he said, “got the bugs out.”

Tight ends coach Kent Riddle said the 6-foot-3, 244-pounder should have a versatile role this year.

“He did a great job last year and I’m sure he will continue to do (fullback), but he’s also one of our bigger, stronger guys, so there’s no reason he can’t play on the line of scrimmage also,” Riddle said.

BRONCOS IN THE NFL: DEMARCUS LAWRENCE

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence publicly set his goal as a rookie last year at 10 sacks.

He finished with zero for the Dallas Cowboys.

He isn’t going to make that mistake again.

“No numbers,” he told ESPN.com. “I know my goal is set high to be the best. ... I jinxed myself last year.”

Lawrence, a second-round draft pick, missed the first eight games of the season with a broken foot. He was held without a sack for the rest of the regular season (and had just nine tackles).

But he showed his potential in the playoffs, when he recorded two sacks — including a game-clinching strip and sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Lawrence recovered the fumble, too.

Lawrence has moved to left defensive end this year, which will give him favorable matchups against right tackles. The best tackles play on the left side.

“I think we got a good feel for what kind of player he could be once he came back last year,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, according to ESPN.com. “I think the strides he’s made this offseason are significant. I think he’s a bigger, stronger, more explosive athlete than he was when he came in here a year ago. And you see a determination and an intensity on the football field that you really like. He’s a young guy. It’s all in front of him. But we love his approach.”

Lawrence is eager to show that his playoff performance was indicative of his talent.

“I just feel like coming off last season I have a lot more to prove,” he told ESPN.com. “They know I can do it now. So it’s just a matter of doing it.”

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