A quarterback’s best friend is a talented offensive line.
A secondary’s best friend is a potent defensive line.
The Boise State football team should have both this year — fueling expectations that the Broncos will win the Mountain West and contend for a New Year’s Six bowl berth for the second straight year.
The defense, in particular, is loaded. Eight starters return and there’s little drop-off from the starters to the backups across the front seven. The line, which could use as many as 14 players in the rotation this season, will be one of the deepest in the nation.
The defense, junior linebacker Ben Weaver said, will be “as good as we want.”
“It kind of just depends on us,” he said. “We’ve got the greatest coaches who are always showing us this and that and how much better we could be. ... We could be a dominant one.”
The offense returns nine starters — everyone but the quarterback and tailback.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley, who will make his first start Friday night against Washington, and a collection of tailbacks with limited experience as Broncos should benefit from the veteran line.
In addition to the five returning starters, the Broncos have super-sub Archie Lewis coming off a five-start season.
“I feel like we’ve got to be a strength of the offense,” junior guard Mario Yakoo said. “The quarterbacks, running backs, they’ve been doing great. They’ve got some big shoes to fill up. ... We’ve got to be the ones to make sure we have energy on offense.”
The No. 23 Broncos will face a front-loaded schedule that could position them for a run at the College Football Playoff or put them in a difficult spot in the Mountain West Mountain Division depending on how they fare.
The first four games: vs. Washington and former coach Chris Petersen, at BYU and Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback Taysom Hill, vs. Idaho State on a short week in a game that might not have the Broncos’ full attention and at Virginia on a cross-country trip.
Boise State faces two leading Mountain Division contenders in October, both on the road — Oct. 10 at Colorado State and Oct. 16 at Utah State.
If the Broncos are still undefeated after the trip to Logan, the debate will rage about whether they should be considered for a CFP semifinal berth — similar to what happened in 2010 and 2011, when the debate proved moot when the Broncos lost in November.
Coach Bryan Harsin has been adamant that his team would belong.
“If you’re not in it, something really special has happened for the other four that are,” he said. “... That’s the whole goal right there, to win all your games and put yourself in that situation. Why wouldn’t it be? I think every team — I don’t give a crap what conference they’re from — every team that wins every game should believe they have a chance to play for it all.”
When the Broncos made their run at the top five in 2010-11, skill players like quarterback Kellen Moore and tailback Doug Martin got the attention but the foundation was fantastic line play.
If the Broncos want the pundits to take them seriously this year, they’ll need to repeat that dominance in the trenches.
“I expect a lot out of them,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said of his group. “I tell them that every day. ... We know we’re going to be good.”