CAMERON HARTSFIELD, SAFETY
Boise State coaches feel confident in the safety group despite Tuesday’s announcement that redshirt sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner is suspended the first four games. Hartsfield, a junior, is a big reason why. Hartsfield, who has played in all but one game the last two seasons, has 12 career tackles, calling it “more of a support role.” He said he approached this season ready for a bigger workload.
“I feel very good about Cam Hartsfield being out there,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “One of the things I’ll say with tremendous confidence, Cam Hartsfield has been since last spring one of the most improved players.”
BRETT RYPIEN, QUARTERBACK
The sophomore was named one of four team captains in fall camp, the only underclassman in the group. Rypien has been praised this offseason not only for his physical improvements, but for taking charge of player-run practices this summer. Last season, Rypien earned first-team All-Mountain West honors, throwing for 3,353 yards with 20 TDs to eight interceptions in 11 games.
“Since I’ve had the chance to look back at what I could improve on from last season, I’m feeling more confident in what we’re doing. Think I’m more comfortable running the offense,” Rypien said.
TANNER VALLEJO, LINEBACKER
Vallejo was suspended for the Poinsettia Bowl last year, but the senior is back and primed for a big role. As a sophomore playing outside linebacker for the first time, Vallejo had a monster 2014 campaign, racking up 100 tackles (16.5 for loss), three sacks and scoring a pair of touchdowns.
He moved between the middle and outside last season.
“Two years ago, when I moved outside, it was a little different for me, but I enjoy playing in space, too,” Vallejo said. “It’s a new challenge, playing man-to-man on slot receivers and stuff like that, so it’s fun.”
ANTHONY JENNINGS, QUARTERBACK
Jennings joined the Ragin’ Cajuns about a month ago, but the senior quickly grabbed the starting job after transferring from LSU. In 2014, he started 13 games for the Tigers, going 9-4 and passing for 1,611 yards with 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions, rushing for 292 yards. Listed at 6-foot-2, 231 pounds, he won’t be easy to take down inside or outside the pocket.
“He’s got a live arm. The guy can sling it, and he’s athletic. He can run it,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “He’s (like) a huge running back when he has the ball in his hands.’’
ELIJAH MCGUIRE, RUNNING BACK
The only active running back in FBS with 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards, McGuire is one of the top dual-threat running backs nationally. Boise State feels prepared, considering it has a back like that in junior Jeremy McNichols.
McGuire has 3,185 yards on the ground (6.6 yards per carry) and 35 touchdowns in his career, adding 100 receptions for 1,145 yards. Against Boise State in 2014, he had 31 rushing yards, but hauled in 10 receptions for 106 yards in a 34-9 loss.
“A big back who’s also shifty, it’s nice that we go against J-Mac and some of the other guys in our stable here every single day,” Boise State senior linebacker Ben Weaver said.
SAVION BROWN, CORNERBACK
A preseason first-team All-Sun Belt selection, Brown had 43 tackles, three of the team’s five interceptions and a fumble recovery last season as a junior in his first season with Louisiana after transferring from Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
Brown (6-foot-2, 218 pounds) also played some safety in spring practices, but has settled in at cornerback, where he will be a tough matchup for many teams because of his size.