Bryan Harsin breaks down the Broncos' first scrimmage, camp standouts
Four days earlier, redshirt freshman linebacker/cornerback Avery Williams was put on scholarship.
On Thursday during the Boise State football team’s first scrimmage of fall camp, Williams showed why.
Williams grabbed an interception and returned his own forced fumble for a touchdown to set the defensive tone for the upcoming season. The Broncos are coming off a season during which they created an underwhelming nine turnovers.
But Williams was reluctant to take credit for the turnovers he forced, instead turning the focus back on his teammates.
“It was a good day of work for the defense, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Williams said. “I thought we did great with communication. We just have to fine-tune some of our techniques on all sides.”
For a defense that must replace six of its top seven tacklers from a year ago, it was a positive performance just 10 days into the 2017 season.
“It is very competitive. There’s always someone right behind you pushing you, and there’s always someone in front of you that you have to look and try to push them,” Williams said. “It’s just a great environment. Every day we get after each other, but we’re also teammates so we push each other in the right direction.”
While Williams’ takeaways defined the defensive performance, senior receiver Cedrick Wilson contributed the offensive play of the scrimmage.
“(It was) one of those behind the back, behind the head, (ball) stuck in the palm and the defenders kind of got his legs out from underneath him and he comes down with the foot in bounds and the ball in his hands,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Everybody out there — the defense, didn’t matter who you were, whatever family members were there — they dropped whatever they had in their hands and (applauded). It was a great play.”
A relatively inexperienced group last season, the tight ends brought an element of leadership to Thursday’s scrimmage.
Senior Jake Roh says tight ends should have a more active role in this year’s passing game.
“I think you’ve got a lot of guys who can really do it all — they can block, they can catch the ball, they can run — a lot of versatility,” Roh said. “I think that’s something that we bring to the table, and obviously a lot of the knowledge of this offense with the experience, so that will be huge this year.”
The scrimmage was closed to the media and no stats were released.
▪ Redshirt freshman kicker/punter Joel Velazquez was made available for interviews after the scrimmage. He said he isn’t intimidated by taking on the challenge of doing both this season.
“It comes down to practice. Right now I’m kicking pretty often. My leg feels good. It feels in shape,” Velazquez said. “Also just getting in the training room, keeping my legs fresh, cold-tubbing and all the technology they have in there.”
▪ Williams’ energy was evident in the scrimmage. It’s a role he said he’s focusing on.
“I’m pretty much on all the time. I’m really energetic whether we are lifting weights, conditioning or on the field,” Williams said. “I feel like that’s one of my roles on this team, to be energetic and motivate other people, so I try to do that the best I can.”
▪ Offensive players who have impressed Harsin: Wilson, RB Ryan Wolpin, RB Drake Beasley, WR Octavius Evans, WR CT Thomas, OL Ezra Cleveland and OL Garrett Larson (Fruitland High). Beasley is a true freshman who didn’t play as a high school senior last season. “He’s very instinctual,” Harsin said. “Even tonight when you watch him run, he can slither his way through there.”
▪ Defensive players Harsin mentioned: Williams, LB Tyson Maeva, LB Leighton Vander Esch (Salmon River High), DT David Moa, DE Jabril Frazier and S DeAndre Pierce. The secondary as a whole has played well, Harsin said. “DeAndre Pierce has really stood out,” he said.
▪ On special teams, kicker/punter Velazquez and long snappers Nicholai Pitman and Brock Barr have performed well, Harsin said.
▪ Sophomore Alexander Mattison is the presumed starter at tailback but Wolpin, Beasley and redshirt freshman Robert Mahone have created competition for carries. “I wouldn’t say there’s a clear-cut anything right now,” Harsin said.
▪ The Broncos’ fall camp schedule is modeled after the funky schedule they’ll have in September, when they play on Saturday (Sept. 9 at Washington State), Thursday (Sept. 14 vs. New Mexico) and Friday (Sept. 22 vs. Virginia) in consecutive weeks. This week’s scrimmage represented the New Mexico game.
▪ Boise State’s Fan Fest is set for 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, the school announced Thursday. Fans can watch the team’s final fall scrimmage before Sept. 2’s opener, and afterward can come onto the field at Albertsons Stadium for photos and autographs with the coaches and players. Admission and parking are free, with Gates A, D and P open at 1 p.m. Fans in attendance will get the team’s schedule poster to have signed.