Editor’s note: This is the eighth in our series of position previews for the Boise State football team. Next up: special teams.
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Boise State graduated three starters off the offensive line. In the spring, four of the five likely starters were out rehabbing injuries.
That meant a wealth of work for the Broncos’ backups, and some vying for a starting position. Even if the Broncos would prefer not to dip into that next group immediately, they know they might have to this season.
“They got plenty of reps and built some of that depth, which is going to be huge for us, going into Week 1 and also late in the season,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “You know how football goes — nicks, bumps and bruises. ... We feel real good about the second-, third-tier guys that can bump up and take over that role.”
Senior center Mason Hampton, a preseason All-Mountain West selection, anchors the group once again after starting 11 games last season. Senior tackle Archie Lewis has 26 starts over three seasons. Sophomore guard/tackle John Molchon started three games in 2016. That trio, plus sophomore guard Garrett Larson, all could start, and none took part in the spring.
“It’s really helped us out, because when we go into meetings ... we don’t have to spend a lot of time installing plays,” Hampton said. “We can focus on the details, focus on our technique and get a lot better.”
One potential starter who took part in the spring and got serious work at left tackle was redshirt freshman Ezra Cleveland, the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. His prowess may bump the senior Lewis to the right side. Cleveland has been described as “a beast” by sophomore running back Alexander Mattison and “an animal” by sophomore STUD end Sam Whitney.
“You get a guy like that coming and being able to start as a redshirt freshman, they’re not doing that because they’re freakishly athletic, they’re not doing that because they’re good, they’re doing that because they work. They’re smart, and they know how to play the game,” Hampton said.
On Thursday, coach Bryan Harsin said the only set starter at this point is the obvious one, Hampton. He added “we’ve been moving guys around.” It has been a learning process not just for those hoping to replace Travis Averill, Steven Baggett and Mario Yakoo, but even for the unit’s coach.
Brad Bedell was hired during spring practices and joined the team in the final two weeks of work. A seven-year NFL veteran, he worked with Harsin as his offensive line coach at Arkansas State in 2013.
“We weren’t fully loaded in the spring, but it will pay dividends in the future,” Bedell said. “Every year is new, it’s a new challenge. It’s really exciting for me because of how hard each one of them worked going into the fall. I leaned on Mason quite a bit, I’ve leaned on Archie. They helped me, they helped bring along the young guys.”
As Bedell got comfortable, the team hopes the likes of redshirt freshman center Donte Harrington, sophomore guard Eric Quevedo and junior college transfer Zachary Troughton did, too. This summer, with the addition of highly touted junior college transfer Isiah Moore, it can be a group that can withstand three starters’ departures.
“It’s an awesome challenge, but the cool thing is we learned a lot from them and we appreciate them for that and we’ll definitely take the reins and do a great job,” Molchon said.
Last season, the unit allowed 19 sacks, 12 fewer than the year prior. However, scoring dropped by 7.2 points per game, and red zone struggles put the line under the microscope — particularly a failure to score with a first down from the Air Force 5-yard line in the final minutes.
“We’ve got to have that mentality that we’re going to beat everybody we play,” Hampton said.
“We’re continually working this fall camp to really emphasize a downhill run game ... set up for those shots that will take us deep.”
Projected depth chart
76 Ezra Cleveland, 6-6, 296, RFr.: Excellent athlete in a big frame; likelihood of starting speaks volumes about potential
66 Isiah Moore, 6-4, 275, Jr.: One of the top signees in February out of Mesa CC, he had offers from UCLA, West Virginia
67 Garrett Larson, 6-4, 295, So.: Fruitland High graduate played in four games last season, worked at center in the past
52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 278, Sr.: Has played sparingly in his time at Boise State, but could see more work this season
59 Mason Hampton, 6-3, 295, Sr.: Smart, strong and confident — just what you want in a center; preseason All-Mountain West
71 Donte Harrington, 6-2, 298, RFr.: Being groomed to be Hampton’s successor, he was one of the top performers in spring
77 John Molchon, 6-5, 313, So.: Great frame; also has seen time at tackle; played in seven games last season, made three starts
79 Eric Quevedo, 6-4, 304, So.: One of the top performers in fall camp, he did not play last season, but should see work this year
74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 299, Sr.: Struggled as a sophomore, but was solid at left tackle as a junior; has 26 starts; on Outland watch list
78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 292, Jr.: Has played in four games in his career, but has slowly put on weight and saw No. 1 snaps in spring