Each day, I’ll post a blog with all the nuts-and-bolts information about a position and many of the quotes I’ve collected. The next morning, we’ll run a feature story on the position in the newspaper.
Today: Offensive line
OFFENSIVE LINE ROSTER
72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 286, R-Jr.
71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 310, R-Jr.
76 Jerhen Ertel, 6-6, 271, R-Jr.
73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 298, R-So.
70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 289, R-So.
66 Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 339, R-So.
60 Kellen Buhr, 6-1, 290, R-So.
74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 283, R-Fr.
75 Eli McCullough, 6-5, 288, R-Fr.
52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 280, R-Fr.
59 Mason Hampton, 6-3, 274, R-Fr.
56 Troy Bacon, 6-3, 291, Fr.
78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 258, Fr.
57 Tennessee Su’esu’e, 6-1, 289, Fr.
68 Jake Templeton, 6-2, 275, Fr.
63 Sitini Kauvaka, 6-2, 287, Fr.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 310, R-Jr.: Made eight starts at right tackle last season but only five before an injured ankle limited his effectiveness.
Eli McCullough, 6-5, 288, R-Fr.: All-Idaho left tackle at Rocky Mountain High in Meridian.
Travis Averill, 6-3, 298, R-So.: Started three of the final four games last season at right tackle as a patch, but his home is in the interior. He also can play center.
Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 280, R-Fr.: Missed spring ball with an injury that limited his chance to compete for a starting job this fall. He was a four-year starter at East Central High in San Antonio.
Marcus Henry, 6-3, 286, R-Jr.: Started 12 games at right guard last season. He moved to center in spring ball — putting the most experienced player at the most important spot.
Mason Hampton, 6-3, 274, R-Fr.: Walk-on from Meridian High was a second-team All-Idaho pick as a senior.
Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 339, R-So.: Started one game last season. He’s about 30 pounds heavier than any other starter, so his conditioning will be key when the Broncos go up-tempo.
Kellen Buhr, 6-1, 290, R-So.: Walk-on from Capital High was a first-team All-Idaho pick as a senior.
Steven Baggett, 6-3, 289, R-So.: Started two games at right tackle last season. He was a three-year starter at Martin High in Arlington, Texas.
Archie Lewis, 6-3, 283, R-Fr.: Grayshirted and redshirted out of Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High. He impressed in the spring but missed the fall scrimmage with an injury.
Overview: The Broncos have completely rebuilt their offensive line this season with the two returning starters at new spots — Odhiambo flipping from right tackle to left tackle and Henry sliding from right guard to center. Five players are competing for the other three spots and all of them are redshirt freshmen or sophomores. The offensive line is the key to an offense that otherwise is loaded with experience and playmaking ability. “There’s always a lot of pressure on the offensive line,” offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “We’ve talked to our guys about that. They expect that. They understand that. And quite honestly, I think they want that.”
Key to success: Huff wants to find the five most physical players. He also would like to stick with a five-man group for a while, which would allow them to build cohesion and gain confidence. “That’s when the best stuff happens — when they can anticipate, they play with good fundamentals and they play with confidence,” Huff said.
Reason for concern: The Broncos have the double whammy of inexperience — there isn’t a senior in the group and Henry is the only player with more than eight career starts — and a lack of depth. The two-deep includes two walk-ons. Instead of having a backup at each position, the Broncos have seven players who would be reshuffled into the five spots if there’s an injury. “There’s definitely some depth concerns there,” Huff said.
Star player: Odhiambo takes over the left tackle spot that has produced four straight NFL draft picks — Daryn Colledge, Ryan Clady, Nate Potter and Charles Leno Jr. Odhiambo is expected to continue that tradition if he can stay healthy. He missed five games last year and spring ball with injuries. "I almost feel like it's slightly an honor, but it's also a very hard challenge trying to match up to their level of play," Odhiambo said of the legacy.
Breakout performer: Averill has been on the list of potential fixtures in the offensive line since he was recruited. He showed his versatility by playing tackle last season and now he can get comfortable at his more natural spot, guard.
Newcomer to watch: Redshirt freshmen McCullough and Lewis are up-and-coming tackles. Lewis probably is closer to starting on his own merits — he’s competing with Baggett — but McCullough likely will start if anything happens to Odhiambo or Averill.
— The Broncos don’t have a senior offensive lineman. That also happened in 2009. They have been in a cycle for a while now of one small senior class every five years. Coaches made the situation a little better this time with 15 seniors, all on scholarship. Only six of them were scholarship recruits in the 2010 recruiting class, which started with just 10 guys. The rest are junior college transfers, walk-ons put on scholarship and players from the 2011 class who didn’t redshirt.
— Huff has taken a different approach toward building his starting five this year. Henry is the center. Odhiambo, McCullough and Averill have worked at guard and tackle on the left side. Yakoo, Baggett and Lewis have worked at guard and tackle on the right side. That creates some flexibility in case of injury and provides a little more competition since the line is not two deep yet. “They understand the importance of it,” Huff said. “Because we’re young, we have to be able to play multiple spots. The techniques are a lot the same, especially in the run game. Those guys have hopefully gotten enough reps to feel comfortable playing one or the other.”
— Huff on the top seven: “Everybody has shown flashes. We’re playing with better consistency.”
— Huff on rebuilding: “In a lot of ways, you’re starting from scratch. But that’s a good thing. You get the advantage down the road of starting a new group together.”
— Huff on the offseason: “They did a great job this summer between the weight room and player-run practices. They really did a good job and we’re much farther along than we were in the spring and they’re more confident. When you’re confident, you can be tough and you can be physical.”
— Huff on whether a true freshman may crack the two-deep this year: “I hope not. I’d say it’s a long shot. They’re swimming. They’re trying to pick up the fundamentals. Then they try to pick up the assignments and then they think they’ve got it figured out and the defense moves on them. It takes time.”
— Huff on Odhiambo last year: “You saw flashes that he can be really, really good. You definitely saw that. And you saw times where he was banged up and he didn’t look really good.”
— Ertel, a junior college transfer, has practiced at left and right tackle. But he’s behind Odhiambo, Baggett, McCullough and Lewis.
— Baggett on playing guard and tackle: “It’s a long season and something is bound to happen, so everybody needs to be able to play every position and know what every other guy is doing. I feel pretty comfortable at both right now.”
— Baggett on building the starting five: “That’s what camp, I feel like, is all about — getting used to those guys next to you and that’s the main thing, you have to trust the guy next to you. If you can trust him to do his job and you do your job, it should be all right.”
— Baggett on what the coaches want: “It’s really the guys who can get out there and be the most efficient and the most physical.”
— Baggett on protecting the quarterback: “We want to protect that quarterback. He means a lot. We’ve got to make sure to protect him. It’s all about how hard we work. It’s a lot of in your head, too. You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to know what’s coming. You’ve got to know their tendencies. That’s what we’re working on in fall camp — we’re working on recognizing stuff so we can put ourselves in that position to pick up the blitzes and not let that happen.”
— Baggett on the run game: “You’ve got to run the ball. You win games by running the ball. That’s a big factor, a huge factor. It all starts with running the ball. That’s where you can really get the offense rolling.”
— Henry on the offensive line: “We’re trying to be much more physical in the run game, establish ourselves in the trenches.”
— The true freshman offensive line has been Bacon at center, Su’esu’e at right guard, Templeton at right tackle, Kauvaka at left guard and Preciado at left tackle.
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