Boise State senior nickel Corey Bell expects to see a clash between two teams with “a lot to prove” on Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
No. 18 Ole Miss enters the game riding a wave of high expectations but coming off an 8-5 season that included three losses by a touchdown or less.
Boise State did not crack the preseason polls for the first time since 2008. The Broncos also went 8-5 last year and are rebuilding under a new coaching staff.
The Broncos went 0-2 against power-conference teams last year — including a blowout loss at Washington in the opener and a loss to Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl — and also lost to BYU, Fresno State and San Diego State. Those were arguably the five best teams on the schedule.
“The way we started out last year wasn’t how we wanted it to be,” Bell said Sunday, the first day of “game week” practice for the Broncos. “It wasn’t even really a close game. So I think with how hungry both teams are going into this — both these teams have a lot to prove — it’s something we’re both excited for and it’s definitely going to be a good opportunity for us to go show just how hard we worked this offseason.
“ The whole team is excited about it, all the coaches included. There couldn’t be a much better way for us to start out a new era than to go down there and go into a battle.”
Other highlights from Bell and senior wide receiver Matt Miller:
— Bell on the Ole Miss offense: “The thing everybody sees is how big their offensive line is. I think they’re averaging 320 pounds on their offensive line. And then you look at they’ve got the experienced quarterback, some experienced receivers. No. 1 (Laquon Treadwell) coming back, who had a great year last year as a freshman, is probably going to come back looking to have an explosive year this year. We’ve definitely got a big challenge ahead of us.”
— Bell on Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace: “He just has a really powerful arm and he’s an intelligent guy. You can tell he’s just making his reads and hitting the second or third receiver sometimes and not one of those guys who just comes off the ball, looks at one guy and throws it. He’s definitely going to be a challenge and somebody we’re looking forward to playing.”
— More Bell on Wallace: “Before watching film this summer, I didn’t really know he had (running) as an aspect of his game. In watching, I’ve realized — other than just scrambling — they have built-in quarterback runs. I didn’t realize how much that was a part of their offense and I think it’s a key part of their offense. They keep you on your toes because they’ll stretch you out with the running back and then they’ll pound it in there with him. He’s kind of like a quarterback who can play like a tailback/fullback type of position. He’s a pretty big guy and somebody who is powerful.”
— Bell, like defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, says the Broncos have tackled well this fall. “We’ve done a really good job and bought into some of those tackling drills and focused on that,” Bell said. “Swarming to the ball helps with that as well.”
— Bell on coach Bryan Harsin: “He’s done exactly what he said he was going to do and I think we’re all excited to see where he takes us.”
— Bell on the defense: “The depth has definitely helped us. We have a little bit more confidence going into this game and I think that’s something that’s going to be key going into this year.”
— Miller on the Harsin era: “It’s kind of a new start for us just because there’s a lot of excitement with coach Harsin coming in. He’s a hometown guy. The community is really building off that. Even for an old guy like me, it feels like it’s a new start for everybody.”
— Miller on Harsin: “Everything he said in that first meeting he’s delivered on. He’s brought that excitement back. He’s brought kind of that swagger that Boise State used to have – we’re trying to get that back. He’s really made that a point of emphasis and I think he’s done that so far.”
— Miller on traveling across the country: “You just have to stay relaxed. We call it a relaxed focus. You have to be focused, but you don’t have to be on top of your game the entire time. It is a long plane ride. You have to stay hydrated — that’s a big key. You lose a lot of hydration on those long plane rides. For the younger guys, stay relaxed, have a little fun and just go with the flow of things.”
— Miller on the offense: “It’s going to be a fun offensive plan. We’re going to have a little bit of everything — a lot of different styles of offense thrown into one, so it’s going to be a lot of fun playing in it. We kind of have some old flavor in it and some stuff from last year we liked that we kept going on. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”
— Miller on veteran wide receivers Dallas Burroughs and Troy Ware: “Those guys really competed their butts off. I’m really excited to see both of them play this year.”
— Miller on his own game: “My route-running has really improved. Give all the credit to coach (Junior) Adams — he’s just a route technician. From the first day he stepped on campus my route-running has been improved.” More on Adams: “He’s really a players coach — he knows what we’re going through. Just talking through things, you’re not telling me what to do but just talking about it — just throwing ideas off of each other has really helped.”
— Miller on the defense: “They’re really swarming to the ball really well. They did that really well all through camp. They kind of have that defense that’s nasty like we used to have. Coach Yates has brought that mentality back.”
— Miller on the playbook: “This playbook is a lot more complicated (than last year).”
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