Bronco Beat

Boise State’s Eli McCullough capitalizes on hard lessons from first start

Nine straight wins and six feel-good months couldn’t wipe the memory from Boise State sophomore offensive tackle Eli McCullough’s mind.

He made his lone start Sept. 27 at Air Force, when starting left tackle Rees Odhiambo and backup Archie Lewis were injured.

McCullough was flagged twice for false starts, once for holding and once for illegal use of hands. The Broncos lost 28-14.

“I felt like I did horrible,” said McCullough, who is from Rocky Mountain High in Meridian. “And since we didn’t do great that game, I feel like I shoulder a lot of that. I feel like I made a lot of mistakes and I’m just trying to do my best right now not to make those mistakes.”

McCullough is the first-team left tackle in spring ball because Odhiambo is injured. Lewis is playing right tackle while returning starter Steven Baggett plays right guard, in place of the injured Mario Yakoo.

McCullough and Lewis are competing for time on a line that returns all five starters – Odhiambo (senior) at left tackle, Travis Averill (junior) at left guard, Marcus Henry (senior) at center, Yakoo (junior) at right guard and Baggett (junior) at right tackle.

“These guys know that they’re all close and it’s great because it’s competition and it brings out the best in them,” offensive line coach Scott Huff said.

McCullough likely will be a backup this fall, but he’s trying to use his daily battles with defensive ends like Kamalei Correa and Tyler Horn to prepare himself for his next chance to contribute.

“It means a huge opportunity for me to be able to step up and get some reps with the starters,” he said of the spring.

The Air Force game serves as motivation and a teaching tool. Huff hopes McCullough also draws some confidence from that day because he competed well at times.

“I learned a lot of things not to do,” McCullough said, “in a game, before a game and after a game. It definitely wasn’t my best performance but I got out there and I tried. ... For the rest of the season, I put a lot more work into preparing myself for games. I knew what I had to prepare myself for.”

The former All-Idaho left tackle at Rocky Mountain is one of the Broncos’ most physically imposing players. He’s 6-foot-5 and 292 pounds – one reason Huff predicted a “bright future” for McCullough a few days after the Air Force game.

“Eli didn’t play that bad,” Huff said Friday. “We just got into a bad situation. He had a couple bad plays. That’s the thing that sucks about being the left tackle. You win 48 out of the 50 times – baseball, we all know what we’re doing there. As a left tackle, that’s bad. You’ve got two sacks, no bueno. ... That’s why they’re so high paid, left tackles.”

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Defensive end Kamalei Correa and nickel Mercy Maston also met with the media Friday. I’ll post more from them next week, but you can watch the full videos below.

Correa said he’s trying to improve his motor this year – he says film study showed that he took some plays off last year, when he was an All-Mountain West first-teamer. At the end of the video, he describes what it was like to end the Fiesta Bowl with a sack.

Maston is the first-team nickel right now, competing with Kam Miles and Cameron Hartsfield. Maston, a former cornerback, unexpectedly redshirted last year because of a leg injury. He initially wanted to play when he became healthy late in the season but coaches convinced him it would be better to play a full season in 2015.