Through the spring, I’ll preview each position on the Boise State football team.
Today: Offensive line
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BRONCOS HOPE TO RIDE EXPERIENCED O-LINE
Offensive line experience is considered a key element in a college football team’s success – and few teams will have more than the Broncos in 2015.
Boise State returns all five full-time starters from 2014 plus two other guys who started games. Senior left tackle Rees Odhiambo (17 career starts), junior left guard Travis Averill (17), senior center Marcus Henry (26), junior right guard Mario Yakoo (15) and junior right tackle Steven Baggett (15) paved the way for tailback Jay Ajayi’s record-setting season. Sophomore tackles Archie Lewis (five) and Eli McCullough (one) also made starts.
That’s a total of 96 returning starts.
“Our goal every day is to set the tone for the offense and be the leaders out there,” Henry said. “That’s definitely a challenge we’re willing to take on.”
Offensive line coach Scott Huff, who molded an inexperienced line last year, wants to see more physicality as he enters 2015 with a group heavy on upperclassmen.
“The big thing that we’re always preaching is just physicality,” Huff said. “A lot of that comes with confidence. A lot of that comes with being a little bit faster at knowing your assignment so you can be a little more aggressive and a little more physical.”
He also has preached competition despite the returning starters. Lewis is playing right tackle and McCullough left tackle this spring because of injuries to Odhiambo and Yakoo. Baggett moved to right guard.
“These guys know that they’re all close, and it’s great because it’s competition and it brings out the best in them,” Huff said.
The seven players with starting experience give the impression of depth. But for the Broncos to have a solid two-deep, they’ll need some other players to step up.
“On paper we have depth,” Huff said. “I think we’ll know a lot better at the end of spring ball and really at the end of fall camp.”
PERSONNEL AT A GLANCE
72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 296, R-Sr.
71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 303, R-Sr.
76 Jerhen Ertel, 6-6, 282, R-Sr.
73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 302, R-Jr.
70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 295, R-Jr.
66 Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 327, R-Jr.
60 Kellen Buhr, 6-1, 295, R-Jr.
74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 281, R-So.
75 Eli McCullough, 6-5, 292, R-So.
52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 277, R-So.
59 Mason Hampton, 6-3, 284, R-So.
56 Troy Bacon, 6-3, 272, R-Fr.
78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 273, R-Fr.
57 Tennessee Su’esu’e, 6-1, 307, R-Fr.
68 Jake Templeton, 6-2, 294, R-Fr.
63 Sitini Kauvaka, 6-2, 292, R-Fr.
77 RJ Thorne, 6-1, 288, R-Fr.
Garrett Larson, 6-5, 275, Fr.
Eric Quevedo, 6-5, 280, Fr.
John Molchon, 6-6, 275, Fr.
Returning starters (5 of 5): Odhiambo (nine starts), Averill (14), Henry (14), Yakoo (14) and Baggett (13) allowed the Broncos to use their preferred lineup for eight games.
Key losses: None. The Broncos didn’t have a senior offensive lineman last year.
Other key returners: Lewis started four games at left tackle and one at right tackle last season. If he convinces coaches he’s one of the top five players, they might move Baggett to right guard to make room. “He’s really close,” Huff said. “If we can get Archie settled in at one position, he’ll be able to compete with anybody.”
Other players to watch: McCullough is a rising player in the program. He’s getting valuable experience this spring as the first-team left tackle with Odhiambo out.
Projected starters: LT Odhiambo, LG Averill, C Henry, RG Yakoo, RT Baggett
Out for spring: Odhiambo, Yakoo, Kauvaka
Incoming signees: The Broncos made a point of recruiting length in the 2015 class. The three new recruits, all of whom are expected to redshirt, are 6-foot-5 or taller.
– Hampton, a former walk-on from Meridian High who earned a scholarship in 2014, won the King of the Mountain award during winter conditioning as the strongest player on the team. “He’s always gunning for my spot, giving me a little edge,” Henry said. “He had a great offseason.”
– Coach Bryan Harsin on the battles between the veteran offensive and defensive lines: “That’s been a battle this entire camp.”
– McCullough on who has impressed him this spring: “Travis Averill. ... He really has impressed me with his knowledge and technique and his improvement from the fall.”
– McCullough on his rough start last year against Air Force: “I felt like I did horrible. 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.”
– Huff on Baggett playing right guard in camp: “That’s something we’re looking at. They can all ideally be mixed and matched. It’s good. Steven is getting some experience at a different position. He’s Mr. Consistent for us. That’s the one thing that guy is – very, very consistent.”
– Huff on McCullough: “If we had every O-lineman look like that, we’d look good. We’d look like an NFL squad. He’s athletic and he’s a big dude and he’s got a lot of ability.”
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SPRING BALL COVERAGE