Bronco Beat

Idaho small-town star pushes for playing time with Boise State football team

The world of college football recruiting has become so saturated with Internet information that hardly any player remains a secret anymore.

Boise State linebackers coach Andy Avalos says the Broncos found one last year when they invited linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to walk on out of Salmon River High in Riggins.

Vander Esch helped Salmon River win back-to-back state championships in football and boys basketball in 1A Division II from 2012 to 2014. He was the Idaho Statesman’s Player of the Year in his classification in both sports as a senior, playing quarterback on the gridiron.

Avalos recruited Vander Esch as part of Chris Petersen’s staff and the Broncos remained committed to him after coach Bryan Harsin arrived.

“There aren’t too many diamonds in the rough anymore,” Avalos said. “But we found one there. And we think, he’s got obviously a lot of work to do, but it’s hard to find those guys with that length, that size, that move the way he does and has some instinct and knowledge of the game.”

Avalos dubbed Vander Esch the “baby giraffe” in the spring. The redshirt freshman has since added some bulk, entering fall camp Thursday at 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds.

Coaches gave Vander Esch a scholarship after spring ball – a rarity for a walk-on who hasn’t played yet.

The Broncos have five veteran players for two linebacker spots, so Vander Esch’s first role with the team likely will be as a special-teamer. His body type is particularly useful there.

“He had a great, great summer,” Avalos said. “He put on 15 pounds and moves better than he did in the spring time. So we’re excited about him to see him get on the field and have a huge role on special teams and find his place on defense.”

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The Broncos hold their second practice this afternoon. It’s open to the media for 15 minutes. Three players and defensive line coach Steve Caldwell chat with the media today, too. I’ll have a post on linebacker Joe Martarano and highlights from practice in a separate blog post this afternoon.

First-day coverage:

Defense still has a lot to prove

Camp report: New walk-ons include local QB, SEC transfer

Broncos in the NFL: Jamar Taylor

Day 1 roundup, including practice highlights and interview videos