Bronco Beat

Boise State football position breakdowns: Broncos tinker with veteran offensive line

I'm previewing the Boise State football team by position. I'll post a blog with many notes and quotes about the position and write a feature for the newspaper that runs the following morning.

Today: Offensive line

Previously: Linebackers, tailbacks, quarterbacks

OFFENSIVE LINE ROSTER

72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 293, R-Sr.

71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 309, R-Sr.

76 Jerhen Ertel, 6-6, 296, R-Sr.

73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 299, R-Jr.

70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 282, R-Jr.

66 Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 329, R-Jr.

60 Kellen Buhr, 6-1, 282, R-Jr.

68 Dan Urquhart, 6-7, 324, R-Jr.

63 Hunter Nettles, 6-3, 318, Jr.

74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 289, R-So.

52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 281, R-So.

59 Mason Hampton, 6-3, 290, R-So.

56 Troy Bacon, 6-3, 283, R-Fr.

78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 277, R-Fr.

57 Tennessee Su’esu’e, 6-1, 301, R-Fr.

67 Garrett Larson, 6-5, 282, Fr.

79 Eric Quevedo, 6-4, 297, Fr.

77 John Molchon, 6-5, 295, Fr.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

Left tackle

Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 309, R-Sr.: Has started 17 games over the past two seasons but also has missed nine games because of injuries. He made the All-Mountain West second team last year.

Troy Bacon, 6-3, 283, R-Fr.: One of the gems of the 2014 recruiting class, Bacon's long arms allowed him to slide out to left tackle after Eli McCullough medically retired.

Left guard

Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 329, R-Jr.: Started every game last season at right guard. Has played left guard and some tackle this fall.

Travis Averill, 6-3, 299, R-Jr.: Started every game last season at left guard and three games in 2013 at right tackle. Also can play center.

Center

Marcus Henry, 6-3, 293, R-Sr.: Has started 26 of the past 27 games, including every game last year as an All-Mountain West first-team center. He was limited by injury during fall camp.

Mason Hampton, 6-3, 290, R-So.: Former walk-on from Meridian High played well during camp in Henry's absence.

Right guard

Steven Baggett, 6-3, 282, R-Jr.: Started 13 games at right tackle last season and two in 2013.

Kellen Buhr, 6-1, 282, R-Jr., OR Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 281, R-So.: Buhr is a walk-on from Capital High. Tercek is a promising interior lineman from Texas.

Right tackle

Archie Lewis, 6-3, 289, R-So.: Started four games at left tackle and one at right tackle last season when others were injured. Improved consistency could win him a full-time job this year.

Jerhen Ertel, 6-6, 296, R-Sr.: Junior college transfer arrived last year to provide some immediate depth but only appeared in one game.

THE BREAKDOWN

Overview: The Broncos return six players with a combined total of 95 career starts and are in the odd position of bringing back their entire starting offensive line. The experience and versatility of the returning players led to some tinkering during the offseason and it's unlikely the Broncos will line up the same way this year. Lewis has emerged at right tackle with Baggett moving inside and Yakoo and Averill splitting time at left guard. "We've got a really good problem," offensive line coach Scott Huff said. "We've got a few guys who can plug in there. ... It's going to be some tough calls here to figure out who's going to play, and what positions."

Key to success: Huff's request is simple and consistent: He wants physical play in the offensive line. That's vital this year with a rebuilt backfield. "I feel like we've got to be a strength of the offense," Yakoo said. "The quarterback, running backs, they've been doing great. They've got big shoes to fill up. But the O-line is going to be the strength of the offense, so we've got to be the ones who make sure we have energy."

Reason for concern: Odhiambo is a difference-maker for the Broncos' offense – something that becomes particularly clear when he isn't in the lineup. He hasn't played a full season yet. "I feel great," he said before camp. "I'd love to play the whole year. I don't let it linger on my mind. I never think about it like that. Things happen. It's football."

Star player: Henry likely will finish as a two-time all-conference lineman and he's played two positions in his career (he was the right guard as a sophomore).

Breakout performer: Lewis has played well enough to convince coaches to consider breaking up last year's starting five. That's difficult to do. "Last year, he played really good at times and then he'd have some young guy mistakes or bad plays," Huff said. "He's played much more consistent and that's really what we were looking for."

Newcomer to watch: Bacon wasn't necessarily considered a tackle when he was recruited, but his long arms and athleticism have allowed him to fill a void as the backup left tackle. He likely is two injuries away from playing but his development will be important for next year.

Quotes/notes

– Yakoo on the competition: "We have the whole line coming back from last year but we're always looking to get better. ... We're just trying to mix it up and see who our best five are."

– Lewis on last season: "I pushed myself to try to get inside that rotation. I didn't get there, but I got close. I worked hard and when somebody went down I was ready to go."

– Lewis weighed 240 pounds in high school. Boise State found him late in the 2012 recruiting class and offered him a grayshirt spot. It was his only offer by Signing Day. "I just took it as a chance to keep fighting and make something happen," he said. "... I'm trying to prove everybody wrong that said I couldn't do it."

– Huff: "Just because it worked last year doesn't mean it works this year. We're trying to bring the young guys along and see where we can be better."

– Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz hopes the offensive line can ease the quarterback transition: "It's always good to have an offensive line you can lean on. Hopefully we'll be able to rely on them early, let the quarterback settle into the position."

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