Bronco Beat

Boise State football position breakdowns: Roh, Huff highlight dangerous tight ends group

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: Tight ends

Previously: Linebackers, tailbacks, defensive backs, quarterbacks, offensive line, defensive line, wide receivers

TIGHT ENDS ROSTER

84 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 239, R-Sr.

85 Holden Huff, 6-6, 226, R-Sr.

87 Alec Dhaenens, 6-3, 244, R-So.

88 Jake Roh, 6-3, 229, R-So.

93 Jake Knight, 6-4, 230, So.

86 Chase Blakley, 6-4, 235, R-Fr.

91 David Lucero, 6-5, 230, R-Fr.

47 Matt Pistone, 6-3, 242, Fr.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

Tight end

Jake Roh, 6-3, 229, R-So.: Made 35 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. He has developed into a better blocker this year.

Holden Huff, 6-6, 226, R-Sr.: Was slowed by injury the past two seasons but seems poised to finally deliver on the promise he showed as a freshman. He averages 12.4 yards per catch.

Jake Hardee, 6-3, 239, R-Sr.: Former walk-on got a scholarship last year. He was a regular part of the rotation but didn’t have a catch.

Alec Dhaenens, 6-3, 244, R-So.: Primarily the fullback last year, he hopes to play more tight end this year. He made two catches – both for short touchdowns.

THE BREAKDOWN

Overview: The Broncos return four-fifths of the tight end rotation from last season, including two dynamic receivers in Roh and Huff. They also could sprinkle a pair of redshirt freshmen into the mix: Chase Blakley and David Lucero. Special teams coach Kent Riddle expects to play four or five tight ends in the season opener and six at some point this season. “The biggest problem (the redshirt freshmen) have is they have four older, good, experienced guys in front of them,” Riddle said. “But we certainly think there’s some stuff they can do to help us out, absolutely.” The tight ends enjoyed their expanded role in the offense last season and hope to build on that this year. “We want to be more consistent,” Hardee said. “We want to be relied on in the offense. We want to be a group our offense can rely on to get stuff done.”

Key to success: Tight ends are at their most effective when they can’t be pigeon-holed. Roh has improved as a blocker, Dhaenens has improved as a receiver, Hardee can play any position with confidence and Huff has become a matchup problem. Hardee, who didn’t have a catch last season, made the most big plays in fall camp, Riddle said. “I really like what those guys bring to the table,” he said.

Reason for concern: The Broncos are still young at tight end. Four of the six guys expected to play are freshmen or sophomores. Blakley and Lucero aren’t ready for major roles yet. “We’ll ease them into it,” Riddle said. “Just put them in positions where they can be successful and play to their strengths. Those guys are coming along. ... They’ve got to get themselves to where the other guys are just in terms of the understanding of everything we’re doing.”

Star player: Roh and Huff should be quite a pass-catching duo at tight end this year. Roh beat Huff 35-10 in receptions last season; the race should be closer this year.

Breakout performer: Hardee is underappreciated, Riddle says. “He’s way better than he gets credit for physically,” he said, “but I think the best thing he brings is just his knowledge of what’s going on. He can play any position – not only play it, but know what’s going to happen. ... He’s going to have a very big part. He’s a big guy that can block, he can run and catch and make plays. He’s probably had as many big plays as anybody this fall camp.”

Newcomer to watch: Blakley is the Coeur d’Alene High product who committed to Washington when coach Steve Sarkisian was there. He changed his commitment to Boise State after Chris Petersen moved from the Broncos to the Huskies. Petersen didn’t offer Blakley a scholarship when he was at Boise State. The Bryan Harsin staff did – and made a huge push to woo Blakley, which worked.

Quotes/notes

– Riddle on Huff: “He’s just such a good technician. He plays with good pad level, good hands, drives guys off the ball and then obviously he’s a big, fast target in the pass game that can catch the ball.”

– Riddle on Roh: “Last year ... he was more of a pass catcher. Now he can come off the ball and get guys.”

– Riddle said Dhaenens has grown beyond the fullback role: “He’s made some really big plays for us down the field in the pass game. We’d expect that to continue.”

– Hardee on the group: “We’ve got a lot of guys who are confident in how they can play. ... We all pushed each other and got better.”

– Dhaenens improved his blocking at the line of scrimmage: “I came in thinking that I can contribute more as a tight end and less as a fullback.”

– Dhaenens on the young guys: “We’re trying to help the freshmen out so we have a long tradition of good tight ends here.”

– Roh on the group: “We’re excited. Last year, getting more involved as a group, we’re excited for that. We hope to keep that bar rising.”

– Offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz on his former tight ends group: “That’s a strength of our team on offense, no doubt. Coach Rid is going to have those guys playing at a high level, even a higher level than last year. That allows us to be very multiple on offense.”

RELATED POSTS

Player spotlight: Alec Dhaenens

Holden Huff follows dream to Japan

Email me at ccripe@idahostatesman.com.

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