The long offseason began this week, following Boise State’s spring game (though it did have a team paintball outing Monday). It already has not exactly been devoid of news, with Ryan Finley’s intent to transfer. But as the three-plus months until fall camp begins, it was the last look at the Broncos. Let’s take a look at the spring and look a bit ahead, shall we?
DT David Moa, So.: At a thin position, Moa is, well, a bit thin at 268 pounds, but he helped assuage some worries about the defensive line going into the summer. Boise State coaches compared it to when Tyler Horn and Sam McCaskill moved inside in the past, thriving because of his focus on technique that makes up for lack of size.
“Probably one of the most improved players that we have,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “... was really a force this entire spring.”
WR Cedrick Wilson, Jr.: He's 6-foot-3, scored 17 touchdowns last season in junior college and has an NFL bloodline. On paper, it isn't always a given, but Wilson was immediately a factor this spring, often working as the No. 2 or 3 receiver. He also got plenty of work at kick returner.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked,” receivers coach Junior Adams said. “... we don’t have to ask him to come in and watch film. There’s times he’s in the building two hours studying the playbook, studying the position.”
QB Brett Rypien, So.: He came in as the starter, and did not let anyone come close to threatening his position. Coaches raved about his improvement, and he had a solid showing in the spring game even without seniors Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson.
“I’ve been really impressed with Brett, I think he’s done a great job,” Harsin said Saturday.
STUDs Gabe Perez/Jabril Frazier, Jr/So.: A position with a sizeable vacancy after Kamalei Correa's departure, both stepped up, prompting defensive line coach Steve Caldwell to say “I think they’re going to be really good.”
“Jabril Frazier, Gabe Perez, those guys have really stood out,” Harsin said. “They’ve been very good on the edges, played very well.”
CB Tyler Horton, So.: He was highly-touted as a signee for a reason. Listed at 5-11, he plays a little bigger, and had some moments last season as a true freshman. With senior Jonathan Moxey locking down one spot, Donte Deayon’s graduation opened up an opportunity, which Horton has seized.
“We saw last year he could play,” Harsin said. “Tyler’s a guy that in last year’s fall camp, showed up and just made plays. ... that carried over into being a smart football player, being a guy that prepares well, being a guy that prepares well in the classroom, off the field.”
“I’ve been nothing but impressed with him since he showed up here.”
-Boise State came out of spring relatively injury-free. Offensive linemen Mario Yakoo and Archie Lewis missed all 15 practices, as did tight end Chase Blakley. Linebacker/nickel Tanner Vallejo, tight end Jake Roh and linebacker Ben Weaver were at times limited in practice, but there were no serious injuries to report, Harsin said.
-Rypien shouldn't lack for targets, with the likes of Wilson, A.J. Richardson, Sean Modster, Akilian Butler and Bryan Jefferson at receiver. Tight end should be a strength, with Roh, Alec Dhaenens, Jake Knight, Matt Pistone and Blakley each bringing something to the table. Roh is the top receiving threat, Pistone has the look of a solid H-back, and Dhaenens has improved into a more well-rounded player after mainly being used as a blocker or goal-line receiver.
“Really impressed with Alec, he’s come along great, showing he can do everything we wanted and more,” tight ends coach Kent Riddle said. “If we roll with him and Jake (Roh), we’ll be in great shape, and those other guys getting a ton of reps can only help.”
-Offensive line at times had some struggles, but missing two potential starters will do that. Redshirt freshman John Molchon has the look of a potential left tackle at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, and Auburn transfer Will Adams was solid. At worst, they'll be reliable backups. Guards Travis Averill and Steven Baggett are reliable vets, and center Mason Hampton seems the most likely replacement for Marcus Henry.
-The running back depth behind junior Jeremy McNichols should not lack in number, but isn't completely resolved out of spring. Senior Devan Demas and junior Ryan Wolpin had some solid moments, but freshmen Robert Mahone and/or Alexander Mattison should have prime opportunities to find playing time.
-The specialists were solid, as usual. Kicker Tyler Rausa showed good range and was consistently accurate, picking up where he left off last season. Harsin praised punter Sean Wale, and said junior snapper Matt Cota was perhaps the most improved, along with Moa. Cota is the likely replacement for the steady Kevin Keane.
-Three relatively unknown defensive backs, junior Cameron Hartsfield and redshirt freshmen Darreon Jackson and Donzale Roddie, had nice springs. On Hartsfield, Harsin called him “probably one of the most improved players.” Jackson had a nice spring game, and has shown some versatility in his young career, playing safety and cornerback. “He’s really impressed me ... he’s an aggressive player,” junior defensive tackle Austin Silsby said. Roddie, in the few practices where I saw 11-on-11 work, routinely was near the ball, making a few interceptions, one he took to the house Friday.
Senior linebacker Darren Lee, at first addressing the defensive line, then turning the answer into a team-wide mantra.
“Absolutely there’s a chip on their shoulder, especially with the coaching changes we’ve had, the losses we took at home last year, absolutely there’s kind of an edge we want to play with this year.”
Sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien, when asked about what will push the team during the offseason.
“9-4, for sure. We’re motivated. We want to be better than we were last year, that’s the biggest goal. If we just continue to keep working hard and being consistent, detailed with our work, we’ve got a chance to do some good things.”
Sophomore linebacker Leighton Vander Esch on the team focusing more on the option.
“We’re improving a lot. You can see it on film. I think we’re doing a really good job with it, getting on it early so we can take it to them during the season.”
What will the Broncos do at quarterback?: Finley’s transfer leaves the Broncos with Rypien, junior Tomy Stuart and true freshman Jake Constantine expected in fall camp. The Broncos could add a junior college transfer, another freshman, or even a graduate transfer. If it’s a veteran, they’ll come in having to know they’ll be the backup.
New faces on the defensive line: Coaches were extremely pleased with the way the line played this spring, confident with a top five of Sam McCaskill at end, Elliot Hoyte at defensive tackle, Moa at the nose and Frazier/Perez at the STUD. But after that, depth is a major concern that was not going to be solved in spring. Boise State signed seven defensive linemen in February, and coaches said it’s likely about half of them will play right away. Defensive tackle signees Daniel Auelua and Emmanuel Fesili are both near 300 pounds, and with only one scholarship nose tackle this spring (Moa), they’re the most likely candidates. STUD seems set with Frazier and Perez, but defensive end could use one or two from the expected crop of freshmen in Chase Hatada, Kayode Rufai, Jabari Watson and Curtis Weaver.
Second solutions at skill spots: The Broncos have experience and talent in junior running back Jeremy McNichols and senior receivers Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson. Behind them, it is still a bit unknown. A freshman running back could certainly get in the mix, while the crop of Wilson, junior Austin Cottrell, sophomore A.J. Richardson, sophomore Sean Modster, sophomore Akilian Butler and redshirt freshman Bryan Jefferson will vie for spots in the rotation. Incoming freshmen Julian Carter and Bubba Ogbebor were mentioned on signing day as players with the talent level to play quickly.
Spring football stories