PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE AND TALENT RETURN FOR 2009
Yes, Ian Johnson, one of the most popular and productive players in Boise State football history, will be gone in 2009, along with a number of other key contributors off the 12-1 2008 Boise State team. But, the cupboard is stacked with experience and talent, as the 2008 Broncos were one of the youngest teams in the country with 77 freshmen or sophomores listed on the 101 man Poinsettia Bowl roster. That’s bad news for the rest of the WAC and great news for Bronco Nation.
Many felt the Bronco team was poised for greatness in 2009, maybe even 2010. Twelve wins later in 2008, it’s obvious that Boise State’s re-building mode is simply a re-loading mode. For 2009, Boise State returns its quarterback, two of its top three rushers, the team’s top two receivers, top receiving tight end, leading scorer and 10 players who accounted for 39 touchdowns. Defensively, a secondary which accounted for 15 of the team’s 20 interceptions remains intact, along with the team’s top two sack leaders and 11 of the top 15 tacklers from 2008.
Experience and depth at every position headlines yet another highly anticipated season. Boise State can boast a returner with starting experience at all 11 offensive spots, eight of the 11 defensive spots and at each specialist position. Winter conditioning, spring drills, summer workouts and fall camp will all take place over the next eight months, as Bronco coaches gel all that talent together.
Schedule: Out of the chutes, a potential top 20 match-up will take place at Bronco Stadium, as Oregon makes its first ever trip to Boise. Much will be talked about between now and then, as the opener will surely be one of the premier opening week games. In total, the Broncos host seven home games, also meeting UC Davis and Miami (OH) non-conference and WAC foes San Jose State, New Mexico State, Nevada and Idaho. The road schedule features games at Tulsa and Toledo non-conference and Fresno State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech and Utah State on the conference side.
Quarterback: Kellen Moore will be just a sophomore after putting together a phenomenal freshman campaign with nearly 3,500 yards and 25 touchdown passes.
Running Back: Jeremy Avery, D.J. Harper and Doug Martin are all back. The trio all split time in 2008, combining for 986 yards, eight touchdowns and a robust 5.3 yards per carry average.
Fullback: Old school Richie Brockel will be one of just six seniors-to-be next year. A productive fullback/tight end, Brockel had 12 receptions or carries with four resulting in a touchdown.
Tight End: With the injury to senior Chris O’Neill in the fourth game of the season, Tommy Gallarda and Kyle Efaw got valuable playing experience. Efaw was the team’s top receiving tight end with 17 catches, while Gallarda had two touchdown receptions and honed his blocking skills.
Wide Receiver: Wow is the best way to describe this group. Leading receiver Jeremy Childs is expected to return for his senior season, while the 2008 touchdown leader for receivers, Austin Pettis, will be a junior. Childs caught 72 balls and seven touchdowns, while Pettis had 49 receptions and nine touchdowns. With the anticipated return of speedy Titus Young for spring drills, the receiving corp becomes even more dangerous with the deep threat back in the fold. Young played in just three games in 2008, but had three touchdowns and averaged nearly 17 yards per catch and 10 yards per rush. Youngsters to keep an eye on include red-shirt freshmen Mitch Burroughs, the offensive scout team player of the year in 2008, and Southern California native Chris Potter, an all-around athlete who played quarterback as a high school senior after being a wide receiver as a junior, sophomore and freshman. Boise State could have their replacements for Vinny Perretta and Tanyon Bissell in the offensive creativity category.
Offensive Line: Four-year starter Andrew Woodruff departs, but six players who started during Boise State’s rotating offensive line process of 2008 are back. Thomas Byrd appears to be the center of the future at Boise State, starting the majority of the 2008 at that spot. Spring drills will provide coaches a chance to evaluate the rest of the returning group that includes Nate Potter, Garrett Pendergast, Kevin Slater, Kevin Sapien and Cory Yriarte, all of whom started at one point or another in 2008. The promise of the red-shirt freshmen are also there, with names like Brenel Myers, Tom Swanson, Faraji Wright and Michael Ames as players to watch.
Defensive End: While some will point to a defensive line that wore down in the Poinsettia Bowl loss to TCU, you have to consider that three of Boise State’s defensive ends were absent in that game. The Broncos appear stacked at the rush end position, with first team All-WAC Ryan Winterswyk headlining the group. Sophomores to be Byron Hout (who turned heads with his interception and nifty return in the Poinsettia Bowl), Jarrell Root and Shea McClellin give the Broncos a hockey style line shift rotation at end. The foursome combined for 12 sacks in 2008, and that was with McClellin, Root and Hout getting their first college football playing experience.
Defensive Tackle: Billy Winn earned freshman All-American honors, and appears set for a very productive Bronco career. The versatile 282-pounder will be a force inside. Chase Baker, J.P. Nisby and Chuck Hayes all received playing experience as freshmen in 2008, and will be counted on in the defensive tackle rotation. The youngster everybody is talking about and looking forward to seeing on the field is 320 pound Michael Atkinson. He is one of three freshmen on the 2008 signing class that red-shirted this past season.
Linebacker: Derrell Acrey is still growing into his role at middle linebacker. In 2008, the junior to be ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 57. He will be the veteran of the group in 2009, with the departure of Kyle Gingg, Tim Brady and Dallas Dobbs. Hunter White and Aaron Tevis will be asked to increase their roles after seeing considerable game action in 2008. Junior college transfer Daron Mackey red-shirted in 2008, and at 230 pounds will vie heavily for playing time in the middle. Red-shirt freshman Tommy Smith also received outstanding reviews during his red-shirt year and could adapt to the linebacker/safety hybrid role that Ellis Powers played.
Cornerback: Playmaker Kyle Wilson has one more year of eligibility left as he is a senior-to-be. Bronco fans and coaches hope that plays out, and Wilson opts to return to Boise State and not go the route of Orlando Scandrick, who left early for the NFL. Wilson and junior to be Brandyn Thompson give Boise State the two best cover corners in the WAC. The duo combined for nine interceptions and 15 pass breakups on a defensive unit that allowed just eight passing touchdowns in 2008. Jamar Taylor saw action as a true freshman in 2008, and responded with solid play. He had 22 tackles and one interception. Taylor, Antwon Murray and Raphiel Lambert will have a chance to display their skills in spring ball.
Safety: Like the corner position, the duo of Jeron Johnson and George Iloka provide Boise State with what has the makings to be one of the best defensive backfield’s in the country. The aggressive and hard-hitting Johnson showed off his physical play in the Poinsettia Bowl, matching the speed and power of TCU play to play. Johnson led the Broncos in 2008 with 98 tackles, while making three interceptions and recovering three fumbles. Iloka, meanwhile, stepped in as a true freshman and showed flashes of brilliance. The 6-3, 202 pounder has the tools and size to become a dominant free safety. Iloka made 60 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions in his first season, impressive numbers by all standards. Look for junior-to-be Jason Robinson to play a bigger role, and potentially be a replacement for Ellis Powers at the hybrid safety/linebacker position. The Bronco defensive unit had great success with Johnson, Iloka and Powers on the field at the same time. Highly heralded Tyler Jackson, out of Castle Rock, Colorado, red-shirted in 2008 and should push for playing time as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN
Kicker: Kyle Brotzman will likely someday challenge the Boise State all-time scoring record. The junior-to-be already seems like he’s been at Boise State for a whole career, but still has two years to play. Brotzman has yet to miss an extra point in his career, but will have motivation in the off-season as his field goal accuracy dipped in 2008, keeping him from repeating as the All-WAC kicker. The Meridian native went 17-of-26 on field goals in 2008, after nailing 16-of-18 as a freshman.
Punter: Brotzman doubles as the Bronco punter and was extremely efficient in 2008, averaging 46 yards per kick (including a 75 yarder and a 64 yarder) and downing 14 punts inside the 20.
Return Specialists: Boise State has one of the best in the nation in Kyle Wilson. Wilson took three punts back for touchdowns in 2008, averaging nearly 15 yards per return in the process. Explosive tailbacks Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin handled kick-off duties in 2008.
Click Here For The 2008 Season In Review