Broncos Return to The Blue to Start Spring Training

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -Ten weeks after capping an undefeated season with an exhilarating Fiesta Bowl win, Boise State stepped back onto its blue turf Monday for spring practice.

No, the Broncos didn't work on any trick plays.

The team that used three trick plays to beat Oklahoma in January has more pressing concerns, chief among them selecting a new quarterback to replace Fiesta Bowl offensive MVP Jared Zabransky, and configuring a defense without linebacker Korey Hall, the Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year.

Jeff Cavender, one of four returning players on an offensive line that once again figures to be the team's strength, doesn't see the quarterback competition as a huge deal. ``With our offensive line and running backs coming back, all (the quarterback) needs to do is hand off the ball,'' he said.

Coach Chris Petersen kept up a steady stream of ``good job, way to compete'' during drills, then discounted any talk of returning to the Fiesta Bowl.

``I'm not even thinking that way,'' said Petersen, now in his second year as head coach. ``Right now we're thinking about getting better for tomorrow and spring ball.''

He also said he wants to make sure the Broncos, who return 11 starters, maintain the hardworking mind-set that got them to the Fiesta Bowl rather than be defined by the flashy plays they used to beat Oklahoma at the end.

``We're trying to buck that stigma a little bit,'' he said. ``We want to be known as a blue-collar outfit that does things the hard way.''

Ian Johnson, the team's star running back, has been selected as one of the team captains. He led major college football last season with 24 rushing touchdowns and averaged about 145 yards a game as the Broncos went 13-0 and ended up ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll.

``You kind of talk about it as if it were a movie or something, but not as if it were a part of your life,'' said Johnson, who plans to follow up his Fiesta Bowl on-field proposal to a Broncos' cheerleader, Chrissy Popadics, with a July 28 wedding. ``(Otherwise) you're living in the past.''

Johnson missed parts of games last season with various injuries, including sitting out one game after suffering cracked ribs and a punctured lung.

``I realized that playing at 195 pounds isn't the best weight for me,'' the 5-foot-11 Johnson said. ``I want to start this season more in the 200 range, 204 or 205. I'll be effective and I'll be sturdy.''

As far as quarterbacks, Johnson said he's pulling for Bush Hamdan, who will be in Johnson's wedding party.

But Hamdan will have considerable competition from Taylor Tharp, who backed up Zabransky, and Nick Lomax, the son of former NFL QB Neil Lomax.

``It's going to be based on who makes the right decision at the right time,'' Lomax said.

Tharp said he doesn't expect the game experience he has to be much of a factor in Petersen's decision on who gets the job.

``This is a whole new situation, a whole new spring ball,'' Tharp said. ``It's a fresh day, so everything is going to be back to step one.''

Said Petersen of the quarterback battle: ``I have no idea how it will turn out, and I'm as excited and interested as everybody else out there.''

Defensively, the Broncos return six starters, and also need to find another punter.

``We've got a lot of guys to replace, and it starts with Korey Hall,'' Petersen said. ``But we have some good players that are young.''

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