Fall Camp Position Preview: Running Backs

Fall Camp Position Preview: Running Backs


BOISE, Idaho - As the Boise State University football team prepares for its first season under head coach Chris Petersen during Fall Camp, broncosports.com would like to take the time to preview each position. Today we will take a look at the running backs.


Jeff Choate is in his first season as running backs and special team coach with Boise State. He joins the team after serving one year as special teams coach at Eastern Illinois and two years as special teams coach at Utah State. He also served as a graduate assistant at Utah State before becoming the special teams coach. From 1997-2001, Choate was the head coach at Post Falls High School. He was also the head coach at Challis High School and the defensive coordinator at Twin Falls High School.


When people think Boise State football, many times they think of a high-octane, throw the ball all over the field kind of offense. In all actuality, the Broncos run a very balanced attack, leading the Western Athletic Conference in rushing in 2005.


“It’s kind of a misnomer that we are only a passing team,” Choate said. “When we’re recruiting, people say, Boise State, they throw the ball all over the field.’ We have a wide open offense and we certainly do air the ball out, but the foundation of this offense is balance.”


Slated to shoulder the load this season at running back is sophomore Ian Johnson. Johnson (5’11, 194-pounds) is a Preseason All-WAC selection by The Sporting News. The San Dimas, Calif., native finished second on the team in rushing last season, averaging 5.6 yards-per-carry with 663 yards and four touchdowns.


“Ian obviously has some natural gifts that you need to have at that running back position to be good,” Choate said. “He does a great job not only with his running assignments, but also with his pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield...I think the expectations are high and I think he has high expectations for himself.”


Although Johnson is penciled in as the starter, there is a fierce battle going on between he and senior Brett Denton.


“Brett Denton isn’t succeeding anything in that running back race,” Choate said. “I think his goal is to be the guy too...(Head Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Tim) Socha would be the first one to say that Ian and Brett had two of the better summers of anybody on the team.”


Denton (5’9, 191-pounds) has served as a backup in each of his three Bronco seasons, but is determined to see more action this season. He and Johnson have been competing against each other all summer long, and the coaches have taken notice of Denton’s hard work.


“He’s been unbelievable. A lot of people compare his role to that of Jeff Carpenter’s last year,” Choate said. “I think it is going to be like Jeff’s, but its going to be more expanded.”


Junior Jon Helmandollar (5’11, 215-pounds) could also figure into the mix this season. After taking a year off, Choate believes it may take Helmandollar a while to get back to where he was over a year ago, but says that he will still have a role in the offense.


The future at running back also looks bright for the Broncos. Three freshmen, Jeremy Avery, Jarvis Hodge and Stew Tracy, have proven to be pleasant surprises to the coaching staff.


“Jeremy Avery is a little jitter bug with a great attitude; a tough, hard-nosed kid,” Choate said. “Jarvis Hodge is probably, out of the three, the most ready to play right now. Stew Tracy is a walk-on kid from Bishop Kelly. He is a very explosive kid and kind of a free spirit.”


The fullback position has also been very good thus far. Senior Brad Lau (5’11, 242-pounds) started all 13 games for the Broncos last season. Sophomore Michael Lose (5’10, 227-pounds) served as Lau’s backup last season, playing in 10 games.


“Lau has had an excellent camp, probably as good as he’s had since he’s been here,” Choate said. “So were trying to expand his role a little bit.”


Choate believes he has quite a bit of talent at the running back position this season. However, he also believes that there is more to running the ball than having talent in the backfield.


“We have an excellent offensive line and that’s the best situation you could have for a running back,” Choate said. “Well take us as far as this offensive line will carry us.”



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