BOISE, Idaho Boise State University football fans have been watching Tanyon Bissell play all over the field in his two years with the program. He has caught passes at the wide receiver position, played gunner on the punt team, covered kickoffs and was even a member of the rugby punt team, but this season fans will be seeing him in a whole new role, the holder on field goals and PATs.
“I knew I could use my versatility to my advantage,” Bissell said. “I held in high school and it is something that when you learn how you just never forget.”
Bissell and Taylor Tharp have been splitting snaps at the holder position throughout Fall Camp for Boise State and both could see reps at the position in the team’s first game against Weber State, Aug. 30.
Special teams are often an underrated and under appreciated portion of the game, but head coach Chris Petersen and Special Teams coach Jeff Choate continues to stress its importance to the players.
“Coach Pete’s thing is that the game is broken down into thirds,” Bissell said. “One third offense, one third defense and one third special teams, a lot of programs across the country don’t see it that way. They put more emphasis on offense and defense but we put an equal emphasis on special teams. That is where we see our advantage.”
Boise State was able to capitalize on special teams last season, taking advantage of its preparation to post a higher average than its opponents in yards per punt, yards per kickoff, yards per kickoff returns and field goals, both attempted and made. Special teams differ from the offense and the defense because of the variety of duties involved, one of which is punt return.
“We want to possess the ball on punt returns,” Choate said. “We need a guy who consistently fields the ball and gives us possession so the offense can do their work. Our goal is to give our offense an extra first down by averaging over 10 yards per return.”
There will be more kickoff returns in college football this season with the NCAA instating the new rule of moving the ball back five yards on kickoffs to the 30-yard line and the Broncos will be looking to take advantage.
“This part of the game is going to be more of a premium because they have moved the kickoff spot back to the 30 yard line. Balls that were touchbacks last year are going to be balls that you come out and field this year,” Choate said. “We try to keep things as fundamental and simple as we can. The biggest thing we need out of our kick returns are guys that are fearless. We use the term Days of Thunder from the old Tom Cruise movie, you have to be able to put those blinders on and when the smoke clears you are coming through. We feel really good about the players we have back there. We probably have six guys that we are looking at right now and I think we could feel good going into a game with anyone of those six guys.”
Special teams should once again be a source of strength for the team with returning veterans and the newcomers the coaching staff has brought in to replace departed All-Western Athletic Conference selections Kyle Stringer and Anthony Montgomery.
Brad Elkin, 6’3”, 191 lbs., freshman punter, joins the Broncos out of Bellarmine Prep High School in Tacoma, Wash.
“He is the prototypical type of punter,” Choate said. “He has long levers, is a really good directional kicker and has excellent hang time. Brad has all the talent in the world. He is very capable of being an excellent punter for us and that is what our expectation is.”
Kyle Brotzman, 5’10”, 175 lbs., freshman kicker, redshirted for the Broncos during the 2006 season.
“He is super big legged and should be an advantage for us on kickoff with the ball being moved back five yards to the NFL distance,” Choate said. “He is a lot better at placement and hang time on kickoffs than we had last season. We are excited about his big leg and he has done a nice job on the long field goals in particular.”
Brock Jaramillo, 5’7”, 165 lbs., junior kicker, transferred to Boise State for the 2007 season after spending his previous two seasons kicking for Orange Coast Junior College.
“He has a very accurate leg,” Choate said. “We are looking for him to fill a void for us and provide depth on those short field goals and PATs.”
Tanyon Bissell, 5’10”, 194 lbs., junior holder, was an option quarterback in high school in Bozeman, Mont.
“Bissell is a very dynamic player,” Choate said. “Has been a good special teams player for us in other areas. He not only has good hands being a wide receiver, but also has the experience and maturity of a quarterback.”
Taylor Tharp, 6’2”, 203 lbs., senior holder, has been the back up holder on Broncos the previous two seasons.
“Tharp has been a holder for us a number of years,” Choate said. “He is very capable and it is always nice to have a quarterback back there that can manage the game situation.”
Ia Falo, 5’7”, 165 lbs., senior gunner, was named Boise State’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2006.
“Ia is a difficult match up because he has the time he devotes to film study,” Choate said. “He has a good game plan going in and he has covered so many kicks over the time he has been here that he has a big toolbox of moves to choose from in terms of ways to attack double teams at the line of scrimmage or what we call ambush technique.”
With all the talent and hard working players Boise State has on special teams, hopefully the fans will begin to view special teams as the third ingredient to winning a football game and not just a transition between offense and defense.