2014 Position Previews: Forwards
July 31, 2014
The position preview series wraps up with the front of the attack. Boise State’s forwards are its youngest position group but full of promise and varying, complementary strengths.
Despite the underclassman status, it is very experienced youth. Head coach Jim Thomas is optimistic that this season the Broncos will see the benefits of going through some growing pains last year.
“Last year we had a lot of very good individuals, but were young and picking up things on the fly,” Thomas said. “They were figuring out themselves and figuring out their opponents, game in and game out. You’re going to see a lot more synergy out there this year. The movements will complement one another more. Our play will be more related to small groups than to individual efforts, just because we will have a better understanding of each other.”
The forwards are led by sophomores Kayla Tucker and Baylee Blaser. Tucker, a redshirt sophomore, was second on the team with five goals last season. She connected on three assists for 13 points, also second on the squad. Blaser, from Meridian, Idaho, netted three goals as a reserve forward. She appeared in 20 matches with six starts and was named the team’s 2013 Rookie of the Year.
“Baylee has fantastic ability to drift by players,” said Thomas”. “Her open-field pace is devastating and she strikes the ball as well as anybody I’ve seen. She’ll play next to a kid like Kayla Tucker who’s far more technically oriented on the ball. Kayla likes to carry the ball and run at interesting angles which really works well next to a player like Baylee who’s a little bit more up and down. I think they’re a good complement together.”
The duo gives Boise State a two-headed scoring threat at the top of attack for the first time since Shannon Saxton and Erica Parks patrolled the opposition’s end of the field. Saxton and Parks combined for 35 points in 2009 and 30 in 2010, the last time the top two scoring Broncos were forwards.
Blaser and Tucker will not be asked to carry the load themselves, though. In addition to the offensive prowess available in the midfield with Brooke Heidemann and Shannon Schueren, a crop of young Broncos is ready to play their way into the mix. Thomas is also excited about the versatility some of the starters at other positions can provide.
“We have a lot of variety that we can put in next to, around or in replacement of the two lead strikers,” Thomas said of the depth.
Sophomore Kelli Drobney is also a returning starter at forward for the Broncos. Drobney saw action in all 23 games as a freshman and started 10 games, the most of any Bronco who rotated into the final starting position last season. She scored one goal with one assist and was able to put 10 of her 19 shots on target.
“Kelli Drobney is very good in central situations or in smaller, intricate combination play,” Thomas said.
Some of the depth also comes from the back line. KT Clayton, who began her career as a forward, was moved to defender last season. Clayton is expected to start in the defensive end again this season, but the coaching staff has not forgotten her ability to score. Kelly Jameson also provides the tools to move
“KT Clayton had a lot of success moving up to the forward position later in games last season,” Thomas said. “Her speed and assertiveness can really bring us an aggressive look up there.”
“Kelly Jameson has a massive amount of pace and when isolated or when a game gets stretched, she can be very dangerous in an attack,” Thomas said of the freshman who could earn playing time early on.
There is also a pair of freshmen ready to burst onto the scene. Dani Brown will look to be an immediate contributor much the way Drobney and Blaser were last season. Brown’s skills set and physical tools are unique for the Bronco forwards, though.
“We’ve got a young player in Dani Brown who offers us a strong target forward with a great ability to finish crosses and back-to-goal situations,” Thomas said of the 5-9 freshman out of Portland, Ore.
Andie Hill is a redshirt freshman after sitting out last season with a knee injury suffered in the spring.
“I think we’re all excited to see what Andie has to offer after 16 months of recovery from an ACL injury. None of us have seen her play a full match, so we’re excited to throw her in there.”
For the array of Boise State forwards back in the fold from 2013, it’s not just the year of game experience that will show this fall. The offseason is also going to pay dividends, especially the strength and conditioning program.
“They are a year further into the system, a year further into physical preparation,” Thomas said. “We will be able to explode more and last longer.”
The added seasoning in chemistry and skill, plus the work in the weight room will serve the team well for a season that Thomas and the Broncos hope extends even further than the 23-game slate they played last year before falling in the conference title game.
“When you get into the Mountain West and you see teams that are very motivated defensively, very physical in the way they play, you can’t expect to outrun them in a track meet or outmuscle them,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to show some intricacy and you have to want skill to win out in those battles.”
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