What happened at Boise State's first scrimmage of the spring? Well, let me tell you in exhaustive detail.
Thanks to friends in high places, I got to drop in on the Broncos' scrimmage this afternoon, and I have the skinny on position battles, players of interest, and more. What is Chris Potter up to? How does the kicking game look? Did anyone dare block Billy Winn? Answers and a whole lot more after the jump.
Many thanks to a long-time reader and longer-time Bronco fan for letting me be his plus-one to the scrimmage this afternoon. And many thanks to OBNUG reader hatemay for letting me bogart his recap format (not that I asked).
Kellen Moore's afternoon could be summarized neatly with one play. On a 3rd down during his first series, Moore lofted a perfect spiral 30 yards downfield into the shirt pocket of Chris Potter. Moore launched the pass just as Potter turned upfield on his wheel route, and the rainbow pea hit Potter right in stride. How great was the throw? Great enough that Potter neglected to get a foot inbounds, and the referees ruled it incomplete - much to the delight of defense fan and former Bronco corner Brandyn Thompson.
Moore was money all afternoon, mostly working checkdowns and safe throws and slipping by the pass rush. Next to his Potter pass and a TD throw to Geraldo Hiwat, Moore's most notable play was an option run where he kept the ball and scooted for 10 yards, helped mostly be the fact he was wearing a red jersey and no one was allowed to touch him.
Joe Southwick had himself an up-and-down day, throwing a touchdown to go with a pair of picks - one on a desperate fourth down forced pass picked by Matt Wilson and another on a late throw on a post pattern that safety Hazen Moss nabbed. Conviction was not Southwick's weakness, but accuracy sure was. He threw with zip and abandon, but he sprayed way too many balls in way too many directions.
Southwick spent the day with the twos, and redshirt freshman Grant Hedrick took the threes. Statistically, Hedrick probably had the better day, but much of it was spent making one or two quick reads and then taking off out of the pocket. His legs work, so no worries there. He and Southwick both ran the option well - a similar look to what the Broncos showed with Southwick and Michael Coughlin last year.
Hedrick sidenote: His running got so out of control that Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins began openly lobbying Antwan Murray to just hit him the next time he took off.
Raphiel Lambert got some oohs and aahs on the scrimmage's first series, as he shook a defender with a side juke on one play and rumbled down the field for a big gain. Lambert definitely fits the Jarvis Hodge mold, if someone sat on the Jarvis Hodge mold and squished it a little. Best of all, Lambert's notorious slow speed was gone, replaced with a burst that could make him a viable garbage timer this fall. Color me impressed.
Carlo Audagnotti made a couple of memorable moves, mostly against backups of backups. Drew Wright spent the afternoon with the first team and was swallowed whole by the defensive line on most carries.
Geraldo Hiwat received the lion's share of targets with the first-team offense, and he made good on most of them, working over the middle on in cuts and slants and using his big frame well to shield defenders. Hiwat is a wide, skinny body and works well in space, perhaps no better than on his touchdown grab where he twisted and squirmed over the goalline after the catch.
Hiwat was joined on the first team by Tyler Shoemaker (almost invisible save for one catch late in the scrimmage) and Chris Potter (yes, that Chris Potter). Playing in the slot, Potter was in on a lot of plays and had his fair share of balls thrown his way, almost exclusively on quick outs that gained zero to five yards.
Behind the starters, Aaron Burks played well early, picking up some good yards on the wide receiver screens that Titus Young used to run. Troy Ware had a drive all to himself when almost every ball went his way. The grayshirt freshman is all skin and bones and raw talent, and he made a nice catch on a fade route in red zone drills.
Holden Huff caught a touchdown pass from Grant Hedrick, but his best play of the day happened earlier on the drive when Huff ran down the seam and snagged a Grant Hedrick pass that caught him by surprise. It was odd seeing a tight end wearing No. 85 who was as long and lanky as Huff.
Not much to report on Kyle Efaw and Gabe Linehan except that Linehan has a new tattoo.
Both Jake Broyles and Charles Leno had their hands full with the starting defensive line, but they held their own for the most part, especially in the passing game. Moore was flushed from the pocket multiple times, but there was never any pure pressure, despite heavy nickel blitzing and a mix of the 3-3-5. The left side of the offensive line (with Joe Kellogg and Nate Potter) is definitely the line's strength, both from a talent standpoint and a size standpoint. Potter and Kellogg are a good David-Augusto-sized-person bigger than Broyles and Leno.
Thomas Byrd took the afternoon off, so that left starting center duties to former defensive lineman Matt Paradis.
Watching a Boise State scrimmage, you can't help but notice Billy Winn. He appears to have taken over the role that Derrell Acrey held as the energy of the defense. At various times, Winn could be seen egging on the offense, encouraging the backup D-line, and yelling things at Kellen Moore. Also, Winn's really good. On one play, he stood up Jake Broyles and tossed him aside to tackle Drew Wright in the backfield. It was cake. Winn also batted a couple passes and blocked a field goal with his face mask.
Michael Atkinson played up with the starters as Chase Baker sat out. That would put Atkinson as the third defensive tackle, which is about where he was when he was suspended last season. Defensive ends Tyrone Crawford (simply enormous and, along with Winn, the most imposing figure on the defense), Jarrell Root (sans afro), and Nick Alexander all made plays in the backfield.
For what it's worth, the starting linebackers were J.C. Percy and Tommy Smith, which probably means very little since Byron Hout and Aaron Tevis were sidelined. The most entertaining play from the linebackers came from Matt Wilson who picked a Joe Southwick pass and then proceeded with the world's slowest interception return, ultimately ending in a fumble. Exhibit A for why spring scrimmages need to be televised.
Hunter White and Dextrell Simmons swapped spots with the ones and twos, but it appeared that White saw more of the playing time. I was impressed by the physical appearance of both. White is definitely a step faster than he used to be, and he was coming on the blitz it seemed like every other play. I noticed the defensive players joking before the snap about White giving away his blitz with a terribly ineffective bluff.
Simmons looks exactly how you would want a nickel to look - stocky, bulky, and out to get someone. He didn't have much chance to make plays, so I'll look forward to seeing more from him at the spring game in April.
Perhaps the highlight of the scrimmage for me was the play of Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. Taylor and Gavins were the top two corners and made a handful of nice plays throughout the afternoon. Taylor's coverage on the outside was tight on everyone. He broke up multiple passes. Gavins, without his signature dreadlocks, appeared more confident and sure than last year as he dropped in coverage and came up to support the run.
Some reports about the scrimmage have the offense winning handily, which is partly a product of second- and third-team points. From my perspective, Taylor and Gavins played well, so don't take the offensive explosion as an indictment on the starting corners.
Travis Stanaway started alongside George Iloka on the first team, which may surprise some people (like me). He made a couple good plays in coverage, batting a pass down, but his size left him vulnerable at other times. He and Iloka didn't have much to do since the Bronco offense rarely called for the deep ball. There was no Jeremy Ioane at the scrimmage, so we'll have to see where he fits at the spring game.
Ah, the kicking game. Dan Goodale, Jacob Hauter, Mike Frisina, and Jimmy Pavel probably mean well, but I will definitely sleep better once incoming freshman Jake Van Ginkel is in town. The kicking carousel made some and missed some and then really missed some, like the several that clanged off linemen. At the end of the scrimmage, the group redeemed themselves somewhat with three-in-a-row makes from 52 yards out.
For punting, Brad Elkin and Trevor Harman got a couple good boots off, but some of the others were sketchy. I believe one shanked off the back of a blocker, which is not good unless you are putting together a trick punting video, which I would totally watch, by the way.
Chris Potter was the main return man on punts ... Kickoff practice didn't happen while I was around, so we'll have to get our kick return answers at the spring game ... A whole bunch of former players were in attendance, like Winston Venable, Brandyn Thompson, Jeron Johnson, Austin Pettis, and Ryan Winterswyk ...
What surprised you from the Boise State scrimmage report? Excited to see what Chris Potter can do for the offense? Worried about the kicking game? Stoked about the defensive line? Share your thoughts in the comments.