So the 2012 season is over. You know what that means? Start talking about next year, Because football fans have no patience!
So, I'll talk about some things you might look forward to. There will be a few things that might worry you, but I'll provide comfort!
Looking forward to:
Tight ends. In the off season, it looked like a strong position. But, they combined for 21 catches all year. I love tight ends (in a football sense, not literally), so of course I was frustrated a little. But, I did like how Holden Huff played great down the stretch. What has me excited is if he can improve in the off season as well as he did mid-season (which he should), he could become another great tight end. Another exciting thing is the thought of a healthy Gabe Linehan (I think it was injury, if not let me know and please don't make fun of my lack of knowledge). Having 1 good receiving tight end is a big advantage, and having 2 is almost as awesome as a kamikazi watermelon.
Joe Southwick. Like Huff, Southwick played great towards the end of the season. He should also improve quite a bit in the next 8 months. If it was a true 4 way battle to replace Kellen Moore, then you figure Southwick was taking 25% of the first team reps in spring and fall camp. This time, as a returning starter, he should get at least 75% of the 1st team reps, resulting in another great Boise quarterback. He also seemed to develop a type of coolness, reminding me of another quarterback named Joe, who was also number 16. What was his last name? I think it was a state. Joe Wyoming? Joe Utah? Joe California? That sounds right.
Wait a minute, during Southwick's hot streak, he's been throwing more to a tight end, right? Not to be a told-you-so guy, but I think I've said a couple times this year that's what they need to do.
Defensive Linemen's Names. The linemen that are returning and the ones that are coming in have awesome names, including Taimatuia, Tutulupeatau Mataele, Kamalei Corrrea, Ukwuachu, Tjong-A-Tjoe, and Nance.
I'll go ahead and talk about the line, too. Pretty much everyone who played was great, highlighted by Demarcus Lawrence. Defensive Tackle will have some inexperience, but incoming JUCO transfer Justin Taimatuia was good enough to attract offers from Texas A&M and Texas Tech, and Deuce Mataele's highlights have me feeling giddy.
Safties. The safeties were a big reason Boise had one of the best secondaries in all of college football, giving up an FBS low 4 passing touchdowns (only 1 was in the first half of a game, which came off a halfback pass). I thought Jeremy Ione had a great year, finishing with 70 tackles, 3 interceptions (both 2nd on the team), and some cool hits. Lee Hightower played great before his suspension, and Darian Thompson filled in nicely.
Wide Receiver. While Mitch Burroughs and Chris Potter are leaving, so much talent is returning. Mat Miller, Kirby Moore, and Geraldo Boldewyn are all big-bodied, physical receivers. Dallas Burroughs and Aaron Burks are speedy deep threats. Shane Williams-Rhodes is quicker than a cheetah high on caffeine. Troy Ware had some preseason hype, including the coaches crediting him with the best hands on the team. I'm assuming he didn't play much because Boise had 27 other receivers they also wanted to put in.
Overall Youth. The team had plenty of underclassmen contribute this year, most notably on defense. In fact, the only expected senior to start on defense next year is Tjong-A-Tjoe. As young as they were, Boise still had some defensive stars. Plus, the defense carried the team much of the way to a 11-2 record, something hardly anyone predicted. Sportsratings.com said the defense would "drop well out of the top 25". Well sportsratings, Boise was top 10 in points allowed! Take THAT to the bank!
Areas of Concern: (I'm defining concern as lacking experience, not exactly an actual problem)
Offensive Line. The line had another fantastic year of pass-protection, staying in the top 10 for fewest sacks allowed for the 5th straight year. But, the run blocking was up and down. On top of that, 3 starters are leaving. But fear not! Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo (another awesome name!) also received offseason praise from the line coaches, and could be the replacements at guard and tackle. There's a number of other lineman who could fill in, such as Spencer Gerke and Jake Broyles (when healthy). Matt Paradis returns at center, which is probably the most important spot on an offensive line (because they make all of the line calls).
Corner. Jamar Taylor and Jarrel Gavins were both fantastic this year, but sadly will move on. Douglas Bryan was doing well before his injury, and should be starting. Hey, recent history suggest knee injuries aren't that bad. Just look at DJ Harper and Adrian Peterson!
The battle for the number 2 spot will be interesting. Donte Deayon, Deon'tae Florence, and incoming player Mercy Maston look to be the front runners. If they have to, the coaches as a last resort could move Hightower back to corner and start Thompson at safety. So corner should be good.
Linebacker. More about depth. Renaud will be the starter, and Tyler Gray looks to be at the other spot. Personally, I was excited about the linebackers recruited last year, Ben Weaver and Andrew Pint, who had good high school careers. This position will be the most interesting to see, just because there are questions about the depth.
Run Defense. The only thing this defense had problems with was stopping the run. 4 teams ran for over 200 yards against Boise, and 6 had over 150 rushing yards. Loosing both starting linebackers and some defensive tackles doesn't help either. But, you can't really make a game plan on stopping the run, it's about shedding tackles and filling holes, which gets easier with experience. I said earlier that the defense is young, so with time they'll get better. Hopefully 8 months between now and August is all they need. The defensive line is already great, so getting better versus the run shouldn't be a problem.
Obviously, there are more things to look forward to, but I just wanted to point these out. I would put kicking game as a concern, but we're all tired of talking about that. Anything you are looking forward to, like seeing if Mataele is as unblockable as his highlights suggest?
And thanks for all of your comments and for reading my stuff this season! Whenever I see new comments, I get excited and it's like Chuck Norris is giving me a pat on the back!