With all-conference center Matt Paradis returning for his senior season and two other well-regarded seniors holding down the left guard and tackle positions (Spencer Gerke and Charles Leno), the Broncos appear to be well-stocked on the O-line. Rees Odhiambo and Marcus Henry lead the youth movement and should get plenty of playing time this year and Jake Broyles, when healthy, can be one of our nastiest blockers. So, why the minus? All-around production, really. The O-line is consistently a strength of the offense and keeps our QBs grass-stain free...but the run-blocking hasn't been dominant—and it should be. Find their run blocking and this could be an A+ caliber lineup for the Broncos.
Southwick is no Kellen Moore. We know that and savvy grocery store patrons apparently know that. However, Southwick did gain a firmer control of the offense as the season wore on and looked like the man in Spring ball. On Southwick's game alone, I'd give the unit a solid B...but I have to flirt with a C because no true backup has really emerged. Grant Hedrick will likely remain the #2 into Fall unless Patti or Laughrea can find some mojo and outside of Hedrick's running ability, I'm not sure who else I'd feel comfortable with under center besides Southwick at this point in time. What a difference a year makes, huh?
It's too early to tell if, top to bottom, this is the best unit of RBs we've ever had...but it definitely looks different than stables of the past. The main reason: size, and lots of it. Jay Ajayi had to lose a significant amount of weight to get down to his Spring running weight of 212 and the Broncos have 2 other backs (Derrick Thomas and Jack Fields) that are in the 200 lb. range as well. So, we've got our up-the-gut runners well stocked—but added a dash of lightning last year with Devan Demas—not a typical "every down" back, but a great change-of-pace back in the mold of Jeremy Avery. When your most experienced back is a sophomore, it's hard to get above a B+...but this group could be special—and an A grade is well within their collective capabilities.
Injury, attrition, and a new QB are just some of the reasons why 2012 wasn't a banner year for the Bronco tight-end unit. The tools are there for the Broncos to return to form in 2013—it's just a matter of execution. Gabe Linehan should be back for a strong senior season and Holden Huff came on late last year to become a major receiving threat. JC-transfer Connor Peters was a dangerous blocker and Kyle Sosnowski may make a mark if he can get healthy. All-in-all, the Broncos have a talented TE pool to draw from...as long as the pool isn't drained again.
This isn't a bad grade, really...but it pains me to dole this one out because this unit could so easily be an A or higher. We have two tall, speedy receivers in Geraldo Boldewijn and Aaron Burks who have yet to meet their full potential. This is their last season with the Broncos, so let's hope that everything clicks (and that Boldewijn can stay out of NCAA trouble). Dallas Burroughs is another deep threat speedster who all but disappeared last season and Troy Ware might as well be the invisible man with as little noise as he makes in season (worth noting that Ware always draws rave reviews in camp, however). Kirby Moore has been under-utilized but is a sure-handed possession receiver and Shane Williams-Rhodes is as dangerous as any man on the field, if they decide to open up the playbook for him. Matt Miller, is of course, the cream of the receiver crop—and maybe the only one that I'd affix a personal "A" to. 3 or 4 others can gain top marks in 2013 as well if they so choose. Southwick has to get them the ball, though—something I hope he does early and often (preferably deep downfield).