The Broncos wasted no time making waves in spring practice. The first day of practice saw the loss of a senior leader, the re-shuffling of an entire position grouping, and more than a fair share of player movement. Read after the jump to find out what happened and to discuss what it might mean when the team takes the field for real on Labor Day.
How will the Broncos overcome the loss of Jason Robinson? What is Nate Potter doing at guard? Let's talk.
Story of the day
Jason Robinson suspended indefinitely
Dut to an unspecified violation of team rules, backup nickelback Jason Robinson is gone until further notice. What a wild ride of a career it has been for Robinson, going from a starting safety his redshirt freshman season to this. Here's hoping the book is not completely written on Robinson just yet.
What does Boise State do to replace Robinson? The team was scary thin at nickelback before the reallocation of LB Hunter White to the position. No doubt White's role on defense will increase substantially as the only listed backup to Winston Venable. For that matter, Venable should expect to stay on the field a lot more as Robinson and he split time last season.
What Bronco coaches will need to find out over the course of spring practice is whether or not White can adequately step in at nickelback to spell Venable or - and this may be preferred - to replace him on third downs. Robinson got a lot of third down duty last year, thanks in large part to his cover skills as a former safety. As a former linebacker, White's cover skills are understandably heavy-handed. We may have to wait and see what White becomes during the spring before the Broncos have a clear answer about what to do behind Venable.
If White is not the man, where might the Broncos turn? Many readers think Jeremy Ioane is a natural fit at this position, although his true freshman size and experience may keep him off the field this year. Boise State has plenty of other players with the skills to handle parts of the nickelbacker job (Cedric Febis, Jonathan Brown, Quaylon Ewing). Any idea who is No. 3 on the depth chart at this point?
Note: Many thanks to OBNUG readers ty_ol and the OBNUG Intern for posting links to this story.
Position group of the day
Boise State debuts new starting offensive line
Reading from right tackle to left tackle, here is the lineup that the Broncos trotted out on the first day of drills:
- RT Brenel Myers
- RG Will Lawrence
- C Bronson Durrant
- LG Nate Potter
- LT Faraji Wright
For those of you keeping track at home, that is five players who spent a combined zero regular season games in 2009 starting at the positions they were in on Monday. Myers was a backup guard during the season before getting the start at RT in the Fiesta. Lawrence spent 2009 at left guard. Durrant backed up Thomas Byrd (who is sitting out spring with an injury) and comically so in the Hawaii Bad-Snapalooza. Nate Potter was a left tackle until yesterday. And Faraji Wright has yet to start a game.
Crazy, right? I can only imagine what today's starting offensive line will look like: Michael Atkinson, Brad Elkin, that one beefy ball boy who is always at Bronco home games, Nate Potter, and Dustin Lapray?
Seriously though, those Bronco coaches were not kidding when they said they weren't afraid to shake things up. What is the biggest surprise for you? Mine is Nate Potter. Already this offseason, we have discussed that Potter is the Broncos' next great NFL prospect, potentially as great as Ryan Clady and at least first round material in the very, very early previews of the 2012 draft. Moving to guard doesn't change that. However, you would think that an NFL-caliber left tackle is a player you would want to leave at left tackle. How many college teams can get away with moving a player like that and having talented-enough players to replace him?
The starting offensive line is certain to change throughout spring camp and probably throughout fall camp and very likely throughout the 2010 season. If the first day of spring is any indication, it is going to be a wild ride.
Leading candidates for punt returner: Titus Young, Jerrell Gavins, and Ebenezer Makinde
No surprises seeing Young and Gavins on this list. Makinde is a little unexpected if only because he was a redshirt last year and he is somewhat of a mystery. I know that both Young and Gavins are fast (and I would assume Makinde is, too), so the job may come down to who has better ball possession on fielding punts.
Safety Tyler Jackson was practicing with the wide receivers.
This one strikes me as odd, especially with the new opening at backup-backup nickelbacker. Rumor has it that Jackson just wants to see the field, and there is indeed some room for movement in the WR corps. I'll be curious if this move sticks or not.
Cornerback Raphiel Lambert was practicing with the running backs.
Lambert was a high school phenom at RB in Portland, but he was moved to corner almost immediately upon his arrival in Boise. The Broncos are stacked at running back (and cornerback, for that matter), so I would be interested to know if the move is to give some spring practice depth at the position with Harper and Kaiserman out or if the move is permanent.
Titus Young is the new official No. 1 on the team's numerical roster.
Worst kept secret ever.
Chris Potter is good at catching passes.
Two of the three news sources that cover the Broncos singled out Potter's receiving skills on Monday. Potter has a tenuous hold on the backup receiver spot, so good reports like this might mean he will keep it.
There are three new walk-ons who have joined the team: WR Derek Hill, DL David Cushing, and K/P Nick Vlad.
Of the three, Vlad may be the most intriguing as he is coming to the team as a former Australian Rules Football player. Plus, I now have an excuse to post Outback Steakhouse commercials.
Dustin Lapray quote of the day
From his spring practice report:
If this team desires to fulfill the expectations of fanatics and theoreticians, it must improve (through leaps and bounds, blocks and bombs). It sounds demanding to beg perfection for a football team, but that’s old hat for this team.
Runner-up: Lapray's blog post title: "Springtime with the Broncos."
What do you make of Jason Robinson's suspension? How will the team replace him? Are you excited about this new-look offensive line? Any spring news catch you by surprise already? Share your thoughts in the comments.