The Boise State football team began spring practice yesterday morning with a roster full of new faces and a coaching staff full of new faces. The new guys may be the lucky ones; expectations are tempered at this point in their careers...but a few guys we're all familiar with probably need to start making some waves as early as yesterday to steer their 2012 (and possibly careers) in the right direction. Below, I've listed five that would probably do well to...well, do well.
Jeremy Ioane - Yesterday, Kevan placed Ioane firmly at the top of his "players with the most to gain" list. I'm putting Ioane at the top of my list for many of the same reasons. Ioane's hype-machine was in overdrive during his redshirt year and stalled out last year when he was stuck on the SS depth chart behind two seniors and failed to make much of an impact in his one start against Georgia. With the upperclassmen cleared out, Ioane is the most experienced safety on the roster, so if he can't build some starter momentum this spring and fall, who knows what the future holds. Remember...Jeron Johnson merely split time with Jason Robinson as a freshman at the strong safety position, so don't give up on Ioane—but the mental aspect of his game has to catch up to the physical aspect this year or a younger player could slip ahead of him on the depth chart.
Grant Hedrick - All of the quarterbacks on the BSU roster have a lot to gain this offseason, but I put Hedrick at the top of my list mainly because a Hedrick-clone is now on campus in the person of Nick Patti. Hedrick played well last season as the speed option QB, but he was slowed by a knee injury and Patti could fulfill that role as early as this year if Hedrick has regressed at all. Every QB wants to be the starter, but the two true run-threats have a good chance to play regardless of whom the starter is. If Patti is better than Hedrick—he'll play. Hence, Hedrick must be dialed in from the get-go this spring or he can quickly lose the ground he's built as the option (or dare I say "pistol") QB on the roster.
Jay Ajayi - Ajayi is another much-hyped recruit who we've yet to see on the blue and that'd be just fine except for the fact that another much-hyped recruit is joining the team in July. Ajayi was on the traveling squad for much of the 2011 season as a "just in case" back, but after a knee injury and being left home from the bowl game for breaking team rules (we're usually left guessing just what "rules", but in this case...well) Ajayi's "running start" over Jack Fields or even Devan Demas could be all but negated without a solid spring/fall. Jay isn't going to be "live" till fall camp, as it is, but consider spring to be a chance for him to get back in the coaches good graces.
Geraldo Boldewijn - Boldewijn might have been the most anticipated wideout of 2011 and seemed to bear all the hallmarks of the guy who could receive not just a lot of passes, but Titus Young's mantle. Then a suspension happened...and Matt Miller happened...and Tyler Shoemaker happened...and the list goes on. Needless to say, Boldewijn didn't have the year many had envisioned for him and a few rather wooden performances in the pass-catching department didn't help matters. Now, with another proven burner on the roster in Dallas Burroughs and a sure-handed receiver of similar size in Troy Ware coming off a redshirt—Boldewijn needs to ingratiate himself this spring and improve throughout the offseason if he doesn't want to get left behind.
Jake Van Ginkel - This one's a no-brainer. Van Ginkel, a scholarship place kicker, was beaten in camp by a walk-on and forced to redshirt. This isn't the best of news since said walk-on had struggles of his own that you might have noticed last season. Van Ginkel has to be rock-solid this spring and fall or he's going to be stuck behind a sophomore and, possibly, a true freshman (Sean Wale) by the time the season starts. Not a good place to be if your competition has virtually the same amount of eligibility remaining.
What players do you think have the most to lose in spring practice? Could you feasibly put this tag on anyone that doesn't perform well in camp?