Stuck in the "there's only basketball" doldrums? Have you been in a stupor ever since Peyton Manning hoisted the Super Bowl trophy above his oddly too-long torso? Do you know the URL of the Poinsettia Bowl youtube video by heart? Well, stow the Zoloft® (for now) because real, live football begins in earnest on Monday morning. Boise State's annual rite of spring begins at 8:25am Monday morn and culminates on April 11th...only stopping to rest (read: PARTY) for Spring Break. There are a host of spring storylines this year and questions to be raised (and maybe even answered!). Let's take a look at some, shall we?
Can the D-line be D-vine?
Boise State lost a Noah's ark-sized boatload of D-lineman to graduation after the Poinsettia Bowl and restocked the cupboard fairly well on signing day. However, the Broncos lost yet another D-lineman last week with the dismissal of soph tackle Dereck Boles and now it looks like the spring D-line may resemble Cobra Kai on Halloween—a skeleton crew. Let's look at what we're working with:
- Jabril Frazier (So.)
- Kaleb Hill (So.)
- Sam McCaskill (Sr.)
- Durrant Miles (So.)
- Austin Silsby (Jr.)
- Matt Locher (Fr.)
- David Moa (So.)
- Sawyer Shields (Fr.)
- Sam Whitney (Fr.)
- Elliot Hoyte (Sr.)
- Paul Semons (So.)
- Gabe Perez (Jr.)
Two seniors. Three walk-ons. Two guys with zero live game reps. Two guys (Semons and Hoyte) listed as DT. One guy (Perez) coming off a season-long injury. Egad. A mid-year enrollee would've been very nice in DefensivelineLand, but it is what it is. The spring 2016 D-line will have to do their best 2015 spring safeties impression and make lemonade.
We are going to be lacking some experience this fall, but the depth will be bolstered. I think as far as spring is concerned, the RS frosh (Locher and Whitney) will need to play some major roles. If Sam Whitney can carry over his gym performance to The Blue, I think we may see him become a big contributor. Same could be said of Locher although I have no idea what the state of his knee is at this point...anything above "held together with twine" and he's probably going to get some meaningful reps this month. Another thought: the Broncos may try to snag another 2016 DT signee before the April 1st signing cut-off. The NSD loss of Josh Fatu was unexpected and the loss of Boles was unfortunate. We need another guy that is game-ready like, yesterday.
Last season, Bronco fans got a fleeting glimpse of Brett Rypien in the spring—as he'd graduated early from Spokane's Shadle Park High School to take a run at the starting QB slot. Rypien didn't earn the start out of camp, but the experience he gained by enrolling early gave him a leg up (no pun intended) when Finley's ankle went kaput. Is there any mid-year enrollees this season that could improve their depth chart standing before their true frosh counterparts arrive this summer? Yeah...but probably just one.
Well, two if you count the addition of Auburn grad-transfer Will Adams...but of the 4 early signees—LB Tyson Maeva, OL Kole Bailey, WR Cedrick Wilson, and Adams...probably only the latter two will really factor in immediately. Maeva had a knee injury that may need some time to mend, aside from the fact that the LB corps is absolutely stacked at the moment. Bailey will be able to get a jump on schoolwork and flyfishing, but O-lineman playing as true frosh is an extremely rare occurrence. Wilson, according to coaches has already packed on 10 lbs since his arrival and has the long frame and skill set to be an immediate Ryp target. I think we'll see plenty of him this spring along with Adams, who is an absolute mountain of a man (6'7" 303 lbs).
OC/DC? Hells bells.
Remember when Boise State lost their OC AND DC in the time since the Poinsettia Bowl? A fun time was had by all and positively no one considered the sky to be falling. Well, we can't relive those halcyon days forever and it's time to move on to the Zak Hill (kinda) and Andy Avalos era. Hill didn't exactly get free reign of the offensive play-calling that currently sits just 3 heads short of a hydra. Hill and Scott Huff will be "co-OCs" while deferring to Junior Adams to coordinate the passing game and all 3 ceding in-game play calling to Bryan Harsin. We probably won't really see how this process looks until the fall, but spring will be the trial balloon and we're hoping it soars so high that the FAA has to get involved.
Avalos's transition should be a bit more smooth as he was the DC-in-waiting while Marcel Yates called the shots (except against triple option teams when a trained Capuchin was given the reins). The Broncos should still be sticking with the 4-2-5 defense this year, but Avalos is sure to introduce some new wrinkles and possibly a new attitude starting next week.
Sperbeck, Anderson, TBD
It's not the name of a law-firm...it's our WR unit and it's in pretty good hands. Sperbeck only set the single-season receiving yards record in 2015 and Anderson remained the "go long" guy. Sadly, Shane Williams-Rhodes has spun his last spin move as a Bronco and we'll be looking for a new playmaker to add to the receiving repertoire. Spring camp seems like as good a time as any to start penciling one in. There are a host of guys that could be a reliable target aside from the aforementioned duo—Sean Modster, Akilian Butler, Austin Cottrell, Bryan Jefferson, Cedrick Wilson. The list goes on, fortunately, as Sperbeck and Anderson will also need backing up...so expect the Broncos to have fresh receivin' legs (and hands) from spring camp on. Like I said before, I think Cedrick Wilson is one to watch during spring camp. He was a JC All-American and is fast and rangy. The Broncos will add some talented WRs in the fall as well, so Rypien will be in WR Valhalla come September, but for now, he's in a mighty good place as well, he just needs a few guys to step up.
Boise State went a long way to dispel rumors of their demise by taking the boot to NIU in the Poinsettia Bowl, but we can't forget that at times last season, all was not well in Broncoland. The talent was there, the execution and attitude were not. Boise State lost TWO home games in consecutive weeks and did not look like the class of the conference for the first time in forever. I have no doubt the Broncos had the personnel for another title run in 2015, but something was amiss. Was it attitude or was Harsin's squad replaced by seemingly identical pod people? The world may never know, but this spring should be a good time to set a new tone, or at least purge those pesky pod people before they take over downtown Boise.
What are some of your biggest questions heading into fall camp? Let's chit chat because football is almost back for a limited time!