By Chadd Cripe
© 2010 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team returns nine offensive linemen with at least one career start — the benefit of playing the last two seasons with a young and often-rotated line.
The Broncos also have some promising young players who are ready to contend for serious playing time.
Add in injuries to three of last year’s primary starters — right guard Kevin Sapien (12 starts) retired and center Thomas Byrd (14 starts) and right tackle Garett Pendergast (11) will miss spring ball — and you have an intriguing spring on the offensive front.
Everyone expects intense competition.
“It should be (competitive) and it needs to be,” said Chris Strausser, who started coaching the offensive line this spring. “We’ve got some young guys we think have a lot of talent who can come in there and push a little bit.”
Here’s a quick look at the Broncos’ line situation:
Priorities — Fundamentals, creating depth at center, developing hard-nosed mentality.
Returning starters — Byrd, a junior, has started 26 games at center. Senior Will Lawrence started all 14 games at left guard last year. Pendergast started 11 games at right tackle. Junior Nate Potter started nine games at left tackle and was named to the All-WAC first team. The only starter who isn’t back is Sapien.
Other potential contributors — Junior Matt Slater (five starts at left tackle), sophomore Brenel Myers (one start at right guard, one at right tackle), sophomore Joe Kellogg (one start at right guard) and sophomore Michael Ames (two starts at right tackle) spent time in the starting lineup last year. Myers, who started at right tackle against TCU and held Jerry Hughes without a sack, likely will fit into the lineup somewhere. Meanwhile, sophomore Faraji Wright and freshman Charles Leno Jr. are getting most of the practice time at left tackle while Potter experiments at left guard.
Not practicing — Byrd, Pendergast and junior Cory Yriarte, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL and has reinjured his knee. Yriarte’s status for 2010 hasn’t been determined. He has three career starts.
Also on the roster — Junior tackle Zach Waller, freshman tackle/guard Jake Broyles, freshman guard/center Spencer Gerke, sophomore guard/center Bronson Durrant and freshman guard Matt Paradis.
We’ll have more on the offensive line in Tuesday’s newspaper.
Here’s my wide receivers preview.
Byrd is the only lineman who played center in high school. That didn’t used to be a problem, Strausser said, but the shotgun snaps are difficult for beginners. Look for the Broncos to recruit more centers in the future. Durrant, Kellogg and Gerke are playing center this spring. Pendergast also has experimented at center in the past.
“We don’t have a bunch of guys who are really natural at snapping the ball,” Strausser said. “They’ve got to get better at it.”
Sapien said that he had up to 10 stingers in a single day last year as he fought through pain to finish the season. The stingers would cause his arm to go numb for anywhere from seconds to minutes.
He also had problems the past two seasons with his shoulders popping out of joint. He had surgery on one and likely would have needed surgery on the other if he wanted to play this year.
He also has had three surgeries on his right knee over the years.
“Everything piled together is bad, but the nerves and spine kind of scared me,” he said.
What bothered Sapien more than the pain was how the injuries made him practice and play.
“I was hesitating, I guess, a bunch during the season on big contact plays,” he said.
I’ll have more on Sapien next week.
Quarterback Kellen Moore on his top priority for spring:
“It’s your mechanics, stepping into the ball, pocket presence — it’s little detail things where you review the season and see opportunities to get a little better.”
Here’s a storyI wrote earlier in the week on how Moore can get better.
Potter on move to guard:
“It’s a good thing for our depth. To become a well-rounded player, you have to learn other positions.”
It's a crazy day for the Oregon football program with two star players in court. Follow the news here.
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