Previewing the Boise State offense on the eve of fall camp

By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman

The Boise State football team opens fall camp Thursday at Dona Larsen Park. Here is a preview of the offense.

I previewed the defense on Tuesday.

Key issue: NFL Draft picks Titus Young and Austin Pettis combined for 142 catches, 2,166 yards and 19 touchdowns receiving last year. That’s 53 percent of the team’s catches, 57 percent of the receiving yards and 53 percent of the TD catches. That production must be replaced, and it likely will be done by committee. Receivers like Geraldo Boldewijn, Kirby Moore and Chris Potter are going to have to step up this fall to join proven threats Tyler Shoemaker and Kyle Efaw (tight end) as targets for Kellen Moore.

Returning starters (6): LT Nate Potter, LG Joe Kellogg, C Thomas Byrd, QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin, FB Dan Paul.

Position to watch: Besides wide receiver, the Broncos have some uncertainty on the offensive line. The right side must be rebuilt, with sophomore Charles Leno as the likely tackle and sophomore Jake Broyles and senior Chuck Hayes competing at guard. Center Thomas Byrd didn’t participate in contact in the spring, so this is the line’s chance to form chemistry.

Filling the depth chart: The Broncos couldn’t ask for a better tailback tandem than Martin and D.J. Harper, who is healthy again after his second straight torn ACL. They’re both fast, tough runners who have proven repeatedly that they can provide the big play in addition to moving the chains. The question is who will fill the No. 3 tailback spot — and that’s important considering the team’s recent track record of injured tailbacks. Freshman Jay Ajayi is an intriguing prospect, but he’ll have to beat out junior Drew Wright of Vallivue High. Also unresolved is the backup quarterback situation — sophomore Joe Southwick and freshman Grant Hedrick will compete through camp.

Spring climber: Boldewijn, who changed his name during the offseason from Hiwat, was terrific in the spring scrimmages. If he can consistently catch the ball, he’ll be a nightmare for defenses because he has the size of Pettis and the speed of Young.

Breakout star: His name is well known but his talents are not. Harper averaged 7.2 yards per carry in six games over the past two seasons before each season ended with a knee injury. If he stays healthy this year, and he’s confident he will, he could put up some big numbers as a complement to Martin.

Fall climber: Sophomore tight end Gabe Linehan could be part of the solution to the loss of receiving production. He’s a terrific athlete who keeps getting better as he makes the transition from high school quarterback to college tight end — and this camp could be his breakout time.

Welcome back: Byrd, Harper, wide receiver Mitch Burroughs and wide receiver Matt Miller are among the offensive players who were limited or absent during spring ball.

Notable: The Broncos averaged 8.7 yards per play last year when Moore threw the ball or Martin carried it. The duo combined for 5,073 yards of total offense — or 390.2 yards per game. That would have ranked 49th in the nation by itself. The Broncos were second as a team at 521.3 yards per game. By comparison, Oregon’s LaMichael James and Darron Thomas averaged 7.0 yards per play last year.