By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team is solidly two deep at the two linebacker positions going into the 2011 season.
After that, there is nothing but question marks.
Senior Aaron Tevis and junior J.C. Percy enter their third season sharing the weak-side linebacker job. Senior Byron Hout is the returning starter at middle linebacker and junior Tommy Smith emerged in spring ball as a solid second option.
“Our top four linebackers are good players and those guys are ready to go,” linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “… They’re very smart, experienced players.”
The rest of the linebacker group is stacked with inexperience and walk-ons: senior Matt Wilson, sophomore Dustin Kamper, redshirt freshman Travis Saxton and true freshmen Dillon Lukehart, Blake Renaud and Mitchell McCarthy.
The Broncos don’t have a scholarship linebacker in the sophomore or redshirt freshman classes.
That means Renaud and Lukehart have a chance to compete for the No. 5 spot. Gregory says he needs four or five game-ready linebackers going into the season.
“You probably would like to have six, but if everybody is healthy, we’re probably OK with less than that,” he said.
Renaud, who is from Concord, Calif., arrived at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds. That makes him the second-heaviest linebacker on the team already, behind Hout (6-0, 240).
“He’s a big-boned guy,” Gregory said of Renaud. “I don’t think he’s a guy who’s going to lose a ton of weight. He’s going to be a big inside linebacker for us.”
I had a feature on Hout in today’s newspaper.
The Broncos practiced in full pads and as a full squad for the first time Monday. That meant reps were spread thin, and it was difficult to pick out anyone who stood out. But safety Quaylon Ewing-Burton had a pick six and tailback D.J. Harper turned a short pass into a 40-yard touchdown.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen met with the media Monday. Here are some highlights (audio available here):
— On practice: “(The players) have worked hard. It’s been good to be out there with them, that’s for sure. We’ve got a lot of guys that have practiced with us for a long time. They kind of know the tone and the tempo. We’re working hard to get some of the newer guys up to the same speed.”
— On the team: “They’ve kind of got a workmanlike attitude — it’s not a huge rah-rah crew. They just go to work and focus.”
— On the competition on the offensive line: “We’ve got about eight to 10 guys in there that are very close and competing for time.”
— On Kellen Moore: “Kellen’s going to have to be at the very best that he’s played because we do have some new receivers around him. … We need those pinpoint passes. He has to put the ball on their numbers to make it easier on those guys. Those are the subtle things Kellen can do and needs to do.”
— On the offense struggling at times: “It’s a little bit of a two-pronged weapon that (defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski) throws at them. One, they’ve got some pretty good players lined up there and two, the schemes continually change.”
— On strong safety: “Cedric (Febis) is a guy, he’s been here for five years plus. He knows the defense and I think it’s a great time for him to really make the most of his opportunity. We’ve seen him make some really nice plays throughout his career. What he needs to do is take the next step and be a really consistent player.”
— On running back Malcolm Johnson: “We liked Malcolm all along. He’s an explosive athlete who can probably play multiple positions. That’s what I think about Doug Martin and D.J. Harper. Malcolm Johnson fits right into that mold. … We were happy he was able to come back.”
— On backup quarterbacks: “Joe (Southwick) has been around longer than Grant (Hedrick) and probably has the edge. … Grant is rapidly improving. It’s an interesting battle right now.”
— On wide receivers: “There’s some guys right now if you have to list a depth chart would be on the lower end and it would look much different in three to four weeks. I’m anxious to watch that as much as I think a lot of people are, the progression of that crew.”
— On WR Matt Miller: “Matt’s going to be a good player. He’s another guy we’re really excited about. He’s really only been at it a week. He didn’t get spring ball. He’s done a nice job getting himself up to speed. I think if you asked him, I don’t think he’d say he’s even 100 percent. He’s still building strength in his leg. In three weeks or so he’s going to take another step and we’re going to feel pretty comfortable with him.”
— On TE Gabe Linehan: “Rapidly climbing.”
I’ll have a story in Tuesday’s paper on the return of defensive tackle Mike Atkinson, who was suspended for most of last year.
“Mike is a good person with a good heart and he’s just got to make good decisions,” Petersen said. “And if he does that, he’s got a very bright future.”