By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team already has used 10 offensive linemen with the first team this season.
Some backups played by design — but nearly all have been called upon to replace an injured starter, too.
Left tackle: Nate Potter
Left guard: Joe Kellogg, Spencer Gerke (injury replacement vs. Georgia, started vs. Toledo)
Center: Thomas Byrd, Matt Paradis (played in first two games, started vs. Tulsa), Cory Yriarte (injury replacement vs. Tulsa)
Right guard: Jake Broyles, Chuck Hayes (played vs. Toledo, injury replacement vs. Tulsa)
Right tackle: Charles Leno Jr., Michael Ames (played vs. Toledo)
“It’s a nice situation for us to have, but it’s certainly not ideal,” coach Chris Petersen said of the line depth. “We’d like to get (10) kids in kind of on our terms, not really having our hand forced like it’s been.”
Petersen and offensive line coach Chris Strausser have floated the idea over the years of subbing an entire second-team line into the game for a drive, part of the job-sharing that is rampant on the team. They might have enough depth to do that this year but not enough health.
Petersen didn’t provide injury updates this week. Broyles and Paradis came out of last week’s game with injuries.
“We’re glad that we’ve got a pool of guys that we think are good players that we can win with,” Petersen said.
It would be easy to blame the turnover for the Broncos’ unproductive run game — a 3.4-yards-per-carry average — but the linemen aren’t making excuses.
“I don’t think it’s holding us back,” Potter said. “We have depth and we have guys that have played a lot.”
The biggest change is the loss of Byrd, who had started 36 straight games until last week. He is considered week to week and Petersen’s comments about him needing “rest” didn’t make it sound like he’ll return in the near future.
“He’s one of our big leaders,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg has prepared for an emergency role at center because of Byrd’s injury. He competed with Byrd in fall camp last year but hasn’t played the position in a game.
“If my number is called, I’ll go out there and do my best,” he said. “… The only thing different really is snapping the ball.”
Speaking of the run game, the players made it clear this week that they need to improve their play in that area.
“It’s multiple things, but just finishing blocks — we need to do that,” Potter said. “We’ve got great running backs. We’ve just got to finish blocks, focus on the details a little more and get those guys loose.”
Kellogg says many of the plays have been agonizingly close to big gains. Last week, tailback Doug Martin had a 33-yard TD run, and another long run was called back by penalty.
“I feel like each play it’s like one block from springing it,” Kellogg said. “It’s kind of frustrating because we’re so close.”
Senior tight end Kyle Efaw said the tight ends also need to perform better. The group is missing its best blocker, fullback Dan Paul, and just got back Chandler Koch, another capable blocker.
“We need to step it up,” Efaw said. “In years past, as a group, we’ve been very good at run-blocking and helping out. We have some guys down so we’re kind of short at tight end right now. Hopefully, we can keep getting better.”
Martin, who is averaging a surprisingly low 3.2 yards per carry, says he isn’t worried.
“We have quite a few young guys on the O-line and some are hurt, so we’ve got to work them in and get a rhythm going,” Martin said.
At times, defenses have ganged up to stop the run — an ill-advised strategy, Martin says. Quarterback Kellen Moore has taken advantage with the most efficient passing of his career.
“Sometimes they’ll stack the box,” Martin said, “which I don’t think would be the smartest idea having Kellen back there.”
The rest of Boise State’s home schedule is sold out. The students have taken all of their tickets for this week’s game.