By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
Today I’m starting my series of blog posts breaking down each position on the Boise State football team. I’ll try to hit a new position after each practice.
Today: Offensive line.
Returning starters (4 of 5): Junior Charles Leno Jr. started every game at right tackle last season, senior Joe Kellogg started 11 games at left guard, senior Cory Yriarte started eight games at center and junior Jake Broyles started the first three games at right guard before a toe injury ended his season. Last year, the Broncos averaged 4.5 yards per carry and allowed eight sacks.
Key losses: Consensus All-American left tackle Nate Potter, who started most of the past four years, is gone. So is center Thomas Byrd, who started for three years and played part time last year because of injuries. The Broncos also lost Chuck Hayes, who replaced Broyles and started the rest of the season at right guard.
Projected starters: LT Faraji Wright (senior), LG Kellogg, C Yriarte, RG Broyles, RT Leno
Other key returners: Senior Michael Ames, who was the opening day starter at right tackle in 2009, is playing guard this spring and will provide depth at guard and tackle. Senior Brenel Myers also has starting experience and can play guard and tackle. Junior Matt Paradis started one game at center last year. And junior Spencer Gerke started two games at left guard last year.
Other players to watch: Redshirt freshman Rees Odhiambo is the No. 2 left tackle in spring ball, which will give him the experience he needs to make a run at Wright in fall camp.
Position chart (in no particular order):
Tackles — Leno, Wright, Odhiambo, Chris Tozer
Guards — Kellogg, Broyles, Myers, Ames, Gerke, Marcus Henry (redshirt freshman), Adam Sheffield (redshirt freshman)
Centers — Yriarte, Paradis, Greg Dohmen
Not practicing: Yriarte, Kellogg, Myers, Broyles (some drills). “I like the fact that the guys who are out are not guys who need reps,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “I’m not worried so much about getting things clicking. We don’t care about stats in spring ball. The guys that are getting reps inside need reps inside. In that sense, it works out perfectly. It kind of forces our hand to do what sometimes we’re scared to do.”
Joining in August: Travis Averill and Steven Baggett. Mario Yakoo and Archie Lewis are expected to grayshirt.
— Nine of the 14 returners have started at least one game in their careers.
— If Wright makes the starting lineup, Leno will remain at right tackle. If not, Leno could move. “(Wright) is probably a little more natural on the left side,” Strausser said. “If he goes out and competes like I think he can, there’s no reason to move Charles.”
— Leno should become the latest in a long line of premier Broncos tackles, Strausser said. “He should be our guy. We’ve had obviously Daryn (Colledge) and Ryan (Clady) and Nate (Potter), and Charles should be our marquee guy. He’s the guy that’s going to protect the quarterback, whether it’s the backside or the play side, whatever, that doesn’t matter. He should be the guy that really we never have to worry about his guy.”
— Strausser wants his group to take some of the strain off the new quarterback. “Really looking for leadership,” he said. “Obviously when you lose a guy that’s been a four-year starter for you calling the play behind you, as much as I know all these quarterbacks have the ability to be good leaders, you want them to go out there and just think about playing. So if we can pick up that role of leadership and good huddle tempo and flying around and being vocal, then it takes that burden off the quarterback.”
The Broncos held their second spring practice Wednesday morning, again in helmets. The defense bounced back after the quarterbacks were the stars of the first practice. On back-to-back plays, linebacker J.C. Percy intercepted a tipped pass and linebacker Tommy Smith stepped in front of a receiver to break up a pass.