By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Boise State senior tailback D.J. Harper hopes to take full advantage of his sixth year with the Broncos.
“I kind of take it as a personal challenge,” he said of assuming the lead role in the backfield. “I know there might be some people doubting us a little bit, doubting the team. I take it as a personal challenge and a little disrespect. I think we’re going to go out and prove some people wrong.”
Harper missed most of two seasons with consecutive torn anterior cruciate ligaments. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after scoring at least two touchdowns in each of the past five seasons.
He never has been the focal point of the ground game, though.
“I’m excited for it,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a really long time. Obviously having those two setbacks and having to work through it, I think it’s made me a stronger player mentally and physically.”
Harper is backed up by senior Drew Wright and three freshmen — redshirt freshman Jay Ajayi and true freshmen Jack Fields and Devan Demas.
Ajayi looked sharp in Tuesday’s practice and is fully recovered from his own torn ACL, sustained last fall.
“Jay’s looking really good, especially coming back from his injury he had last year,” Harper said. “These young guys come from some great programs and have definitely shown signs of some great things to come.”
Harper said he hasn’t made any changes to his preparation and doesn’t want to take it easy in camp to protect his body.
“I’ve got to go full speed,” he said. “I’ve definitely got to get ready for this. It’s going to be a long season. I know I’ve got some guys behind me who can back me up. I’ve got to push it this fall and really get ready for it.”
Redshirt freshman tight end Holden Huff continued his strong start to fall camp Tuesday. He made a juggling, 65-yard touchdown catch in a team session and caught three short TD passes in red-zone work. Huff is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. “He’s a big target down there in the red zone,” senior linebacker J.C. Percy said.
The first-team offense clicked in two game-like drives, scoring a touchdown (Matt Miller TD catch) and a field goal. The group has two touchdowns and a field goal in three drives this camp.
“This spring we did some really good things,” Harper said. “Just going through that whole entire spring ball process, during the summer, getting that team chemistry together, has really helped us.”
The defensive play of the day came from tackle Greg Grimes. A pass was deflected into the air and a receiver tried to bat it down but hit the ball right to Grimes, who made the grab.
The newcomers will be back at it this afternoon in the final workout of split practices. The team comes together Wednesday for the first full-pads practice.
Some leftover comments from linebackers coach Bob Gregory (see Tommy Smith storytoday):
— On the freshmen: “It’s a good class overall. I like our three linebackers. I think they’re going to be good players for us at some point, whenever that is, when that light switch goes on.”
— On sophomore middle linebacker Blake Renaud: “He has gotten better. The spring was huge for him. One of the things the spring did for him was give him a lot of confidence. He was able to make plays in the pass game, which was great, and I think that’s carried over to fall.”
Junior weak-side linebacker Dustin Kamper has caught Percy’s attention. Kamper is a walk-on from Nampa Christian High.
“He’s probably the most improved out of everybody that’s coming back,” Percy said.