Boise State tailback Drew Wright prepares for expanded role; Matt Miller tries to master offense

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2012 Idaho Statesman

Boise State senior tailback Drew Wright needed to learn a new skill this season — coaching.

It’s part of what should be a memorable final year for Wright, a former walk-on from Vallivue High who spent his first four years as a special-teamer and reserve running back.

This year, he’s one of two senior tailbacks surrounded by five freshmen.

“I’m actually doing a lot more (coaching) than I probably expected,” Wright said. “Me and (senior D.J. Harper) are learning as we go, because we’ve never had to do that before. It was kind of hard during the summer.”

Wright has rushed for 311 yards and three touchdowns in his career. He accumulated 218 of those yards and all of the touchdowns last season as the third-string tailback behind Doug Martin and Harper.

This year, Wright is expected to back up Harper — with freshmen Jay Ajayi, Jack Fields and Devan Demas competing for the No. 3 role. If recent history is any indication, Wright could be needed as the primary back at some point.

“It’s definitely different,” Wright said. “… Now that the starting role might be coming up, that I might be getting in there with the first-team offense in the first or second quarter, I’m going to have to be more mentally prepared for that.

“I just need to be able to go in there and gain yards. If D.J. starts getting tired, I have to be able to go in there and contribute and keep moving the ball just like D.J. did.”

Wright said it feels like he’s “finally made it” this year because he’ll be an important part of the offense.

“Now,” he said, “I need to produce.”

•••

Sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller couldn’t have started his college career much better. He tied for the team lead with 62 catches last year and was second with 679 receiving yards and nine touchdown grabs.

Still, there are plenty of ways for him to improve.

He spent the offseason getting bigger, stronger, faster and smarter. He also worked on his leadership skills.

“It’s no different than any of these players we’ve had in the past that have been good players,” coach Chris Petersen said. “Anybody can improve and take their game to the next level. He can get faster. He can catch the ball cleaner. He can get more precise. He can set guys up on his releases. It’s all those things. And that’s what he’ll do.

“He’s a good player already, there’s no doubt, but he’ll be the first to tell you that there’s a lot of detail work left to be done and he can be a really, really good, elite player.”

Miller (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon last year during his first offseason with the Broncos, so 2012 allowed him to become a better athlete.

He averaged 11.0 yards per catch last season.

“I was a pretty slow guy last year,” Miller said. “Anything can beat that.”

Miller also used the offseason to deepen his understanding of the offense. The Broncos have three receiver positions and he played one of them almost exclusively last year.

“Now I can play any receiver spot,” he said. “With an offense like ours, that’s so complex, you’re never going to be a true master of the offense, but you can be really dang close to it, and that’s my goal.”

Miller’s combination of talent and smarts makes him difficult to cover, senior cornerback Jamar Taylor said.

“Matt’s smart — great hands,” Taylor said. “He can box you out with his big body. He’s just a competitor. … The quarterback can be scrambling and he always seems to find his way to the ball.”

•••

The defense dominated the Broncos’ practice Tuesday morning. Cornerback Bryan Douglas made an interception and seems to be having a nice camp.

I talked to offensive line coach Chris Strausser after practice. Four starters appear set unless there’s a big change in the next couple weeks — left tackle Faraji Wright, left guard Joe Kellogg, center Matt Paradis and right tackle Charles Leno Jr. Michael Ames is the leading candidate at right guard, but he does have competition from Spencer Gerke and Jake Broyles. Two freshmen have impressed — redshirt freshman Marcus Henry at guard and true freshman Travis Averill at tackle. The Broncos haven’t played a true freshman on the offensive line in the WAC/Mountain West era and Strausser isn’t planning on breaking that drought this year unless he has to, so don’t count on seeing Averill.

A few quotes from Strausser:

— “For many years we’ve played with tackles who are (6-foot-2) guys who are athletic, tough guys. You could go down the list of guys I don’t think anybody else recruited as tackles. Travis Averill (6-foot-4, 278 pounds), he’s not a prototypical tackle body but he can be a darn good tackle for us. … He’s showing some good promise. I’m very excited about him.”

— On starting center Matt Paradis: “Really, really pleased with the way Matt is playing. … The combination of his leadership skills and knowledge of the offense has been very good.”

— On Henry, who is playing left guard on the second-team line: “He could easily work his way into some good playing time. He’s done an exceptional job this fall camp.”

— On playing a true freshman: “I’m definitely on a mission to not get that done.”

— On right guard: “I’ve been really pleased with Mike Ames. He did it all spring, which was good. Right now, based on experience and knowledge and all that stuff, he’s worked his way into right now what I think is the top five.”

•••

It’s been a common sentiment among seniors this year — one key to their individual seasons is to stay healthy. Several of them have had injury problems in the past, which probably contributes to the trend.

Of course, it’s a goal that’s out of the players’ control. Senior linebacker Tommy Smith’s plan:

“Play full speed, don’t think about it and just keep God on your side: Pray,” he said.

•••

Camper of the day update (chosen by coach Chris Petersen for Broncosports.com):

Day 1: N Corey Bell. “Corey had a great summer and came into camp in good shape,” Petersen said. “Mentally, he is really on top of things right now.”

Day 2: TE Holden Huff. “Holden is making plays for us out there, and we like playmakers,” Petersen said.

Day 3: DL Darren Koontz. “Darren had a really nice day,” Petersen said. “He was playing physical and much faster, and he was nice and disruptive today.”

Day 4: LT Faraji Wright. “Faraji showed up to this camp ready to compete,” Petersen said. “He has been playing at a high level from day one, and he has been extremely focused.”

Day 5: LB Tommy Smith. “Tommy has been extremely focused thus far in camp,” Petersen said. “He has been working extremely hard and is playing very physical football right now.”

Day 6: RB D.J. Harper. “D.J. is running hard and making sharp cuts,” Petersen said. “He has been extremely precise in what he’s doing out here.”

Day 7: No practice.

Day 8: CB Deon’tae Florence. “Deon’tae had a really good practice,” Petersen said. “He made some big plays, and hauled in a couple of interceptions.”

Day 9: No practice.

Day 10: LB J.C. Percy. “J.C. is doing a great job inside,” Petersen said. “He knows this defense inside and out, and he plays as hard as anyone we have on the roster.”

Day 11: WR Chris Potter. “Chris is working real hard out here,” Petersen said. “He is precise in his routes and extremely tough to cover, and he is doing a great job in our return game.”

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1345008844 Boise State tailback Drew Wright prepares for expanded role; Matt Miller tries to master offense Idaho Statesman Copyright 2014 Idaho Statesman . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

§ Another great update

and thanks, again, Chadd.

I thought Miller brought a lot of "wow" last year, but his characterizing himself as "slow" is surprising. He sure didn't look the least bit slow to me. If he has gotten faster, "wow" look out.

Here's to all the backs (and the rest of the team) having a healthy season (as much as is possible anyway).

Go Broncos, beat MSU!

Agree

Nice job Chadd.

Dear Idaho Statesman

Double this guys pay. TODAY! Mr. Chadd Cripe deserves a raise. Heaven help all of us Bronco fans the day some other media outlet hires Chadd away...

Drew Wright = Fumbled away

Drew Wright = Fumbled away the TCU game last year.

It was a solid hit on the ball...

....could've happened to any RB. That said, I think Drew Wright knows what a terrible turnover that was. But how he bounces back and how he plays this year will say a lot about him.

One play doesn't constitute

One play doesn't constitute a game.

Thank you

for addressing one of my pet peeves.

One play doesn't decide a game. BSU had a ton of opportunities earlier in the game to make a late fumble irrelevant, and plenty of opportunities after the fumble to prevent TCU from capitalizing on it. Trying to pin the loss on one guy is just stupid.

§ On the mark

The BSU drive started at 5:37 remaining at the BSU 32. A 3-and-out would likely have resulted in TCU getting the ball about where they eventually did take over, at their own 27.

BSU took over three minutes off the clock when TCU got it 73 yards away with 2:26 left. At that point BSU was still ahead 35-28.

BSU gave up a measly 33 yards on the ground (on 26 attempts) and a whopping 473 yards passing (24-37) while playing the only healthy, but inexperienced, DBs left.

The TO didn't help, but it wasn't the difference.

It's well known that I hate BSU

But Drew Wright is the ONLY player I will support. He is a stand up kid and a great player. It's a shame BSU hasn't given him the chance he deserves.

You, again, know little...

He backed up two really good backs and earned a scholarship after walking on. I think the Broncos have given him exactly what he deserves, and the guy looks to get first team reps this season.

Mind your business and stick to crying about how your own team is left without a football conference. It suits you better.

Gee, and Bandwagon Nation

Gee, and Bandwagon Nation wonders why the rest of the country doesn't take them seriously. Forgive me for showing a little more support for you beloved Bronco's than I normally do.

nanner nanner

Put down the hate and jump on the wagon. Appreciate greatness where it truly exists, I promise you will be much happier.

Put down the bong

What are you smoking? he was playing backup to a guy who went in the first round of the NFL draft. Remember Bush Hamden; coach Pete will start whoever has the most talent, period.

I think Miller is going to have

a huge game against MSU. Their DB's are really good but they have trouble with big receivers. One of the best one on one match ups through out the game will be Miller when he is covered by Adams (projected 1st rounder).

Re-post

The Spartan clock

http://spartanfootball.tumblr.com/

§ I can wait

for that.

What I'm getting antsy about is Saturday. We saw in the spring game that the defense is going to be solid.

The offense, and particularly the QB spot, is really in unknown territory right now. You know my leanings on QB, but Coach Pete's recent comments seem to have the contest wide open.

And then there is the "Ongoing Adventures of BSU Placekicking". I hope to see Sean Wale do something on Saturday ... like nail one from 53 and put this problem somewhat to rest.

Prater just made the comment that he thinks NBC (and NBCSN) are likely to pounce on the Big East TV contract if they get the chance. Don't know what info Prater may have, but I like it.

Wale

As Petersen said at his fall camp press conference, Sean Wale is not a factor in the kicker race right now. It's Goodale or Frisina.

§ Excuse me

while I hold my breath.

A couple more missed chipshots and that might not be the story.

What will be interesting

is if they split up the tiers or go with one network.......

Also, I'm curious to see what kind of tier 3 parameters they set.

To think there is a chance to double our football revenue is awesome!

§ Pretty good article by Adelson

http://espn.go.com/blog/bigeast/post/_/id/35217/big-east-wins-the-day-with-aresco-hire

two other freshmen that may play

I have alway thought that Travis Averill an Ben Weaver will pllay this year.

Go Broncos

LBs

Santini and Pint have been the top true freshman linebackers so far ... but special teams will be a big factor in who plays at LB.

Averill now!

We have started playing more true freshmen now than in the past because we're recruiting more high caliber players. So, why not Averill? He was one of the gems of the 2012 signing class. The tackle position is pretty darned valuable, and we could use the depth. Plus, experience this year will pay off next year.

Averill

They don't want to play a lineman as a true freshman because the physical development that goes on during a redshirt year is so important. Guys who play as true freshmen don't go through the same training program. Now if something happens to Wright or Leno, maybe things change.

Chadd's

IN DA HOUSE!

Shane Williams-Rhodes

Chadd,

Any chance you think we'll see him play this year? Coach Pete had some high praise for him on National Signing Day and he was reportedly generating some "buzz" during the first few days of camp.

Williams-Rhodes

I think there is a decent chance he plays because the offense needs more guys capable of making the explosive play. It will be interesting to see how he's used in the scrimmage.

Thanks Chadd.

Can't wait for the scrimmage on Saturday night!

Good luck Drew

Ya payed your dues and heres hoping ya have a great year.