By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Here is the eighth installment in my position-by-position preview of the Boise State football team. At the bottom, I’ve posted links to the blog and newspaper preview for other positions.
7 D.J. Harper, 5-9, 205, R-Sr.
39 Drew Wright, 5-9, 203, R-Sr.
27 Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 222, R-Fr.
26 Devan Demas, 5-8, 170, Fr.
21 Jack Fields, 5-9, 194, Fr.
10 Jamel Hart, 5-9, 211, Fr.
35 Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 191, Fr.
Storyline: Sixth-year senior D.J. Harper finally gets a chance to be the headliner — but the depth behind him is unproven. Backup Drew Wright has played sparingly and the rest of the group is made up of freshmen, four of them true freshmen.
Key to success: Harper has to stay healthy and at least one — and maybe two or three — of the freshmen need to step up and provide reliable production.
Reason for concern: Injuries have been a problem at the tailback position. Look at last year, when the Broncos tried to close out TCU with their third-string tailback (Wright). That means the freshmen almost certainly will be put in some high-stress situations.
Star player: Harper has been extremely productive throughout his career. In 2009, when he was set to share the workload with Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin was playing defense, Harper began the season with 88, 89 and 107 yards in the first three games before a torn ACL ended his season.
Breakout performer: Tough call between Ajayi and Fields, but Ajayi gets the nod because of his experience. Ajayi put together a nice fall camp coming back from a torn ACL. He doesn’t look like a game breaker, but he does a good job getting positive yards.
Newcomer to watch: Fields looked like he had the edge on Demas for playing time as a true freshman in the fall scrimmage. The El Paso, Texas, star showed up for college built for the rigors of FBS football.
— Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha on the youth: “In some ways it’s very exciting because you know you’re going to have those guys for the next four or five years. Now it’s the foundation training where you’re trying to get these guys up to speed as fast as you can.”
— Bhonapha on Ajayi: “Jay had a good camp. He’s a strong, big guy, a strong runner. One of the main things was getting him back after his knee and making sure he was confident in his knee when it’s time for him to run. He’s showed that. He’s got to keep progressing, getting better.”
— Bhonapha on depth: “Each year I start with seven guys and toward the end of the year I end up with three.”
— Petersen said he expects to play one true freshman recruit (Fields or Demas) and redshirt one. “If everybody stays healthy, probably in an ideal world, yes,” Petersen said. “But that decision may not even come till game four.”
— Bhonapha on Harper: “D.J. has always been an explosive player for us and a guy who’s gone out there and made plays. This is his opportunity to go out there and really be the alpha dog, for lack of a better word. I’m excited to watch him play this year.”
Projected depth chart:
Tailback: Harper, Wright, Ajayi/Fields
(no returning starters)
In Saturday’s paper: The Broncos will have to rely on youth this year at tailback.