It was an uneventful spring for the Broncos -- as you'd expect for a team returning 22 of its 24 Fiesta Bowl starters.
The summer, however, will be critical. First and foremost, the Broncos need to get healthy. They had as many as 25 players out with injuries during spring ball -- many of them players who missed the entire spring. They also need to see some young players get stronger and smarter to fill out the depth chart -- guys like freshman defensive end Kharyee Marshall and freshman wide receiver Aaron Burks.
The Broncos are considered national title contenders because of the returning talent from their 14-0 team. They played with good intensity in spring ball and were so good on defense that quarterback Kellen Moore, a Heisman Trophy candidate, often had trouble moving the first-team offense. In two scrimmages, Moore produced just three points.
The only unresolved issues going into fall camp are on the offensive line, where the Broncos have eight returners with starting experience and plenty of possible combinations, and at cornerback, where three players are competing for two jobs.
Players to watch this fall include defensive end Shea McClellin, a rising junior who could be a dominant player; middle linebacker Derrell Acrey, a senior who developed a more well-rounded game in the spring; and tailback Jeremy Avery, a senior with electrifying speed.NOTES, QUOTES
--The Broncos went through all of spring ball with nearly the same offensive line: sophomore Faraji Wright at left tackle, junior Nate Potter at left guard, sophomores Joe Kellogg and Bronson Durrant at center, senior Will Lawrence at right guard and sophomore Brenel Myers at right tackle. Two of last year's starters were out for spring -- center Thomas Byrd and right tackle Garett Pendergast -- so the line could shuffle in the fall. Potter's move from left tackle, where he was an All-WAC first-teamer, looks solid.
--Sophomore Jamar Taylor and junior Jerrell Gavins, both of whom have significant game experience, are battling to replace Kyle Wilson at cornerback. The other 10 defensive starters are back. Taylor might have a slight edge but both likely will play.
--The blue turf at Bronco Stadium will be replaced this summer. The 2-year-old FieldTurf product was reflecting too much light and causing problems for TV viewers. FieldTurf is covering the cost.
LB Derrell Acrey -- The senior has been a co-starter at middle linebacker the past two years, but his playing time has been trimmed at times because of his weakness as a run stuffer. He has become a more complete player this spring.
DE Kharyee Marshall -- The 212-pound speed rusher caused plenty of problems for the offense in spring ball. If he can add 15 pounds during the summer, he could be a nice change-up.
OT Charles Leno Jr. -- The athletic freshman is competing for the starting job at left tackle. Coaches like him enough that they moved All-WAC left tackle Nate Potter to left guard.
TE Chandler Koch -- The sophomore is a well-rounded tight end who got open frequently during spring ball. He should be a factor in the tight end rotation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We need to be more productive than that. That's not something we'll just brush off and say, 'He'll be fine come game time.' ... That will be something we definitely address." -- Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, on quarterback Kellen Moore's scrimmage strugglesSTRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Nothing changed this spring -- Boise State is a heavy WAC favorite and a national championship contender in 2010. The Broncos return 22 of their 24 Fiesta Bowl starters and have good depth at many positions. The key to the season is the opener against Virginia Tech in Landover, Md. The Broncos likely will be favorites -- perhaps even heavy favorites -- to win the rest of their games.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense didn't always look good in spring, but coaches were trying several different combinations of players. The offensive line will look much different this year -- by design. Quarterback Kellen Moore continues to improve and he should have more options at wide receiver with the emergence of freshmen Geraldo Hiwat and Aaron Burks. The Broncos are set up for a balanced attack -- there's no reason they can't run or pass however much they want.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The 10 returning starters on defense are expected to remain starters this year. The line should be terrific with four dynamic players -- ends Ryan Winterswyk and Shea McClellin and tackles Billy Winn and Chase Baker. The secondary also looks stout, particularly the safety trio of Jeron Johnson, George Iloka and Winston Venable. The only question mark is cornerback, where the Broncos lost shut-down corner Kyle Wilson.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker/punter Kyle Brotzman missed spring ball with a shoulder injury, so it was impossible to evaluate that portion of the Broncos' game. He's a good player who needs to improve his punting consistency and fix his problems on field goals from the left hash. Wide receiver Titus Young, who scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns last year, likely will be the punt returner, too.
CB Ebo Makinde -- He impressed with his skills and his work ethic as a redshirt and joins the race for the vacant starting spot in the secondary. If nothing else, he should be a major contributor on special teams.
TE Gabe Linehan -- The Broncos' special teams scout player of the year in 2009 should be a factor on special teams and in the passing game. He's a little light, but the former high school quarterback gives the Broncos a second downfield threat at tight end.
DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe -- The Netherlands native only played one year of American football before joining Boise State. He's making big strides this spring and could provide an intriguing option behind starters Billy Winn and Chase Baker.
--OL Cory Yriarte, who was a part-time starter in 2008, re-tore the anterior cruciate ligament that kept him out for the 2009 season and will miss the 2010 season, too.
--Walk-on linebacker Matt Wilson also will miss the season with a torn ACL.
--The Broncos had 18 to 25 players out with injuries on a daily basis during spring ball, much of it due to injuries that happened during last season. All are expected to be full strength for fall camp except for Yriarte, Wilson and linebacker Daron Mackey (torn ACL late last season). Mackey likely will need a few games to get back into shape.
Previous Report: 04/09/2010