2015 Preview: Boise State Offensive Line

When so much rides on a football team's performance in the trenches, experience plays an important role. With a new starting quarterback and a new running back, it will be imperative for Boise State's offensive line to play at a high level.

Normally, when a college loses an All-American running back and the country's most accurate passer of the previous season, prospects for a successful campaign in the following season are greatly reduced.  Boise State Starting quarterback Ryan Finley will have the luxury lining up behind one of the most experienced and proven offensive lines in the country.   

Marcus Henry, Rees Odhiambo, Mario Yakoo, Travis Averill, and Steven Baggett collectively have 91 career starts, with long-snapper Kevin Keane having 27 career starts.  Game experience is the single most important factor in the development of an offensive line.  So what is now a very fine offensive unit has the real potential of achieving an elite status, perhaps even rivaling that great 2006 offensive line at Boise State. Yakoo recognizes the responsibilities of this year's offensive line, saying, "We have to be the strength of the offense." 

(BroncoCountry video by Volklgirl)

While this year's Bronco offensive line has much continuity from last season, Yakoo said the group still needs work.

(BroncoCountry video by Volklgirl)

Coach Huff has been shuffling his linemen into different positions trying to find the right starting combination. Yakoo  sees the value of interchangeable parts on the offensive line.

The bulwarks of the offensive line are seniors Henry (6-3, 293) at center and Odhiambo (6-4, 309) at left tackle.  Henry, a third-year starter at center, is the leader of the offensive unit.  He continues the line of excellence at center for the Broncos, including Huff, Dailey, and Byrd.  The returning All-Mountain West Conference center has the size and strength to make it at the next level.  He also may have an additional incentive on opening day, as he chose Boise State over Washington, all due to an impressive home visit by former Bronco coach Chris Petersen.   

Rees Odhiambo’s challenge will be to play an injury-free year.  When healthy, his rare mixture of athleticism and strength (he won the “goon” award from former strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha his freshman year for his work in the weight room) makes him a proper National Football League-caliber heir of Leno, Potter, Clady, and Colledge. 

Averill (6-3, 299, Jr.) has been singularly consistent, Yakoo (6-4, 329, Jr.) brings a fearless, nasty attitude along with his size, and Baggett (6-3, 282, Jr.) has been able to put on some weight to complement his technique.  Yakoo said he's been working on his fundamentals--"just trying to master my game."    

Offensive line coach Scott Huff has noted that it’s no sure thing that these five will make up the starting unit on opening day.  Redshirt sophomore Archie Lewis said last Thursday that Huff has said "The most physical five are the five that are going to play."   

(BroncoCountry video by Volklgirl)

While Odhiambo and Henry are pre-season all-MWC designees, with Yakoo and Averill secure in their positions, there will be a genuine battle for the starting nod at right tackle, with Lewis currently listed as a co-starter.   Impressively, Lewis (6-3, 295, So.) earned a half-dozen starts last season, as his athleticism and strength made him a standout prospect.  Lewis has gained 55 pounds since arriving on campus, yet "I feel just as  quick as when I was 240," he said. 

Eli McCollough, unfortunately, has been forced to retire his football career due to medical reasons.  McCullough was being groomed to replace Odhaimbo at left tackle.  His departure will mean most likely that senior Jerhen Ertel (6-6, 276, Sr.) will fill in McCullough’s slot on the depth chart.   

Playing in reserve roles and special teams last year were Kellen Buhr (6-1, 282, Jr.), Mason Hampton (6-3, 290, So.), and Andrew Tercek (6-1, 281, So.)—and all should be important contributors in 2015, especially in the interior of the line.   

Two big-bodied transfers provide additional depth:  from Snow College and Capital High School in Boise is Hunter Nettles (6-3, 318), who’ll have three years to play two seasons, and from Division II Alderson-Broaddus University comes Minnesota mountain man Dan Urquhart (6-7, 324, Jr.).  Either could be a wild card in the depth chart.   

Three redshirt freshmen should draw some attention as well:  highly recruited Troy Bacon (6-3, 283) and Andres Preciado (6-6, 277) could find some playing time as the season progresses, and Tennessee Su’esu’e (6-1, 301) already has the size to be groomed at guard.  Bacon, in fact, is listed as the back up to Averill on the depth chart. 

Because of this depth, no true freshman among the offensive linemen should have to have his redshirt burned.  Even so, John Molchon (6-5, 295), Garrett Larson (6-4, 282), and Eric Quevedo (6-4, 297) are names to remember this time next year.  However, because of McCullough’s departure, one of these three will likely take on a significant role in 2016.  Expect Larson to push Hampton next season to take over the center duties, and both Molchon and Quevedo should insure the Bronco tradition of excellence at tackle. 

This unit contributed to the team’s offensive uptick in 2014.  Indeed, some statistics compare very favorably to that great 2006 squad, nearly matching that squad’s rushing yards per attempt and bettering its third down conversion percentage: all signatures of a successful offensive line.  

However, the 2015 edition must improve in pass protection, and more importantly, on those fourth-down conversions, where it is all about imposing your will on the opponent.  Last year’s unit converted only 47% of fourth down attempts; that 2006 team converted 81% of their fourth down attempts.  On top of that, this line will have to improve its discipline, as frequent offside and holding penalties killed too many drives in 2014. 

 photo 2006 Boise State Offensive Line_zpsdgf3mpj8.jpg
Given another summer of work under strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman, given another fall camp of competition and focused training, and given the wealth of experience gained over the last season, the Bronco offensive line has the makings to bring back the smashmouth days of Miller, Woodruff, Dailey, Clady, and Cavendar.  

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BroncoCountry.com has been covering Boise State sports since 2002. You can keep up to date on the latest Boise State news by following publisher Kevin Hiatt @Kevin_Hiatt, and lead reporter Chase Glorfield @ChaseGlorfield on twitter, by liking and following our Facebook page at BoiseStateBroncosOnScout, and by keeping your browser on the BroncoCountry website and message board. If you're a recruit who wants to create, or update a Scout.com profile, or if you just have Boise State recruiting information to share, email Kevin and Chase at news@broncocountry.com.

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