1st Bronco Football Scrimmage Set For Friday

The buzz is still quite prominent from Boise State's January 1st Fiesta Bowl victory. Here's a fact that should bring the 2007 Broncos down to earth: Just ten members of this year's team started on the Fiesta Bowl Champions. Most of the 105 players on the Boise State roster were either on the sidelines during the Fiesta Bowl or played minor roles. Boise State scrimmages Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Interest in the Boise State football program has never been higher, and the 2007 edition will make its public debut Friday in the first scrimmage of the spring.  The scrimmage gets underway at 3:30 Friday afternoon in Bronco Stadium.  Here's a sneak peek at the Bronco team. 

Head Coach Chris Petersen and Offensive Coordinator Bryan Harsin have the enviable task of selecting a starter from four talented signal callers.  Senior Taylor Tharp, junior Bush Hamdan, sophomore Nick Lomax and freshman Mike Coughlin collectively are as talented as any group in college football.  All have looked good this spring and the timing with the bevy of Bronco receivers has been excellent.  Make no mistake—any of the four could lead the Broncos to a successful season this fall.  The Bronco philosophy has always been that every player counts.  That should be visibly evident to the other three as the backups were given credit on national television for calling the Statue Left play that won the Fiesta Bowl.

Boise State Heisman Trophy candidate Ian Johnson broke Brock Forsey's school rushing record last fall and led the nation in scoring.  With the punishment that he took last year, Johnson hopes to add about 10 pounds to his 5-11, 195-pound frame for the 2007 season.  Johnson played through several injuries last year, including a partially collapsed lung.   Johnson also wants to work on his conditioning with Coach Tim Socha.  "I don't want myself to ever get tired," he said. "If I get tired, then I'm not working hard enough."

With Ian Johnson preserving his body for the hits of the fall, running backs coach Jeff Choate is getting an extra long look at five freshmen vying for playing time.  With the graduation of Brad Lau and Brett Denton, the likely starting job for Vinny Perretta at wide receiver, and the slow return of senior Jon Helmandollar, these youngsters have the very real opportunity that few players fresh out of high school can claim.  With hard work, attention to details and the ability to learn the complicated Boise State offense, they will play this fall for a defending Bowl Championship Series bowl winner.  Bronco coaches expect to play at least four of the freshman this fall.

Many high school football players dream such dreams, but for these five, it is a goal within their grasp.  Jeremy Avery, Stew Tracy and Jarvis Hodge are already learning what it takes to be a Bronco in the vigorous workouts of spring.  New recruits Doug Martin and D.J. Harper join them on campus this fall.  Matt Kaiserman of Skyview High is expected to grayshirt.

The 5-9, 161-pound Avery, who strength coach Tim Socha nicknamed "Peanut" is the strongest of the group and one of the fastest players on the team.  He has considerable athletic ability and will remind Bronco fans of Lee Marks.  Tracy (5-9, 177) is a former receiver from Bishop Kelly High School who impressed the Bronco coaches with his playmaking ability.  He will be the successor to Perretta as a role player that will see action in several different formations to take advantage of his multiple talents.  Tracy is but the latest such player in what is becoming a Boise State tradition that also included Jeff Carpenter.  Hodge (5-9, 193) adds size to the position and Choate has hopes for Hodge as a jarring pass blocker.   He is shifty and hits the hole with great speed.  "We've just got to accept our roles," Hodge said of the freshmen. "We know Ian's going to be the starter. We just have to make the most of every opportunity we get."

Martin rushed for 1,234 yards and 14 touchdowns for Saint Mary's High in Stockton, California while Harper ran for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns at Cypress (Texas) High.  Both earned team MVP honors. 

Senior Michael Lose and sophomore Andy Silsby will be the fullbacks.  Senior tailback Helmandollar, who sat out his sophomore season, still has not regained his freshman form.

After losing four receivers to the pro ranks, Boise State welcomes a new group of starters this fall.  Perretta, Jeremy Childs and Aiona Key bring tremendous athletic ability and lead the bevy of talented receivers.  Junior Toshi Franklin has shown great improvement so far and figures to play a prominent role in the high-octane Bronco offense this fall as well.

"There is some talent out there, which we feel really good about," Coach Petersen said.  "As long as these guys stay healthy and these guys keep working, we'll be fine at the wide receiver position."

In a system that simply reloads each year, there are countless others that will do the job for Boise State if called upon. That list includes junior Tanyon Bissell and redshirt freshman Xavier Lucas (6-foot-4, 200 pounds).  Bissell is a speedster who has excelled on Bronco special teams and also looked well at receiver.  Lucas is a highly regarded player who is being groomed to be a possession receiver for the Broncos in the tradition of Jay Swillie, T.J. Acree and Legedu Naanee.  Converted tight end Julian Hawkins also looks to make his mark.

Seniors Sherm Blaser and Ryan Putnam give Boise State a great 1-2 punch at tight end.  Both have good experience at the position, which is loaded this year.  Sophomore Richie Brockel and freshman Tommy Gallarda both possess enormous potential.  

Many close observers of Boise State football expect the offensive line to be the best ever.  That is quite a statement considering their rapidly growing reputation.  The offensive front is the catalyst that makes everything else happen, and they are the primary reason why the Broncos are the top offensive team in the nation since 1999. 

The goal of the spring, however, is to build the offensive line of the future, for soon the talented group of the present will be gone.  To make the transition a smooth one, the Bronco starters will need to serve as mentors for the younger players.  Cohesion is critical.

Sophomore Paul Lucariello has been particularly impressive thus far at center.  If Pete Cavender can return to his form following last year's injury, that gives line coach Scott Huff options every coach in America would like to have.  It would mean Jeff Cavender could return to center with Pete at right guard.  Tad Miller has been a fixture at left guard the last two years and even though the Western Athletic Conference has largely ignored him in its annual postseason awards, all Bronco coaches and fans know there isn't a better guard in the WAC. 

Meanwhile, those same Bronco coaches and fans are hoping to bid farewell to tackle Ryan Clady on Senior Day 2008.  There is speculation that the talented Clady will test the waters of the National Football League following this season.  Say it isn't so.  Clady was recently named to the preliminary Watch List for the Lombardi Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's top lineman.  Andrew Woodruff's progression has been nothing short of amazing and Woody will likely be the starter opposite Clady.  There are no better set of tackles in the WAC and perhaps the country. 

Chasing that group are senior Dan Gore, freshman Nate Potter from Boise's Timberline High School and freshman Matt Slater at tackle and senior Jeff Biedermann, junior Jon Gott and sophomore Ben Iannacchione at guard.  At least two of those players must step forward this spring to develop the eight-man rotation that Boise State likes to employ. 


If Boise State is to challenge for the WAC title once again, they will need to have people step up on the defensive line.  Overall, the Broncos are deeper at both tackle and end than they have ever been.  Defensive tackle Joe Bozikovich is one player Bronco coaches are counting on to have a big year.  Bozikovich worked his way into the starting lineup last year for two games.   He joins senior Nick Schlekeway from Eagle on the defensive front.  Senior Ian Smart and junior Phillip Edwards will also battle for time at tackle.  Senior Sione Tavake, junior Steven Reveles and freshmen J.P. Nisby, Will Lawrence, Billy Winn, Johnny Tivao and Chase Baker bring considerable raw talent to the position.  Nisby, Tivao, Winn and Baker were part of the stellar 2007 recruiting class although it wouldn't be out of the question to see one or more of them see action this fall.


Joining Schlekeway on the outside will be junior Mike T. Williams, who is ready to explode onto the scene at Boise State.  Junior Sean Bingham is well versed in the Bronco system and is ready to challenge for playing time.  Kapono Rawlins-Crivello is ready to show his stuff after redshirting a year, as is Ryan Winterswyk.  Chuck Hayes, Shea McClellin and Jarrell Root are all true freshmen and are the stars of the future.    


You don't replace the best linebacking duo in the history of Boise State football.  The new Broncos at that position will have to make a name for themselves.  Linebackers coach Viliami Tuivai has plenty of raw talent to mold into future stars.  Juniors Kyle Gingg and David Shields shared time at the "Will" position last year, and both have so much potential that they will likely start at the two outside linebacker positions this fall.  Gingg is expected to make his spring debut sometime after spring break.

Freshman Derrell Acrey and senior Josh Bean are locked in a battle for the starting middle linebacker job.  Bean is a hard-hitter who Bronco fans have had high hopes for ever since he signed his letter of intent—it is time for Bean to shine.  He will have to hold off the energetic Acrey, who will be one of the top players in the nation by the time he is a senior.  Acrey already has an impressive interception to his credit this spring.

Tuivai will award playing time to others linebackers in certain situations, as is the Bronco way.  Among those vying for action this fall are Tim Brady, Dallas Dobbs, Garrett Tuggle and converted safety Ellis Powers.  Dobbs made a nice hit earlier this week on Hodge.  Freshman Ben Chandler has great potential and Hunter White was a prized recruit for Boise State in February.  

Gerald Alexander developed his raw talent into NFL excitement last year with a phenomenal senior season.  He followed former Bronco greats Shaunard Harts and Quintin Mikell into the pros.  Who will be the next NFL player at safety for Boise State?


Senior Marty Tadman certainly has all the tools that were on full display in the Fiesta Bowl.  The ability, effort and attitude don't get better than #20.  The contenders for the other position include senior Austin Smith, freshmen Jeron Johnson and Jason Robinson and junior-college transfer Garcia Day.  Smith started as a sophomore before moving to cornerback last year.  He's a big-hitter and has played with the first-team defense thus far.  It will be difficult to keep Robinson out of the lineup, however, after an incredible year on the scout team and coaches are high on Day as well.  "That will be a pretty wide-open deal there," Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox said.  Cedric Febis (6-foot-3, 188 pounds) and Day (6-foot-2, 190) bring size and power never seen before in the Boise State secondary.

Kyle Wilson emerged as a star at cornerback last year, with big plays against both Nevada and Oklahoma.  Wilson is not about to rest on his laurels, and has showed a high intensity and fire this spring.  Wilson has already run one interception back for a touchdown this spring.  Orlando Scandrick is already in mid-season form.   Scandrick has been everywhere making plays for the Bronco defense.  Senior Rashaun Scott will likely see significant playing time, while new recruit Antwon Murray will be a superstar of the future.   

Brad Elkin will be Boise State's punter this fall—he has already earned recognition as one of the top punters in the nation in the 2007 recruiting class.  Kyle Brotzman and David Lowery will contend for placekicking duties.

Several walk-ons did not return to the team this spring, including safety John Barry Van Hoogen, defensive back Darrell Wilson, punter Bryon Brotzman, linebacker Bryan Anderson and defensive back Seth Anderson.

New walk-ons include wide receiver Michael Choate, defensive lineman Drew Tavares of Caldwell and wide receiver Tobias Moore.

"I think our attitude is good and our work ethic is good and I'm really seeing some improvement in some young guys that we really want to see," Petersen said going into Friday's scrimmage.

Come out and get an early look at the 2007 Boise State Broncos!



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