Reloading Up Front

The first group in our Bronco Fall Football Preview series is the highly-anticipated offensive line. These young guys must produce for everything else to fall in place.

The majority of college football coaches and fans would panic if four members of a starting offensive line unit had to be replaced. Boise State fans, however, have seen this before, when in 2004, the Bronco coaches thrust youngsters Pete Cavender, Jeff Cavender and Tad Miller into the starting lineup. Boise State proceeded to ride one of the youngest teams in the nation en route to a 12-0 regular season, leading to a Liberty Bowl invite.

That may or may not happen to this group of young talent but one thing is clear—the Bronco offensive line is loaded for years to come. In Boise, the pressure is always on, and the cream does indeed rise to the top. Success does that to the collective mindset. It calls upon each new group to take up the mantle and carry it to a new height.

Everything Boise State does this fall will hinge upon this young unit. Odds are that they are up to the task, and will create running room for one of the best groups of running backs in school history. These new linemen have caught the eyes of a great group of perceptive coaches and have earned their trust. An incredible group of signal-callers, too, are counting on these individuals. The best group of receivers ever to be assembled at once in Boise will be nothing without the stellar performance of the offensive line.

That leaves offensive line coach Scott Huff and Bronco head man Chris Petersen with the unenviable task of replacing National Football League first round pick Ryan Clady, two four-year stalwarts (Tad Miller and Jeff Cavender) who started 101 career games between them as well as the reliable Pete Cavender and Dan Gore.

Boise State finished last season with three losses to teams they very well could have beaten. They finished 29th in the final USA Today Coaches poll, a far pace from the year before. That means 28 teams did a better job than the Broncos in 2008. For Boise State to catch those 28 teams, they have a lot of hard work to do. That can start on the offensive line. Numerous false starts and other penalties plus the inability to create consistent holes for the running game, especially in the red zone, cost the Broncos dearly against Washington. Similarly, that blocking was not there early against East Carolina.

Four of the starters are gone from that group, leaving Andrew Woodruff (6-2, 320) as the lone returning starter for 2008. This senior must be counted on to lead by example—in work ethic, in enthusiasm, on road trips and in bringing the younger players along so they can perform cohesively as a group. Woodruff has started at three different positions in his fabulous Bronco career and is currently penciled in for left guard this fall. Senior Ben Iannacchione (6-3, 263) is a capable backup.

Redshirt freshman Nate Potter (6-6, 272) is the heir apparent to Clady at left tackle. However, he will have to wait awhile before beginning his starting career. Potter had surgery earlier this summer and will miss at least the season opener against Idaho State. Another youngster, Garrett Pendergast (6-4, 288), may challenge for time, especially if he is impressive against the Bengals.

Two other redshirt freshmen give the Broncos incredible potential at center. Thomas Byrd (5-11, 275) was impressive on the scout team last fall and has earned the starting nod. His backup is Cory Yriarte (6-1, 285), but Yriarte is so talented that he will start somewhere on the line before he's done.

Jon GottSenior Jon Gott (6-3, 286) has quietly progressed in his career, paying his dues behind the formidable Bronco lines of the past. This is his time and he intends to make the most of it. Yriarte and converted defensive lineman Will Lawrence (6-2, 288, So.) will back up Gott. Lawrence came to Boise State with tremendous upside, and he will have to transform that raw talent into performance to crack the starting lineup.

Sophomores Kevin Sapien (6-4, 274) and Matt Slater (6-4, 281) have been locked in a dual since spring ball. Both could start against Idaho State, or an emerging talent could get the nod to replace Potter--more on that later. Regardless, Sapien is another talent that is bound for starting time at some point in the next three years. Freshman Zach Waller (6-5, 277) will also vie for playing time.

The Broncos of the future will have solid footing thanks to an amazing February recruiting class. Petersen and his staff brought in five monsters for consideration in the years to come: Bronson Durrant (6-3, 290), Joe Kellogg (6-4, 290), Brenel Myers (6-3, 260), Tom Swanson (6-6, 300) and Fariji Wright (6-3, 275).

Durrant was ranked as the 83rd best player in the Northwest 100 at Marist High School in Eugene. Taken right from underneath the Oregon Ducks, Durrant ironically has the opportunity to start against the Ducks next fall in Bronco Stadium if he listens intently and works hard in his redshirt year. While at Marist, Durrant helped his team win two state championships, the kind of winning mentality vital to being a Bronco.

Local Bishop Kelly product Spencer Gerke, 63rd on the NW 100, is another likely starter at some point. Gerke was an All-Idaho player at both offensive and defensive line.

Kellogg is one of the Bronco finds from the increasingly fertile recruiting hotbed of Arizona which the Bronco coaches have cultivated in recent years. Kellogg was an all-state performer at left guard—all he did was help his team win consecutive state championships with a sparkling 27-1 record! Kellogg was named as one of the Arizona Republic's Top 25 recruits.

Myers is a big kid from Houston who had 135 knockdown blocks his senior year. Mammoth Swanson was an all-state performer in Washington, helping his school win the state championship—notice the theme here?

Wright also has enormous potential. Hailing from Vallejo, California, Wright was ranked sixth on the bay area's "Cream of the Crop" list for 2007. Although he was named as the California Camp Offensive Lineman Most Valuable Player in both 2006 and '07, Wright chose to come to Boise State, where the Broncos have a place for a person with his attitude and attributes. Wright is so talented that he may not redshirt and in fact, could start—he's that good.

Other offensive linemen on the roster are local freshmen walkon's Michael Ames (6-5, 255), Demetri Sauve (6-3, 295) and Tim Whipps (6-5, 300).

So there you are. One week from Gameday 2008. Prepare to watch this great group develop before your eyes—it will be a delight.

Welcome to the BroncoCountry 2008 Preview. Just as this offensive line is the anchor for the Bronco team, this preview sets the stage for the next week. Join us each day as some of the finest writers on the BC board reveal a team with no limit as to what they can accomplish. They have within themselves to be the most storied team in Bronco history. But all the write-ups in the world are only worth the paper it is written on if the potential isn't accompanied by performance. That work ethic and blue-collar mentality necessary to achieve Bronco success rests on the shoulders of these young men.

Up next, a look at the talented Bronco running backs.

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