As is the case with the Boise State offensive line, the question with the Bronco running backs is one of dominance. We have seen what the backs can do. Can they explode through the line in every game, no matter who the opponent is and no matter what the situation?
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2009 Bronco football season presented a change at the running back position.
For the first time in four years, there was to be no Ian Johnson crouched
in a three-point-stance behind the quarterback, forcing opposing defenses to
game plan around him. And for the first time since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl -as far
as the rest of the nation was concerned, anyway-
was lacking a marquee name at the position, a return to normalcy in their eyes.
wasn't proven enough at the running back position to simply reload, they
thought. Good thing nobody forwarded that memo to Jeremy Avery, DJ Harper, or
running game reached a new plateau, turning in the 26th best ground
attack in the nation. They boasted 2,605 yards on the season, which was good for
186 yards per game and a per-carry average of 5.13 yards. They found the end
zone while pounding the rock an impressive 30 times. This proved a marked
improvement over 2008's numbers. In
2008, BSU finished with the 54th best rushing attack in the FBS with
1,980 rushing yards, 28 TD's, 152 yards per game, and a 4.41 yards per carry
average. While it is clear that running backs Ian Johnson (and Brock Forsey
before him) put a name and face to the position at
never before had there been such depth. Never before had there been three
legitimate starting tailbacks on the roster, all selflessly sharing the load.
Never before had
lined up against the third best rush defense in the country in a goal-line
situation and run right through them for a Fiesta Bowl winning touchdown.
junior tailback Doug Martin. In his
early days on the scout team, Doug Martin was once described as an angry runner.
If anything has changed over the two years since, he's only become
angrier and what makes him more dangerous yet, is that it seems he's learned
to channel his bursts of ‘anger'. Doug
Martin embodies the
team mentality. Martin switched from running back to nickel back when it
appeared that there may actually be too much depth in the backfield just to get
a spot and contribute. And contribute he did. When fellow tailback DJ Harper
went down against
in Week 3, Martin answered the call again, this time returning to his natural
position at RB and never looking back. Actually, he probably looked back as he
flipped into the end zone during January's Fiesta Bowl against TCU--unless he
had his eyes closed.
‘starter' at tailback for
is Jeremy Avery, meaning he gets the first carries of the game and that's
about where the similarities to a traditional starter end. To put it another
way, it appears as though
has finally mastered the longevity-promoting ‘running back by committee'
strategy. Some might say that Mr. Avery is diminutive in size, but what he lacks
in the scary looks department, he more than makes up for in the on-field
production department. That is
pretty much all they care about around here.
In 2009, Avery amassed a team-high 1,151 net yards on the ground with 6
TD's and a (what more could you seriously ask for) 5.5 yard per carry
average--not bad for a dude that checks in at 5'9", 179 lbs. It is likely
that Jeremy Avery will again be tabbed as the ‘starter', although the
coaching staff has made no formal announcements.
season, the Broncos ran with a two back rotation for most of the year and DJ
Harper was part of that rotation from the beginning. Unfortunately, his season
was short-lived as he suffered a torn
in the middle of an outstanding Week 3 performance against
How did he do up until that point? Keeping
in mind all the talent at the position, DJ only managed to lead the team in
rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns, and yards-per-carry with a 6.5 yard
average--a number that lead all Bronco backs for the season.
Many consider DJ Harper to be the most complete RB on the team and should
he remain healthy for the 2010, this will be his year to shine.
the big three, you might think there would be a bunch of scrubs… and you would
be wrong. There are more proven
backs waiting in the wings: Guys like Matt Kaiserman who came off the bench in
2009 and had multiple 100+ yard rushing games between season-opening and
season-ending injuries. But wait, there's more!
Beyond MJ and Kaiserman, there are yet more support guys-guys who spell
‘I' like this: T-E-A-M. Guys like sophomore Carlo Audagnotti, Senior Jarvis Hodge, and Sophomore Drew Wright. All of these guys bleed blue and all are more
than capable of carrying the load, should their number be called. There is one
other guy as-yet unmentioned: sophomore Raphiel Lambert. He is new to this
position as a Bronco and was perhaps inspired by Doug Martin before him. Prior
to spring ball earlier this year, Raphiel made the switch to RB from cornerback
in an effort to get on the field more and contribute. Coach Petersen seems to
believe in this move and speaks of his running tendencies in baseball terms,
oddly enough. "He's out-slowing people," Petersen said. "He's a
curveball thrower. He's got some shake, it's kind of slow shake, but it
open the 2010 season, the Bronco running backs will face the 25th and
40th ranked run defenses from 2009 (
and Virginia Tech respectively) before beginning WAC play against the usual
suspects. The highest ranked run defense in the WAC last season was
which finished 22nd, allowing a stingy 111 yards per game on the
ground. The Broncos had read about
stingy run defense ahead of time, but paid no attention, gaining 165 yards on 33
carries for a nice, round 5.0 yards per carry. After
WAC run defenses drop off significantly, with the next highest-ranked being
(70th nationally), a team that gave up 155 yards per game and almost
5 yards per carry. Maybe in a different lifetime running backs Coach Keith
Bhonapha might take those kinds of rushing stats on a weekly basis with no
questions asked, but that's not how these guys roll. Not at
They'll expect more, and because of that, they'll get more.
bottom line for the coming season is there won't be many games where the
Broncos merely achieve their opponents' per game average on the ground. With
so many major contributors returning, this stable of backs–led by
ever-improving offensive line–are poised for yet another breakout season.
One thing you can count on is that with four proven 100-yard-per-game
runners from 2009 chomping at the bit, 2010 is set up to be a great year on the
ground for this National Championship-minded squad from
. This year's version
of the ground game is perhaps the greatest we've ever seen at
college football season statistical info
Coach Petersen quote
taken from the