Scouting report: Boise State offense

On Thursday the Cougar defense will face a relentless Boise State offense at Bronco Stadium. The crowd will be loud as the Cougars take to the blue turf to defend against a balanced run and passing attack.

QB Joe Southwick

For prolific offenses, it all starts with the quarterback. Replacing Kellen Moore, the all-time Division I leader in wins as a starting quarterback, is 6-foot-1-inch, 187-pound redshirt junior Joe Southwick.

With Moore, an unrealistic quarterback bar had been set. While Southwick might not be Moore, he is capable. He completed 24 of 31 passes – including completions on 16 of his last 17 passes – for 304 yards last week against Miami (Ohio). It was the first 300-yard passing game of his career.

As a quarterback, Southwick is good all around, but is not superior in any one area. He's a good passer, but he is mobile and can run when he has too. He's a much better scrambler than Moore was. He's a decent passer that can move around in the pocket when pressured, or take off and run if a lane opens up for him to do so.

Southwick plays the game with passion and high emotion, and this is both good and bad for Southwick. His emotions work well for him when things are going good, but when things aren't working out as well, he has a tendency to get down on himself and get frustrated.

Offensive line

The offensive line has a lot of developed experience. The line did lose three starters from a group last year that was ranked fifth in the nation in sacks allowed. However, everyone who replaced those starters had some starting experience. There is a lot more size on the BSU offensive line than they've had in recent years.

LT Charles Leno

Coming in at 6 feet 4 inches and 294 pounds, Charles Leno started as a sophomore last year but at right tackle. A rangy, quick tackle, Leno was recruited by Oregon, and they offered him late, but he chose Boise State over the Ducks in the end. He's been moved to left tackle, where he will face BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. This will be a great matchup to watch. Leno is considered one of the best linemen for BSU.

LG Joe Kellogg

At 6 feet 4 inches and 305 pounds, Kellogg has a lot of experience. He received playing time in 10 games as a redshirt freshman and started 10 games as a sophomore. Last season as a junior, Kellogg started in 11 of 12 games at left guard and was named a MWC all-conference guard. He'll be facing Eathyn Manumaleuna.

C Matt Paradis

Replacing a four-year starter at the center position is 6-foot-3-inch, 289-pound Matt Paradis. Paradis comes from the small town of Council, Idaho. He played eight-man football for Council High School and walked on at Boise State as a defensive lineman.

In 2010 Paradis made the switch to the offensive side of the ball and appeared in eight games in 2011 as a redshirt sophomore, starting in several games. Now a junior, he will be matched up against Romney Fuga.

RG Michael Ames

Coming in at 6 feet 4 inches, 293 pounds, Michael Ames is a fifth-year senior but a first-year starter. He's a quality player but not someone who is going to blow defensive tackles out. He's strong and moves well for his size, and is LDS and a return missionary. He was close to starting two years ago at left tackle, but ended up being a backup.

Ames played some tackle last week to fill in for an injured player. He is a utility offensive lineman and can play multiple positions on the line when needed. Ames will face Russell Tialavea.

RT Jake Broyles

The tallest of the Boise State linemen, Broyles comes in at 6 feet 5 inches and weighs 290 pounds. Last year as a sophomore, Broyles started at guard until getting injured in the third game of the season and thus missing most of the year. Now a junior, Broyles has a five career starts. He will have the task of containing the edge and keeping rising BYU defensive star Spencer Hadley out of the backfield. Hadley was credited with 1.5 sacks and 10 tackles against Utah.

RB D.J. Harper

A 5 feet 9 inches, 205 pound redshirt senior, D.J. Harper is a fireplug for the Boise State offense and someone with a lot of potential. He came in as a speedster but has since lost some of that due to injuries. However, one has to look at Harper's history to know what his potential truly is.

Harper came to Boise State in the same recruiting class as Doug Martin, who was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Martin is now the Buccaneers' starting running back, but was at one time beat out at the starting running back position by Harper.

Martin was moved to the defensive side of the ball until Harper suffered a season-ending knee injury his junior year. Martin was then moved back over to the offensive side of the ball, playing his junior and senior seasons at running back after Harper suffered another season-ending injury in what would have been his senior year.

Harper would come back and play in 12 games last year as a senior, finishing the season as the Broncos' second-leading rusher. He was then granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Last week Harper rushed for 162 yards and scored three touchdowns, and is expected to be a primary weapon on the Boise State offense. It will be the jobs of Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga to keep him in check. Locking down Harper will be a key strategy for the Cougars in order to force Southwick to throw the ball.

Wide receivers

X-R Kirby Moore

Playing at the x-receiver position, Kirby Moore – the younger brother of Kellen Moore – will be Southwick's primary receiver. Coming in at 6 feet 3 inches and 203 pounds, Moore isn't the fastest player out on the field, but he is a receiver in the mold of BYU receivers of old. He runs precise routes and has very good hands. In third-and-short situations, he is the go-to receiver for the Bronco offense, as was demonstrated last week.

H-R Mitch Burroughs

At the slot receiver will be 5-foot-9-inch, 193-pound Mitch Burroughs. He's another receiver in the mold of BYU receivers of old. He has decent speed but not breakaway speed, and is dependable with good hands.

H-R Shane Williams-Rhodes

Freshman Shane Williams-Rhodes, at 5 feet 6 inches and 154 pounds, is not very big but is very elusive. Williams-Rhodes is quick player that Coach Peterson likes to use on fly sweeps and screens. On the inside his quickness creates problems and mismatches for larger linebackers. He is Boise State's version of J.D. Falslev and the Broncos will look to get him in space to create plays. He is rarely used downfield in passing routes, but instead in short quick-hit passes.

Z-R Aaron Burks

With Geraldo Boldewijn missing BSU's first four games, the starter will be 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound junior Aaron Burks from Texas. Burks is a pure speed receiver and will match up against BYU field corner Jordan Johnson. That will be a matchup to watch. Burks had a 53-yard reception against Miami (Ohio) and has the ability to go deep.

Tight ends

Holden Huff and Gabe Linehan

Boise State uses the tight end position for blocking in the run game primarily, but will sneak them out in passing routes on occasion. It appears the tight end position has been by committee, as 6-foot-5-inch, 213-pound redshirt freshman Holden Huff has caught the most passes in the season so far over redshirt junior Gabe Linehan, who was one of BSU's primary pass-catching tight ends last year. Meanwhile, senior Chandler Koch is primarily used in the run-blocking game.

Key Points

If BYU can bottle up D.J. Harper in the run game, the Bronco offense will look to get creative in the passing game. The Broncos will face a tough BYU defensive line and linebacker corps. If BSU can't get Harper going, there will be a lot of motion and shifting to try and create mismatches and overload various sides of the field with receivers to create mismatches.

Spencer Hadley's three keys to victory

First key: "They have a great running game. It's crucial for us as a defense to stop the run and to get after the run. That has to be something we do first and foremost. Boise State has a good ground game, so that's important."

Second key: "We have to score more points than they do and we have to manage the big plays. If they do make the big plays, we have to bounce back from those and not allow those to turn into touchdowns."

Third key: "If our offense does turn over the ball, as a defense we have to go out there and take control of the situation. We can't let them run away with that momentum. We have to hold them to field goals or turn the momentum around and get the ball back to our offense."

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