Every team has to deal with departing players every year — it’s a fact of life in college football. It’s not often, though, that a team takes the hit that Boise State has taken.
First off, their quarterback of the last four years, Kellen Moore, is gone. All he did was win 50 games in his career. They lost two players in the first round of the NFL Draft — running back Doug Martin and DE Shea McClellin. Along with McClellin went the entire starting defensive line. Nate Potter was an All-American at left tackle. Tyler Shoemaker, a wide receiver, caught more TDs in a season than any other player in school history. George Iloka started at safety for four years. Ouch.
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It wasn’t just the roster that was hit hard. The coaching staff was robbed as well. The offensive coordinator took the same job at Florida, and two other assistants left as well. The only thing that hasn’t changed for now is their conference — they don’t move to the Big East until next year.
It’s been a long time since the Broncos have dealt with that much change at once. Now we’ll really get a sense of how strong the program is, and how mentally tough they are. Will this be a rebuilding year? Or will the program just reload and continue their special kind of dominance?
The biggest problem with replacing Moore is that he was so consistently excellent that no one behind him got a chance to play any meaningful time. There are four guys in a relatively wide-open fight to replace him — a junior, sophomore, redshirt freshman and true freshman. Of those, the eldest, Joe Southwick, seems to have the slight edge thanks to his familiarity with the program. The sophomore, Grant Hedrick, has actually played more than Southwick, but it was as a wildcat quarterback so that’s not particularly applicable.
While it’s not clear who will throw the passes, there are plenty of guys to catch them. Shoemaker is a big loss, but the rest of the unit is intact. The star of the group should be none other than junior Kirby Moore, the younger brother of Kellen. Matt Miller is coming off a very strong freshman year and should be ready to shine as well. It’s a very deep group that should make the transition to a new pivot easier.
With Martin gone the running back load will be carried by D.J. Harper. If it seems like Harper has been around forever that’s because he has — thanks to two ACL injuries that cost most of a season each time he is entering his sixth year. If he can stay healthy he’ll be dangerous. Behind him is a very young, but talented, group of backs.
Making all the transitions easier is a strong offensive line. Four of five starters are back, and there are nine players who have started at least one game. It may not play to quite the level it did last year, but this line will still be a big asset for this team.
What happens when you take arguably the best defensive line in the country and replace every starter? We’ll have to wait to find out because it likely has almost never happened before. The good news is that there is a lot of intriguing talent as the success of this unit in recent years has made recruiting easier. The bad news is that there is virtually no experience on the line. Can the talent turn into respectability? Your guess is as good as mine. We know they will be coached well, but there will be no margin for error here, and this certainly won’t be the major asset it has been the last two years.
Depth is a big issue in the linebacking ranks as well. J.C. Percy has started parts of the last three years, but he’ll be joined by new faces. The outside depth is so challenged that half the players seriously looking for an opportunity aren’t even on scholarship.
The news is somewhat better in the secondary. Their starting cornerback duo if Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins is as good as any duo in the country. The safeties don’t have the same experience, but they are talented, and two sophomores who saw time last year should step up and play.
2012 Boise State Broncos Schedule Analysis
The Broncos continue to try to make their nonconference schedule tougher to attract early respect. This year they would probably much rather start with an easier game than a trip to play Michigan State given the number of players they have to break in. Win or lose they will have more than two weeks to reassess and get ready for their next game against Miami of Ohio. The last two nonconference contests — home against BYU and at Southern Miss — are also interesting and could be the toughest games of the year.
The conference schedule is much like we have come to expect — Boise State will be the most talented team and there is a fair chance they could run the table. A win over Michigan State — dealing with a new QB of their own — could feasibly set them up for yet another run to an impressive bowl after an unbeaten season. Or they could struggle to assimilate so many new faces and falter against some of the tricky opponents they face — besides the nonconference schedule a home game against Fresno State and a season ending trip to Nevada could be the trickiest.
2012 Boise State Broncos College Football Futures Odds
Despite all the changes Betonline remains optimistic about this squad. The Broncos are heavy -300 favorites to win the Mountain West. Their closest challenger is Nevada at +525. The chances of a National Championship are obviously far more remote, and even the +6500 offered doesn’t seem to offer any value in my eyes.
2012 Boise State Broncos Football Predictions
I have endless faith in Chris Petersen and what he is doing with this team, so despite their challenges I am reasonably optimistic.
Their opener at Michigan State isn’t ideal, but the Spartans are facing changes, and the game is winnable — as the mere 5.5 point spread in favor of the Spartans shows. The other three nonconference games are winnable as well.
Seven of the eight conference games qualify as relatively easy, and the Nevada team they will travel to play in the last game isn’t as dangerous as the one that upset them in 2010. I hate being this optimistic about a team with so few returning starters, but I don’t see a single game that they can’t win, and there’s no real reason to doubt that they could win most or even all of them.
Despite the changes it would be a massive shock if this was not a double-digit win team yet again.
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