The Boise State Broncos began spring practice last week coming off a 12-1 season that came to a rather anticlimactic finish after a loss to Nevada dashed any national title hopes for the non-AQ program. The Broncos ultimately landed in the Las Vegas Bowl, where they defeated the Utah Utes. If Boise State has been anything this past decade (and a year), it's consistent. Since 2000, Boise State has gone 124-18 losing more than one game in only four of the eleven seasons. Chris Petersen is 71-6 as the head coach since taking the job in 2006. He served as offensive coordinator of the Broncos previously.
Last year Boise State was considered a national title contender before the season began, starting the season ranked third in the AP Poll and fifth in the Coaches' Poll. The Auburn Tigers and Oregon Ducks ultimately passed Boise State despite the Broncos' undefeated record, but any controversy (at least involving Boise State) came to an end when Nevada defeated the Broncos in a thrilling late November matchup.
So where do the Broncos stand now? Are they a serious contender again? Or did the loss of talent to the NFL harm their chances of competing for the ultimate prize?
They're losing their two leading receivers in Austin Pettis and Titus Young who accounted for 2,166 of Kellen Moore's 3,845 passing yards in 2010 and 19 of his 35 touchdown passes, but several others return to the offense including running back Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, and tight end Kyle Efaw. Three starters are expected to return along the offensive line including All-WAC selections Nate Potter and Thomas Byrd.
Like the offense, the defense will include several veteran starters. Losing players like defensive end Ryan Winterswyk and defensive backs Brandyn Thompson, Jeron Johnson and Winston Venable is never good, but there are several key pieces returning including linebacker Byron Hout and defensive end Shea McClellin. Safety George Iloka is expected to lead the secondary.
Position battles are on-going on both sides, but veteran starting units are expected. The Broncos did not lose a single underclassman to the NFL on either side of the ball despite a record 56 underclassmen making the jump. The veteran leadership on both sides will be vital to this team's position in the polls to begin the season, as well as their ability to justify their high ranking throughout the year.
Key to Boise State's success will again be quarterback Kellen Moore, who enters his fourth season as the Broncos starter. Moore must find new favorite targets with both Pettis and Young now headed for the NFL. He'll look at Efaw from the tight end spot and H-back Tyler Shoemaker will also see his fair share of targets. Geraldo Hiwat should see a lot more passes come his way, too. Moore will be working with a new offensive coordinator following Bryan Harsin's departure for Texas. Brent Pease, assistant head coach and wide receivers coach last year, will be the new OC and quarterbacks coach in 2011.
One of the limiting factors facing Boise State in the polls has been their schedule. The move to the Mountain West this season should help as they take on TCU and San Diego State, who had a good season in their own right a year ago, and continue WAC rivalries with Nevada and Fresno State. They also begin the year by taking on the Georgia Bulldogs, similar to how they began last year by taking on Virginia Tech. Despite the move, however, Boise State will continue to fight the strength- of-schedule monster.
Yet with a Heisman-worthy quarterback returning along with six other offensive starters and seven defensive starters, Boise State's veteran squad should again be mentioned as a BCS buster and serious contender for the national title heading into next season...again.
Stay tuned this summer for in-depth team previews of all major college football programs, including the Boise State Broncos.
Danny Hobrock, is a sports journalist covering NCAA Football and MLB. An NCAA Football On-Air Personality, Danny is the editor of our college football content. Danny's college football work has garnered national attention and has been critically acclaimed. You may email Danny directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DannyHobrock
Tune in to Dr. Roto's Fantasy Baseball Podcast's LIVE on Blog Talk Radio, Thursday afternoons at 12:00 pm EST. To have your questions answered on the air call (646) 915-9367. For those of you that can't listen to the show live, we'll broadcast each show here on the site as a podcast each week. You may email Dr. Roto @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DrRoto
Check out these other stories.....