Way back in January, Phil Steele got a head-start on everybody and posted his "returning starters" for the 2012 season. I thought it would be interesting to look at the schools that have the least amount of returning starters. Today we start off with Boise State and the little dynasty that Chris Petersen has been building out in Idaho. Phil Steele has Boise State as returning the least amount of starters out of all 123 teams in the FBS (yes 123, there will be 3 new teams in the FBS this season).
Total Returning Starters: 6
Special Teams: 1
The immediate reaction is to look at Boise State and say that Kellen Moore will be the biggest loss for the Broncos this season. Moore exits with over 14,000 yards passing and over 140 TD passes. Moore will most likely be replaced by Joe Southwick. Southwick did get into 8 games last season although he only saw limited action (23/30 for 198 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT) and he will be battling three others for the starting job. At RB, the Broncos lose Doug Martin. Martin ran for nearly 1300 yards last season with 16 TDs.
The good news for Boise State is that they received a sixth year of eligibility for D.J. Harper. Harper is a good RB and he totaled 557 yards and 9 TDs last year. In 2011, the Broncos turned over a new leaf in the receiving corps after losing Austin Pettis and Titus Young to the NFL. The Broncos will return three of their top four receivers from last season and 65% of their total receptions.
The big loss that will be tough to overcome for Boise is along the lines of scrimmage. Over the last two years, Boise State has been able to defeat teams like Georgia and Virginia Tech because of the depth, strength and experience that they had on the offensive and defensive lines. Boise must replace three starters on the OL (Nate Potter-OT, Cory Yriarte-C, Chuck Hayes-OG). Potter will be the biggest loss of that group.
On the defensive line (and the front seven in general) is where the Broncos take the biggest hit. They lose Shea McClellin-DE, Jarrell Root-DE, Billy Winn-DT, Chase Baker-NG, Tyrone Crawford-DE, Byron Hout-MLB and Aaron Tevis-WLB. Overall they lose 77% of their sacks and 58% of their total tackles (they lose 9 of their top 10 tacklers). Depth and injuries started to be an issue down the stretch for the Broncos in 2011. It could be a big factor in 2012.
Looking beyond the sacks and tackles, the Broncos lose valuable leadership and experience that simply can't be replaced in one season. The good news for the Broncos? Their schedule is cupcake-city. They start off at Michigan State, which is going to be a very tough game and if I had to pick right now I'd go with MSU simply because of all the losses BSU comes into the season with.
Besides that their toughest game is against either BYU or Southern Miss. The best two teams that BYU beat last year were Tulsa and Utah State. Southern Miss will be replacing Larry Fedora and breaking in a new coach in Ellis Johnson of South Carolina. That shouldn't exactly make Boise shake in the their boots. The 2012 version of the Broncos will be far from what we've seen the last few years but they should still sport a very Boise State like record when all is said and done.