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Boise State’s underappreciated offensive line

Boise State’s underappreciated offensive line

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on March 28, 2011 at 7:29 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 3 at 6:10 PM

 

Monday, March 28, 2011.
 
Boise State players and coaches have scattered for spring break, with the defense feeling challenged and the offense rather advanced. What’s really made the “O” go so far in spring football? Well, the group that everyone always wonders about before the season but seldom has to worry about once it starts is the offensive line. The wondering this year comes from the departure of right guard Will Lawrence and right tackle Matt Slater. 
 
But depth makes that less of a worry, and last Wednesday’s scrimmage bore that out. The left side will be rock solid with Nate Potter, Joe Kellogg and Thomas Byrd (who's out for the spring). And the Broncos have a lot to choose from on the right side: Brenel Myers, Faraji Wright, Charles Leno, and Michael Ames are all viable candidates. So are Cory Yriarte and Jake Broyles. Yriarte has worked his way back from a serious knee injury in fall camp back in 2009. Broyles has been consistently mentioned as the fastest-riser among Boise State O-linemen.
 
Kellen Moore, as usual, made things look effortless last Wednesday. But coach Chris Petersen says there’s a reason for that. “It starts with protection,” said Petersen. Remember the concern over the O-line going into the opener against Oregon in 2009? That unit ended up leading the country in fewest sacks allowed with five. Last season the number was eight, which was third in the nation. Ames started the 2009 season at right tackle, and Myers finished it in the Fiesta Bowl. Unfortunately, it looks like the guy who had the job most of that season in between Ames and Myers, Garrett Pendergast, might not be able to get back in the mix after all. The ankle Pendergast broke in practice leading up to the Fiesta Bowl isn’t all the way back—and may never be.
 
Word came out last Friday that five Boise State players were named to the three teams of the 2011 GoDaddy.com Preseason All-America squad presented by NationalChamps.net. But a sixth Bronco named honorable mention may be the most significant. Running back Doug Martin is poised for a huge senior season, and this is a start. Martin has a chance to be among the nation’s elite as he builds on a 2010 season that produced 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns. The other Boise State representatives: Offensive tackle Nate Potter (first team), quarterback Kellen Moore and defensive tackle Billy Winn (second team), and defensive end Shea McClellin and center Thomas Byrd (third team). Did you notice two of those players are Treasure Valley guys?
 
Nevada spring football started Friday as the Wolf Pack looks at life after Colin Kaepernick. Life after Vai Taua may be just as big a factor, though, and the Pack may not find out what it needs to know this spring. Projected running back starter Mike Ball has an apparent knee injury and is out for an undetermined period of time. Taua’s other backup last year, Lampford Mark, is still recovering from a serious knee injury late last season and will miss spring ball. That leaves two guys used sparingly last year, JC transfer Nick Hale and true freshman Stefphon Jefferson, as the only two running backs in the spring who have a carry in an FBS game. Taua rushed for 4,588 yards and 45 touchdowns in his Nevada career.
 
One more postscript on Boise State basketball: the fan factor. Attendance was inconsistent this season in Taco Bell Arena, but that’s better than the consistently poor numbers the Broncos drew last year in setting a record low for the facility at 3,061 per game. This season Boise State averaged 4,594 a game and appears to have turned the corner, as fans were re-engaged by the 22-13 season. Attendance should increase next season, even if the transition to the Mountain West creates some angst. The Broncos already have home games built in against San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV.
 
With yesterday’s 117-108 loss at Austin, the Idaho Stampede clinched a losing season. But the bigger story is how long the Stampede were able to stave it off, having started 2-13. And the Stamps still have a shot at the D-League Playoffs going into the final two games of the regular season this week. Fort Wayne is back in the driver’s seat for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Mad Ants are 23-25, while Texas is 22-25 and the Stampede are 22-26. By the way, the Stampede’s Babbitt & Bobbitt Show struck with a vengeance yesterday against the Toros, as Luke Babbitt scored a game-high 34 points and Tony Bobbitt tallied 33. Antoine Walker was the only other Idaho player in double figures, though, with 10.
 
The third period bugaboo nearly struck the Idaho Steelheads again Saturday night. But goalie Adrien Lemay bore down in the face of an Ontario two-man advantage in the final seconds, and the Steelheads escaped with a 3-2 victory. That snapped a seven-game winless streak for the Steelies, who are trying to avoid the appearance of backing into the Kelly Cup Playoffs next week. The Reign had hung a 3-2 defeat on Idaho Friday night. Highlight of the Saturday tilt was Mark Derlago’s 40th goal of the season, two short of the team’s ECHL-era record he set a year ago. The Steelheads close out their regular season home schedule Wednesday night against the Utah Grizzlies in Qwest Arena.
 
The Boise State Spring Break Classic ended in a title for the Broncos, and it came with some drama. BSU had suffered a rare defeat at the hands of Idaho a week earlier but avenged it with a tense 4-3 win over the Vandals in the championship match. The final two individual matches to finish (and thus decide the outcome) were victories by Boise State true freshmen Andy Bettles and Nathan Sereke. The Broncos had posted wins over Eastern Washington and Wichita State to reach the championship.
 
Big league clubs are making their final moves in advance of Opening Day later this week, and one trade over the weekend was a key one by the Yankees involving a former Boise Hawk. Sergio Mitre had been battling for the No. 5 spot in the Yanks’ rotation, but he’s been dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. Mitre, who was part of the Hawks rotation in 2001 with Dontrelle Willis, has had a rocky major league career, but he recorded his lowest career ERA last year for the Yankees at 3.33. Mitre may be a candidate to fill in as starter for the injured Zach Greinke in Milwaukee. As for Willis, who’s trying to resurrrect his big league career, he’s been reassigned to the Reds’ minor league camp. Does not look good for the D-Train.
 
This Day In Sports…March 28, 1977:
 
Two back-alley scrappers, Sylvester Stallone and Al McGuire, walk away with big prizes. In a storybook ending to his coaching career, McGuire won the NCAA championship when his Marquette Warriors beat North Carolina, 67-59. The Academy Awards were held the same night, and “Rocky”, starring Stallone as the rags-to-riches club fighter, took the Oscar for Best Picture.
 
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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