NCF Nation: Jerrell Gavins

Boise State has to rebound -- again

November, 15, 2011
There are heartbreaking ways to lose. Then there are the ways Boise State has lost the past two years.

Crushing. Agonizing. Dream shattering.

Missed field goals, missed opportunities, blown leads. These are generally not the things Boise State does. But in two losses to Nevada and TCU, the Broncos could not hold on when they needed to most. That means BCS hopes are dashed, and the debate about the worthiness of the Broncos will not be put to rest.

[+] EnlargeChris Petersen, Kellen Moore
AP Photo/Matt CilleyChris Petersen, Kellen Moore (11) and the Broncos need to regroup after last week's defeat.
It may be cruel, but those two losses may end up defining a group of seniors who have won an incredible 46 games -- and counting. Because so much more was expected of a group led by quarterback Kellen Moore, future NFL running back Doug Martin and what was supposed to be one of the top defensive lines in the nation.

The Broncos have beaten teams like Virginia Tech, Georgia and Oregon. But who remembers that when you lose to teams from non-AQ conferences. These are the must-win games, the ones you are expected to dominate.

Injuries played a major role Saturday against TCU. Martin and running back D.J. Harper were hurt. The top three cornerbacks were hurt. The starting center was hurt. But everybody has injuries this time of year. Boise State did not have enough to respond.

So here the Broncos sit for a second year in a row, trying to come to terms with a season that will end away from the national spotlight.

"We're definitely bummed about it," senior safety George Iloka said in a phone interview. "We're not used to losing, but I feel the mood is a little different this year. Last year, the depression was a lot longer. It was a full-out depression. But now guys know what we have to do to bounce back. We have a lot more seniors this year, so as veterans if we have our heads down, there is no way the younger guys are going to have their heads up. We have to lead by example. It's about the next game and getting better and proving we are better."

This a group that has lost three total games by a combined five points. Crushing to be sure. But the Broncos still have a chance to set the school record for wins by a senior class. They need to win out to make that happen. They have been to and won a BCS game, in 2009. They have had a player in Moore become the first Heisman finalist in school history. They beat a team from the SEC for the first time in history.

Iloka has been trying to emphasize those positives as the Broncos prepare to move forward at San Diego State on Saturday.

"This loss doesn't define us," he said. "The loss from last year doesn't define us nor does any win define us. It's a body of work. That's why we keep our heads held high. We've only lost three games. We can't be down in the dumps, and we've got to get better to prepare for San Diego State. They're a good team. We definitely can't be hungover from last Saturday."

Coach Chris Petersen expects Martin and Harper back for the game, but said the Broncos will be without their top three cornerbacks -- Jerrell Gavins, Jamar Taylor and Ebo Makinde. True freshman Lee Hightower and sophomore Quaylon Ewing-Burton will start.

Boise State has three games left in the regular season before going to either the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl or the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Not the way the Broncos envisioned closing the season.

“All the losses are crushing,” Petersen said during his news conference Monday. “People don’t understand how tough these losses are to the coaches, to the kids. You put your heart and soul into it year-round, and when you don’t get it done, it’s hard.”

Boise State spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
2009 overall record: 14-0

2009 conference record: 8-0

Returning starters
Offense: 10, defense 10, punter/kicker 2

Top returners
QB Kellen Moore, OL Nate Potter, DE Ryan Winterswyk, DT Billy Winn, S Jeron Johnson, WR Titus Young, RB Jeremy Avery, CB Brandyn Thompson, WR Austin Pettis, S Winston Venable

Key losses
CB Kyle Wilson, TE Richie Brockel, OL Kevin Sapien

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: Jeremy Avery * (1,151 yards)
Passing: Kellen Moore * (3,536 yards)
Receiving: Titus Young * (1,041 yards)
Tackles: Jeron Johnson * (91 Total; 54 UA, 37 Asst)
Sacks: Ryan Winterswyk * (9.0 sacks/48 yards)
Interceptions: Brandyn Thompson * (6 INT, 67 Yards, 1 TD)

Spring Answers

1. Filling in for Wilson: The only void in the secondary is the one left at cornerback by first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson. There’s an abundance of young talent available, including Jerrell Gavins, Jamar Taylor and Ebo Makinde, who had a terrific spring.

2. Depth at receiver: Boise State returns four receivers who had 20 or more catches last year, but this spring was about the development of young players such as sophomores Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs and freshmen Aaron Burks and Geraldo Hiwat. The Broncos have mainstays in Austin Pettis, Titus Young and Tyler Shoemaker, but these young players, including Kirby Moore, will give the Broncos even more depth.

3. D-line looks strong: The Boise State defensive line was one of the best in the country last season and should be just as good, if not better, in 2010. During scrimmages this spring, the defensive line got pressure on Moore and forced him into uncharacteristic mistakes. While there were some injuries on the line, it should be better and deeper than 2009.

Fall Questions

1. What to do with the running backs? The Broncos have nine running backs who could fight for time this year. Nine. But realistically, Jeremy Avery, Doug Martin and D.J. Harper will be the main backs while the others sit or fight for carries. This isn’t anything new. Boise State has had multiple backs before; it’s just a matter of determining how to divvy up the carries.

2. Offensive line shuffle: The good thing about playing so many offensive linemen the past couple of years is that there is no lack of depth. However, there could be a lack of consistency, which is why the Broncos are trying to settle on a permanent offensive line. It didn’t help that some of the main guys were out this spring, but the Broncos should have a nice group from which to choose.

3. Replicating special teams: The Broncos have had great special teams for quite some time, but with Kyle Wilson gone, the Broncos need a new threat to fill the void. Titus Young was great on kick returns and Chris Potter can help out with punts. Doug Martin and Jerrell Gavins also will be options on returns.

What to watch in the WAC this spring

February, 25, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Boise State Broncos
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" All starters but Kyle Wilson return in 2010. Jerrell Gavins, who started at Wilson's outside cornerback position during the Fiesta Bowl (Wilson moved to safety) likely will slip into that starting slot.

" With so many players returning and few questions to answer, the Broncos can really start working on the 2010 season. This will also be a good time to sort out the offensive line (10 O-linemen had at least one start last year) and looking for some redshirted playmakers that could find their way into the lineup this season.

" Defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski steps in as the new defensive coordinator for Justin Wilcox, who went to Tennessee, but don’t expect any major changes to the defense. Kwiatkowski was Wilcox’s mentor and the two shared the same vision for the Broncos defense.

Fresno State Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Fresno State lost three top backs in Ryan Mathews, Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding and will spend the spring looking for a replacement. Robbie Rouse is the top returning back, but he’s a smaller back than the ones the Bulldogs lost. Look for Michael Harris to get a chance this spring.

" With Seyi Ajirotutu, Marlon Moore and Chastin West gone, the Bulldogs will be looking to fill their receiver depth to help starting quarterback Ryan Colburn. Coach Pat Hill noted on signing day that he wants to spread things out this year and he’s looking forward to some speed joining the team in the fall. In the meantime, sophomore Rashad Evans, redshirt freshman A.J. Johnson and sophomore J.J. Stallworth will work for playing time with Jamel Hamler and Devon Wylie.

" The defensive front, which struggled late against the running game (most notably Nevada and Wyoming), will be a focus this spring. The Bulldogs return nine starters from the bowl game, including All-WAC first team defensive end Chris Carter and linebacker Ben Jacobs.

Hawaii Warriors
Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

" The offensive line was a question heading into the 2009 season and will be again in 2010. The Warriors lose four senior starters, including center John Estes. Backups Kainoa LaCount, Matagisila Lefiti, Andrew Faaumu, Bronson Tiwanak, Clayton Laurel and Adrian Thomas will be among those competing for starting roles.

" Bryan Moniz finished the season as the starting quarterback and will go into spring ball as the leading candidate to start in 2010, but Shane Austin, who played some in 2009, will challenge for the starting role this spring. Moniz finished the season completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,396 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

" The Hawaii defense struggled some last year, but should be better if star linebacker Brashton Satele receives a sixth season. The Warriors will be looking for a new right tackle as well as a couple of starting linebackers, but the defense, which improved as the season progressed, should be a pleasant surprise in 2010.

Idaho Vandals
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:

" The top priority this spring will be reloading the offensive line. The Vandals lost four starters on the offensive line, including All-American guard Mike Iupati. The only returner is left tackle Matt Cleveland. Guy Reynolds Jr. was Iupati’s backup, and players such as Clell Hasenbank, Tevita HalaHolo and Tyron Novikoff will be competing for starting roles.

" The offense carried the team last year, especially the passing game, but starting quarterback Nathan Enderle will have to work out three new receivers this spring. The biggest loss is slot Max Komar, who made key catches all season, including in the Humanitarian Bowl win over Bowling Green.

" The Idaho defense was one of the worst in the country allowing 433.23 yards per game and 36.00 points per game. More often than not, the Vandals were trying to outscore their opponents instead of stopping them defensively. Eleven players with starting experience from last year’s bowl team return; the only loss is strong safety Jeromy Jones. But with the way the defense played last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of those positions open this spring.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

" The loss of running back Daniel Porter and tight end Dennis Morris takes out a lot of the offense and scoring the Bulldogs had in 2009. New head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will spend the spring looking for playmakers to fit their wide-open offensive style.

" Wide receiver will be a key competition this spring for Louisiana Tech’s new spread offense. Tennessee transfer Ahmad Paige and LSU transfer Tim Molton are both eligible and will join RP Stuart, Cruz Williams and Phillip Livas in the receiving corps.

" Louisiana Tech will be looking for some consistency in the punting game after Cade Glasgow struggled last year. Overall, the Bulldogs punting game averaged 32.91 yards per game, which ranked last in the WAC. The Bulldogs didn’t recruit a punter, so expect some potential walk-on help.

New Mexico State Aggies
Spring practice starts: April 5
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

" Second-year coach DeWayne Walker was unhappy with the team's scoring, especially in the second half of the season, which prompted him to replace his offensive coordinator and running backs coach. His main priority this spring is finding some consistency at quarterback. Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls return and redshirt freshman Tanner Rust and true freshman Andrew Manley will challenge, but junior college transfer Matt Christian is the favorite to be the starter.

" The running game was the one bright spot for the offense last season with Seth Smith rushing for 1,016 yards, but he had just one rushing touchdown. Redshirt freshman Marquese Dunn will get a look this spring and will challenge for playing time as Walker looks for playmakers.

" Shoring up a total defense that allowed 423.62 yards per game and 31.62 points per game will be Walker’s project this spring. The Aggies return some key players, but Walker said most of the help on the defensive line will come in the fall.

Nevada Wolf Pack
Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 3

What to watch:

" The running game is Nevada’s bread and butter and it should stay that way with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and star running back Vai Taua returning. However, the Wolf Pack need to spend this spring working on depth with players such as Lampford Mark, Mike Ball and Stefphon Jefferson.

" The offensive line needs to replace Kenneth Ackerman and Alonzo Durham this spring in order to keep the running game effective. Center Jeff Meads and tackle Jose Acuna are the primary backups for those two spots. The Wolf Pack also will look to build offensive line depth across the board.

" The Nevada defense will spend the spring learning a slightly altered 4-3 defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Andy Buh. The defense has been the weak link of the Wolf Pack for the past few years, so shoring that up this spring will be a high priority.

San Jose State Spartans
Spring practice starts: March 12
Spring game: April 22

What to watch:

" For the second consecutive season, San Jose State had trouble producing offense mostly because of inconsistent play at quarterback. Jordan La Secla returns as the incumbent, but junior college transfer Matt Faulkner, who enrolled in January, will challenge this spring.

" For as much as the passing offense struggled, the rushing offense was worse. Lamon Muldrow, who led the team with 592 yards and three touchdowns last season will be counted on in the running game, but the Spartans signed three running backs for 2010, including Forrest Hightower, who will challenge in the fall.

" Most of spring practice will be spent learning the new coaching staff and the new offensive and defensive schemes. The Spartans are transitioning from a spread offense to a more traditional style that will incorporate an H-back and a tight end. The Spartans also will move toward an attacking style defense, but will stay in a 4-3 base that will feature both man-to-man and zone coverage.

Utah State Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" The primary concern this spring will be finding running back depth after star Robert Turbin suffered a torn ACL during winter workouts. All eyes will be on Michael Smith, Derrvin Speight and Kerrwynn Williams as they try to pick up the slack.

" Second-year head coach Gary Andersen is showing his commitment to defense after shuffling several players on that side of the ball. Nathan Royster is moving from defensive tackle to end, Junior Keiaho and Devin Johnson are moving from end to linebacker, wide receiver Cameron Sanders has moved to defensive back and the Aggies are hoping to get some defensive contribution out of Page Clifford, a transfer from Utah.

" There should be some good competition at wide receiver this spring with Matt Austin returning from injury and Travis Van Leeuewen coming off a redshirt season. Mid-year signees Xavier Martin and Dontel Watkins also will challenge for starting roles. Utah State had a good passing offense with 246.75 yards per game from starter Diondre Borel.