NCF Nation: Matt Miller

Boise State season preview

August, 22, 2013
Pigskin, potatoes and blue-turf football fields are three things Idaho does very, very well. And again this season, it could be more of the same.


Coach Chris Petersen (84-8 overall, 84-8 at Boise State)

2012 record: (11-2 overall, 7-1 in Mountain West)

[+] EnlargeJoe Southwick
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesBoise State hopes QB Joe Southwick can be more consistent in the passing game this season.
Key losses: RB DJ Harper, LB J.C. Percy

Key returnees: QB Joe Southwick, LT Charles Leno Jr., C Matt Paradis, WR Matt Miller, WR Kirby Moore, DE Demarcus Lawrence, LB Blake Renaud, S Jeremy Ioane

Newcomer to watch: With a defense that’s attempting to replace almost two-thirds of its starters, someone like freshman linebacker Joe Martarano could be one to watch. The 6-foot-2, 234-pound linebacker chose football over an MLB career and with the Broncos needing some help in their front seven, he could contribute immediately.

Biggest games in 2013: at Washington (Aug. 31), vs. Air Force (Sept. 13), at Fresno State (Sept. 20) and at BYU (Oct. 25)

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can the Broncos get it done on the road? Their three toughest games of the season will come on opponents’ turf so they need to finish the job there. And it’s not as though they’ll have much of a warm up considering their season opener is a trip to Washington -- a team that they snuck past last December, in a 28-26 win in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Boise State beat both Fresno State and BYU last season, but both were home games. If the Broncos can win on the road, they could be hosting the Mountain West championship game at home in early December.

Forecast: Boise State has a good shot to win the Mountain West, and if it does, the Broncos could find themselves in a BCS bowl game this season. The defense only returns four starters from its 11-2 season a year ago, but if the Broncos can make stops and keep the offense on the field, they have a chance to have a really successful season.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a Petersen-led group to overachieve, and since their schedule isn’t the kindest on the road, they’ll have the chance to do that. They’ll need consistency from their players, especially early in the season. Boise State will face Washington, Air Force (whose offense is so hard to prepare for) and Fresno State in its first four games. That stretch alone could define the season in a very bad or very good way. But if they can kick it in to high gear early, they could go undefeated, and an argument for a national title game bid could be made. However, the Broncos could just as easily have a few missteps here, and the tight games they closed out last season could go the other way, leaving them with two or three losses heading into bowl season.

Southwick finished last season with 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had his moments when he didn’t look like a polished passer. Five times last season he completed less than 67 percent of his passes. However, with Harper, the Broncos were able to turn three of those games into wins. This season, with a new running back, Southwick will need to be more consistent in the passing game. If he can excel and sophomore running back Jay Ajayi can be productive from Day 1 (and especially on the road), this team could be one we’re talking about in December.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas keys

December, 22, 2012
Three things to watch in today's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas between Washington and Boise State:

1. Red zone production: Once you get there, you better get points. That's been an issue for Washington and quarterback Keith Price this season. After ranking second in FBS last year with an 80.8 red zone touchdown percentage, the Huskies have dropped to 66 percent. Last year Price was among the nation's leaders in red zone completion percentage and touchdowns with 74.1 and 25, respectively. This year he's only completing 57.6 percent in the red zone with 14 touchdowns. The Broncos have allowed just three receiving touchdowns all year and rank in the top 10 nationally in pass defense and pass-efficiency defense. They also rank seventh in red zone defense. Both teams are in the bottom half of the country in red zone offense.

2. Bring the heat: Boise State is one of the best teams in the country at protecting its quarterback. The Broncos rank seventh nationally, allowing less than a sack per game, which makes life a lot easier on quarterback Joe Southwick. The Huskies are middle of the road when it comes to creating pressure, averaging about two sacks per game. Washington's sophomore ends Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson both check in with 6.5 sacks on the year.

3. Run, then gun: Both teams boast 1,000-yard rushers this season: Bishop Sankey for Washington (1,234 yards 15 touchdowns) and D.J. Harper for Boise State (1,065 yards, 15 touchdowns). Both have similar compact frames and both possess home run potential. Look for each offense to get their guys established on the ground and then cut it loose to their marquee receivers. Price is actually at his best when he goes deep -- tossing six touchdowns with no interceptions on throws of 15 yards or more. He'll look to either Mackey Award finalist Austin Seferian-Jenkins or wide receiver Kasen Williams. Southwick's favorite target is Matt Miller, who has 60 catches and five touchdowns on the year.
Each time Boise State coach Chris Petersen was asked who would replace receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young going into this season, he gave the same answer.

The Broncos would play more receiver by committee.

It was enough to say, especially with Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore returning. But would that work in practice?

It has indeed in their 6-0 start.

Seven different players have caught at least 12 passes -- that includes two tight ends and a running back. Nine different players have caught touchdown passes. Tyler Shoemaker is the only player with a 100-yard receiving game, and he only has two.

None of this is unexpected, really. Petersen knows it was rare for the Broncos to have two go-to players with NFL talent. The distribution was slanted toward them in the past two seasons, especially last year, when they combined for 142 receptions and 2,166 yards. They accounted for 53 percent of the receptions, 57 percent of the yards and 53 percent of the touchdown catches in 2010.

[+] EnlargeTyler Shoemaker
AP Photo/Jack DempseyEight of Tyler Shoemaker's 24 receptions this season have gone for touchdowns.
Shoemaker was the next closest receiver with 32 catches for 582 yards.

Now, Mitch Burroughs leads the team with 30 receptions. But it is Shoemaker who leads the team in yards receiving with 401 and touchdown passes with eight. He is coming off a career day in which he had 180 yards receiving and three touchdowns in a 63-13 win over Colorado State. The reaction afterward -- it was just his turn to step up.

“I try to be there for Kellen,” Shoemaker said. “Any time he wants to throw me the ball, I'll be there. I just try to be a leader out there for the other receivers and make sure we're all on track.”

To be sure, all the talk in the preseason about the receiving corps being a potential weak spot aggravated the receivers as a whole.

“We knew that it was going to be a challenge, and the challenge was going to be up to us to fill that void with them gone,” Shoemaker said. “But we decided it was going to be receiver by committee this year and not one person would fill those spots. As a group we've done well.”

Was all the talk used as motivation?

“Any time a senior or a group of seniors leave and that next senior class steps up, it's about filling those roles and becoming a leader,” Shoemaker said. “For me personally, it was a lot of motivation.”

This group also handled another major bit of adversity that came its way when Geraldo Boldewijn was forced to sit out the first four games of the season for violating NCAA rules. Boldewijn had a breakout spring and was supposed to be the deep threat on this team with Young gone, but the Broncos survived just fine without him.

Shoemaker was asked after the Colorado State game whether people should have considered him a deep threat before the season.

“Why not me? I ask people that all the time,” he said with a smile. “I think everybody is going to have their opportunities and everybody has that ability to stretch the field, especially Geraldo. We get different matchups every week and everybody has to be ready.”

Shoemaker has been at Boise State for a while, so his emergence was expected. But one of the most pleasant surprises has been the play of redshirt freshman Matt Miller, one of the most highly sought-after players from the state of Montana in the class of 2010.

Miller chose Boise State over Oregon State, Arkansas, North Carolina, Arizona State and Stanford, in part because he felt a closeness to Petersen. He tore his Achilles’ tendon last season and had to sit out for a long time, costing him valuable time gaining a chemistry with Moore.

It was the first time in his life he had to sit out for an extended period, but he believes that made him a better player. He worked plenty this summer with Moore, and that has paid off. Miller is second on the team with 28 catches for 308 yards and three touchdown passes.

“Kellen hasn't been throwing to me long, but with a high caliber quarterback like Kellen, he makes it look easy,” Miller said. “I just have to get open.”
Boise State, TCU and BYU all had scrimmages this past weekend. Here are a few notes:

Boise State: The backups had their time to shine in the Boise State scrimmage on Saturday. Running back Malcolm Johnson, who recently returned to the team, had 10 carries for 41 yards and scored on a 9-yard run. Kellen Moore was 7-of-12 for 116 yards and threw two touchdowns in red zone drills. The kicking competition appears to be a two-man race between Dan Goodale and Michael Frisina. Also, Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman reports the Broncos are going to use a six-man rotation at receiver: Tyler Shoemaker, Chris Potter, Mitch Burroughs, Geraldo Boldewijn, Kirby Moore and Matt Miller.

BYU: The first-team offense played just one series and the first-team defense did not play at all in BYU's final scrimmage of preseason camp. There are just two open starting spots up for grabs: left guard and cornerback. Freshman Ryker Mathews and Houston Reynolds are vying for the guard spot; Preston Hadley and Joe Sampson are competing for one starting cornerback job, while Corby Eason, Robbie Buckner and Jordan Johnson are competing for the other spot. Coach Bronco Mendenhall also said the backup quarterback job is too close to call between Riley Nelson and James Lark.

TCU: Coach Gary Patterson might be dipping into his motivational tricks bag. After the Horned Frogs scrimmaged Saturday, he said it was not a sure thing that Casey Pachall would start against Baylor in Week 1. Pachall missed a few days of practice with a sore shoulder, and Patterson says that impacted his player. Matt Brown had a better day in the scrimmage and the two are "neck and neck."

"The time being out hurt Casey," Patterson said. "Matt got a lot better. That's what you do. You don't worry about the guy that's not here. You make the next guys better; that's what big programs are about."

Also in the scrimmage, running back Ed Wesley hurt his arm, but Patterson did not know the extent of the injury.
Boise State didn’t have a lot of room in this year’s recruiting class after losing just five seniors this past season, so coach Chris Petersen wanted to make the most of the few spots he had to fill.

There were only a few areas of minor concern -- secondary and quarterback -- and Petersen thinks his staff did a good job of finding players to fill those posts.

“I really kind of feel the same way as I do every year,” Petersen said. “Our coaches do a good job of finding the right guys that are the right fit for us. And the thing that we’re always so proud of is that our guys don’t care who’s recruiting them and who’s not recruiting them. We do a good job of making our own evaluations and our own opinions and not getting caught up in everybody else’s opinion. Our coaches have been on the mark the last however many years and we feel the same about this crew.”

Receiver Troy Ware and athlete Matt Miller could be the two players ready to contribute right away. Both Ware and Miller are tall, rangy guys that should be a nice complement to a young receiving corps.

The surprise of the class was the signing of safety Jeremy Ioane from Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ioane was also being recruited by Washington and Notre Dame and since a couple of his former high school teammates were on the Irish roster, he appeared headed to South Bend. But Petersen said they had a gut feeling they might land him.

“We were hoping with Jeremy Ioane,” Petersen said. “We really felt like he would fit into our program really well in just so many different ways. He was recruited by some good schools, so you never know. We were just thrilled to get him because we think that he’s going to be a fabulous player for us. We feel really good about the type of person he is.”

The only other goal of this year’s class was to grab yet another quarterback, which Petersen said he wants to do every year. Grant Hedrick is a little different than the other quarterbacks in the program because of his ability to be a true dual-threat player. He was the Oregon High School State Player of the Year after completing 65 percent of his passes for more than 2,500 yards, 34 touchdowns and just one interception. He also rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.

There’s only room for six of the 10 recruits the Broncos picked up this year. But Petersen said the four remaining players might not grayshirt. Changes to the roster could open some more spots before fall camp begins in August.