2014 Boise St Preview: What You Need To Know
Boise State RB Jay Ajayi
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Boise State (Getty Images)
What You Need To Know...
Boise State Preview
What You Need To Know About The Offense: Former Bronco quarterback Mike Sanford returns as the offensive coordinator following a successful stint helping out the Stanford attack. A good quarterback coach, he has a good, mobile veteran in Grant Hedrick to tutor and gets three all-star weapons to play around with in RB Jay Ajayi and receivers Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes. The line wasn’t a rock last season and is the one area that needs retooling with just two starters back, but the offense that finished 19th in the nation in scoring and 20th overall should be even more explosive and more effective – the combination of skill players is the best in the Mountain West.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Coming in after working with the Texas A&M defense is coordinator Marcel Yates, a former defensive back for the Broncos in the late 1990s. His Aggie defense didn’t exactly shine last season, but he knows how to coach a secondary and he has an interesting situation to take over. The Broncos really, really struggled against the pass last season and gave up way too many completions and first downs, but they’re loaded with veterans in the defensive backfield with depth, all-star upside, and speed. However, finding a pass rush to help the cause will be a problem with star end Demarcus Lawrence gone. Using a 4-2-5 alignment, for the most part, the Broncos will be really quick and extremely active – Yates will have his defensive backs attacking.
Players You Need To Know
1. RB Jay Ajayi, Jr.
One of the nation’s best returning backs, the 6-0, 216-pounder came through in place of D.J. Harper with a team-leading 1,425 yards and 18 touchdowns with 22 catches for 222 yards and a score. A workhorse, and the only real rushing option, he had no problems running inside or out, carrying the ground game with 222 yards and three scores against Nevada and six 100-yard games on the season with four touchdowns against Air Force and three more against Wyoming. A strong, pounding back who can hit the home run, the Texas native earned All-Mountain West honors and will be on the short list for Player of the Year recognition. He might not have to handle the ball 271 times again this year, but he can do it if needed.
2. WR Matt Miller, Sr.
The outside X threat showed why he earned 2009 Gatorade Montana Player of the Year honors with 62 catches for 679 yards and nine scores two years ago, and followed it up with 88 grabs for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns, producing no matter who was at quarterback. At 6-3 and 220 pounds, he has the size, and he showed he could do it all with five 100-yard games closing out with 20 catches for 317 yards and four touchdowns in his final two games, and with ten scores in the last five games. While he’s not necessarily a deep threat, he showed he could be one with an 85-yard scoring play against Oregon State in the bowl loss and averaging 13 yards per try.
3. CB Donte Deayon, Jr.
At 5-9 and 152 pounds, he’s not big, but he’s a winning tackler making 54 stops on the season with three tackles for loss and nine broken up passes. Very smart and very quick, he’s able to move around well and be the star everyone wants to avoid throwing at. A great open-field tackler, he doesn’t miss a stop, and he developed a great instinct for getting after the ball as the season went on with four interceptions in the his last five games.
4. LB Ben Weaver, Soph.
The team’s leading tackler, the 6-0, 240-pound weakside defender came up with 76 tackles with a sack and 4.5 tackles for loss with two broken up passes. After dominating as a scout player in his redshirt season, he stepped in right away and became a top tackler who owned the middle of the season with 12 tackles against Utah State and 14 against Nevada. Banged up late in the year, he missed the win over Wyoming, but he came back to fight it out over the last three games. Extremely smart both on and off the field, he gets to the play quickly and efficiently – he’ll be one of the Mountain West’s leading tacklers again.
5. QB Grant Hedrick, Sr.
It’s his job now. Early on last season he backed up Joe Southwick, but he took over the job as the year went on after seeing time in every game, finishing with 1,825 yards and 16 touchdowns with five picks, completing 69% of his passes. While he’s not all that big at 6-0 and 195 pounds, he’s athletic – finishing second on the team with 277 rushing yards and six scores – and able to get into a groove as a passer, hitting Oregon State for 382 yards completing 73% of his tries. The former Oregon Player of the Year spent the offseason preparing to be the main man, and now he’s ready to be a different type of Boise State quarterback. Expect more running than normal.
6. S Jeremy Ioane, Sr.
One of the stars of the secondary coming into last year, the 5-10, 192-pound free safety made 70 tackles with three interceptions two years ago. Last year he kept hitting, making 59 stops, but he took a step back as a playmaker on the ball with no interceptions and just one broken up pass. Even so, he earned Second Team All-Mountain West honors as a steady playmaker against the run. One of the team leaders, he comes up with the big pop and plays like an extra linebacker at times. The Hawaii native who graduated from Barack Obama's high school is very athletic, very tough and fearless.
7. S Darian Thompson, Jr.
At 6-2 and 205 pounds he has excellent size, and he turned into one of the team’s best all-around defenders finishing fourth on the team with 63 tackles to go along with four interceptions. A great hitter with the right frame for a strong safety, he took over the starting job midway through his first year and grew into the job more and more last season. Very quick for his size, he gets around well and has a nose for the ball, but he needs to help make more third down stops after the back seven gave up too many midrange plays.
8. WR Shane Williams-Rhodes, Jr.
A strong No. 2 target, the 5-6, 160-pounder might not be all that big, but he can fly. Even so, he only averaged 9.1 yards per catch, serving more as a midrange target finishing second on the team with 77 grabs for 702 yards and six scores. He missed the last few games of the year, but he still made his presence felt with 13 catches for 150 yards and a score against Utah State and 11 catches for 79 yards against Wyoming. Extremely quick, he’s an all-star punt returner averaging 14.6 yards per try. He can also be used as a kickoff returner after averaging 25 yards per pop two years ago.
9. DT Armand Nance, Jr.
A bowling ball on the inside, the 6-0, 311-pounder gets great leverage and gets under the pads in a hurry. Groomed early in his career to be an anchor, he’s the lone returning starter up front after making 51 tackles with two sacks and four tackles for loss. He won’t get into the backfield on a regular basis, but at his bulked up size he should be more of a run stopper – things will work around him.
10. CB Bryan Douglas, Sr.
At 5-9 and 176 pounds, he’s not a huge defender, but he showed last year he could make plays, tying for the team lead with nine broken up passes with 35 stops. A great prospect when he came to the program, he’s a veteran now with lightning speed, tearing off a 10.68 in the 100. Can he be more consistent when the ball is in the? He picked off four passes, but he’ll need to do even more for a secondary that got ripped apart a bit too much.
11. DT Tyler Horn, Sr.
At 6-5 and 276 pounds, the veteran beefed up over the last few years and appears ready to come up with a big final season after making 44 tackles with a sack and 5.5 tackles for loss. An academic all-star, he should earn honors on the field, too, with great quickness on the inside and the experience to know what he’s doing. Able to hold up at a lighter weight, he should be stronger now against the run to go along with his non-stop motor and good hustle.
2014 Boise State Preview