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Tag:Spring Practice Primer
Posted on: March 10, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Georgia

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Georgia , who begins spring practice today.


Spring Practice Question: Is the Bulldog offense ready to make a push up front?


Entering 2010, the biggest reason Georgia was supposed to be the biggest challenger to two-time defending SEC East champion (and heavy 2010 favorite) Florida was, not coincidentally, their biggest players. Led by veterans like bookend senior tackles Clint Boling and Josh Davis, the Bulldogs boasted the nation's most experienced offensive line . With highly-regarded (and well-compensated) OL coach Stacy Searels leading the unit, the line was believed to be the SEC's best.

Entering 2011, things are very, very different. That line fell far short of the advance hype, with the Bulldogs finishing a disappointing 10th in the SEC in rushing (ahead of only Vanderbilt and Tennessee), doing nothing special in pass protection, and even seeing Searels juggle the lineup late in the year. Though the line wasn't the only problem, it also did precious little to help as Georgia scored 12 points or fewer three times (all losses) and finished a mediocre 56th in the country in total offense. Following the disappointment, Boling, Davis, Trinton Sturdivant (who eventually replaced Davis) and guard Chris Davis all graduated. Searels accepted the same position at Texas. And the advance hype will almost certainly move on to some other team this offseason.

But that doesn't mean it's too late for the Georgia line to get Mark Richt to another SEC title game. For starters, there's still plenty of talent on hand even after the departures, starting with senior center Ben Jones (pictured, a 2009 All-SEC pick before being overlooked last year), 325-pound senior guard Cordy Glenn, and junior guard Kenarious Gates, another player who ascended to the starting lineup late in the year. After seemingly tuning out Searels last year, the Bulldogs will have a new voice in their ears in new coach Will Friend. And maybe most importantly of all, the remaining Bulldogs will have the sting of last year's failures -- rather than an offseason of praise -- fueling them. If Georgia's spring practice shows that the line is enjoying the proverbial addition by subtraction and looks poised to make good on the hype a year late, the rest of the SEC should look out.

Previous Spring Primers
Why? Because if the Dawg line falls into place, everything else on the offense should, too. Aaron Murray was arguably the nation's best freshman quarterback in 2010 and could be the SEC's best signal-caller as a redshirt sophomore. Even with A.J. Green and Kris Durham gone, players like Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, and Rantavious Wooten -- not to mention future NFL tight end Orson Charles -- give the Bulldog receiving corps plenty of potential. And maybe most importantly of all, though he won't be in for spring, incoming tailback recruit Isaiah Crowell could deliver a Marcus Lattimore- like impact for an offense that spent 2010 crying out for a game-changer in the backfield.

Add all of that to a defense that seems certain to improve in the second year of Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme, in a division that's as wide open as any in the SEC's recent memory, and the tools are there for Richt to forge a championship season out of even the miserable ashes of 6-7. But they won't do much good without a huge step forward from the offensive line, and that's where Bulldog fans' primary focus ought to be this spring.

Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 8:49 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Utah

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Utah, who began spring practice on Tuesday.

What are some of the issues Utah has to figure out before moving to the Pac-12?

When you look at teams going through transition this spring, most are referring to a quarterback change or having to deal with new coaching staff members. At Utah, "transition" is less about who's under center and more about a move to a whole different conference.

"It is a new era for Utah football and you can sense it," head coach Kyle Willingham told reporters after the Utes' first practice. "There is a lot of excitement about it and new challenges."

The move to a new league will come complete with a new offense thanks to distinguished alum and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Though he ran the Pistol offense while at UCLA with limited success, Chow is known best for producing high scoring offenses with top flight pro-style quarterbacks (see Palmer, Carson at USC and Rivers, Phillip at N.C. State). Last season's starter Jordan Wynn will miss spring practice after undergoing shoulder surgery, which leaves all the reps to true freshman Tyler Shreve and sophomore Griff Robles. While spring offers the Utes a chance to see what the quarterback of the future looks like, they won't be able to see what the quarterback for next season looks like after Chow all but confirmed that Wynn would start in the fall.

"I told Jordan I'd go to the Heisman one more time and then I'll retire," he told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The backfield is also an area of concern. The team loses two of their leading rushers from last season in Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata. Don't be surprised if early enrollee Harvey Langi makes a big push for playing time after several top programs recruited the big back out of high school. Paving the way in the new pro-style attack will be Boo Anderson, who moves from linebacker to fullback. Three of the five starters on the offensive line are back but there will be battles at both guard spots the Utes will need to lock down before all is said and done.

Oh and one of the best names in college football, wide receiver Shaky Smithson, departs after being a threat in the passing game and special teams. While it might seem like there's a lot of moving parts on offense, there are a few things Willingham doesn't have to worry about. Linebackers Matt Martinez and Chaz Walker return and safety Brian Belchen has bulked up a bit after moving to SAM linebacker. Not a surprise but Willingham thanks Star Lotulelei will be a star at defensive tackle and David Kruger and Derrick Shelby are returning starters at defensive end.

Previous Spring Primers
The front seven should be relatively well equipped for the move for the Pac-12 but the secondary will need to be straightened out over the next month with all four spots up for grabs. You can pencil in junior Conroy Black, who is the fastest player on the team and grabbed an interception last season in a decent amount of playing time. Outside of Black, there's several players who should compete for the other three spots.

Are there a few things the Utes want to get worked out? Yes on both sides of the ball. But that's what spring football is all about, working out the kinks. The coaching staff believes that there's plenty of talent to compete week in and week out in a new conference and there is enough proven talent that will suit up this spring to back that up.

"They've played in big games against the Alabama's and teams so that will be nothing different," Chow told the Tribune. "The challenge will be the week to week competition in the Pac-12. That is different but we'll be ready."

Plenty of things to figure out beforehand though.

Posted on: March 8, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Washington State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Washington State, who began spring practice on Monday.

Spring practice question: Do the Cougars have enough to get out of the cellar?

Spring is always the time of the year where hope springs eternal; everyone's undefeated, everyone's building for the future. Such is the case on the Palouse, where - for the first time in awhile - there's a bit of hope.

Although Paul Wulff's first three years (5-32 overall) were nothing to write home about, a strong finish at the end of last season and a few underrated recruiting classes have the Cougars' head coach feeling very optimistic.

"We want to start where we left off in the fall," Wulff told reporters after Monday's practice. "I think we came out pretty sharp in a lot of ways, there was some rust but there was more familiarity with the coaches and the system."

A key cog (or Coug, I guess) that is returning is quarterback Jeff Tuel. A two year starter already, he threw for over 2,700 yards and 18 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. Tuel tossed four touchdowns in a ten point loss to Stanford and finished the season on a high note with 3 touchdown passes and nearly 300 yards in the Apple Cup. In case he gets injured (which has been known to happen at Washington State), senior and former starter Marshall Lobbestael is a capable replacement.

Catching Tuel's spirals is one of the more talented receiving groups in the Pac-12. Freshman All-American Marquess Wilson and honorable mention All-Pac-10 wide out Jared Karstetter lead the way. Also in the mix are Gino Simone and Isiah Barton, as well as freshmen Kristoff Williams and Bobby Ratliff. It's no stretch to say that the Cougars have more returning at wide out than many of the teams in the country, let alone the Pac-12.

Previous Spring Primers
There's several players who will contribute to the ground game as well. Senior running back Logwone Mitz will likely emerge the starter but redshirt freshman Rickey Galvin has impressed when's he able to get on the field after breaking his arm in the opener last year.

"Playmaking ability, speed, quickness," Tuel told Cougfan.com about Galvin. "He just makes things happen, really a playmaker."

There are areas of concern that Wazzu hopes to work out before the end of spring. The offensive line only has to replace only one starter but the four returnees were part of a group that gave up 51 sacks last year. Allowing time for Tuel to throw the ball will be a key factor on if the Cougars can exceed their win total from the past three seasons and - dare we say it - consider going to a bowl game in 2011.

Defensively, two starters at defensive end are out for the spring while the defensive tackle spots are wide open thanks to departures and injuries. Four starters return in the secondary which will comfort Wulff, who's main focus will be on straightening out the line.

Bottom line though? The Cougars have some talent and are aiming much higher than just getting out of the conference cellar they've resided in the past the past two seasons. There's still a few areas of concern but things are looking up on the Palouse in 2011. With Jeff Tuel and company leading the way this spring, there's more than just hope though.

There's some talent.

Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 4:34 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Missouri

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Missouri , who begin spring practice today, March 8. 


Spring practice question:Who will replace Blaine Gabbert in Columbia? 

The last four seasons have been good to Missouri, as the Tigers have won 40 games over that span, including a 10-3 mark in 2010 that saw the Tigers knock off then #1 Oklahoma in October. Now, with Nebraska and Colorado gone, Missouri climbs the pecking order in the Big 12, and has to be considered a favorite along with Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.

Of course, before Mizzou can attempt to win the conference this season, they have another more basic task to figure out this spring. Who is going to replace Blaine Gabbert?

Gabbert was a big reason why the Tigers were successful the last two seasons, and now he's taken the 40 touchdowns he threw in his years as a starter to the NFL.

So while Gary Pinkel will have to find replacements for three missing starters in his secondary, a new quarterback will probably garner most of his attention the next few weeks. James Franklin (pictured), who will be a sophomore in 2011, has the most experience and will begin the spring atop the depth chart.

Franklin appeared in nine games for Missouri last season, but did so mostly out of the Wildcat formation as a runner, not a passer. Franklin threw 14 passes for the Tigers last season, and completed 11 of them, but the last pass he threw came in a 26-0 victory over Colorado on October 9. So all those passes came in blowouts against bad teams, which means we can't really use them as an indicator as to how efficient a passer Franklin can really be.

Franklin was used exclusively as a running quarterback following the Colorado game and through conference play, finishing the season with 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries.

While Franklin starts the spring on top of the depth chart, he's going to have to work to stay there. While having a quarterback that can run out of the spread is a bonus, you aren't going to win consistently in the Big 12 without a strong passing attack. Just look at what happened to Nebraska last season anytime Taylor Martinez was forced to throw the ball.

Previous Spring Primers

Which is where Franklin's competition may wind up overtaking him.

Ashton Glaser and Tyler Gabbert, yes, Blaine's younger brother, should provide strong competition for Franklin, particularly Gabbert.

Gabbert redshirted in 2010, but impressed coaches during bowl practices last December. He's smaller than Franklin is, but like his older brother, he has a strong arm and can hurt defenses with his legs.

The true darkhorse in all of this will be incoming freshman Corbin Berkstresser. Berkstresser is more of a pro-style quarterback, with a big arm and a big body to go with it. At 6'3 and 224 pounds, it's possible that Berkstresser can come in this spring and take the job with his arm. Obviously, Berkstresser will start as the fourth option, but since this battle isn't expected to be over before the fall, that will give him time to learn the offense and impress his coaches.

All of which means that the competition this spring amongst Missouri quarterbacks won't just be one of the most important in the Big 12 this spring, but also one of the most interesting.

Gary Pinkel has sent his last two quarterbacks to the NFL. Will he find his third?
Posted on: March 7, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: TCU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at TCU , who began practice over the weekend.

Spring Practice Question: Do the Horned Frogs have the offensive firepower to slam the door in the Mountain West's face on their way out?

Remember how when NBA legends like Julius Erving would announce their retirement, their final season would be a long series of tearful goodbyes as the legend-in-question would be showered at each road venue with gifts and well-wishes? And you know how this is TCU's final season in the Mountain West, the conference it's won three times and helped shape into a national power on the cusp of an automatic BCS bid? Yeah, that season is going to be the complete opposite of that NBA thing.

Because the Mountain West has done all it can to skip the bouquets and send the Horned Frogs off to the Big East with a giant kick in the pants. Not only did the league unilaterally force TCU to forgo their biggest home game of the year in exchange for a brutal road game at Boise State, they ignored the Frogs' choice for a bye week in favor of giving them weeks off before New Mexico and UNLV ... two miserable teams the Frogs could have swept in a doubleheader the week after going to Boise if they had to. It's safe to say there's nothing the MWC wants more than to see TCU flail their way out of a league that spent the year proving it didn't need them; it's equally safe to say there's nothing Gary Patterson would like more than to say good-bye with the raised middle finger of a third straight conference championship.

But entering spring practice, the odds look much longer than they did in either 2009 or 2010. While part of that is the enhanced schedule -- even the Frogs' undefeated showdowns with Utah the past two seasons won't present nearly the challenge of taking on the Broncos on the blue turf -- the much larger part is facing down that schedule with so much lost on offense. Eight starters are gone from the unit that helped bring home a Rose Bowl title, a group headlined by four-year quarterback starter and career 10,000-yard passer Andy Dalton.

But the losses go much deeper than that. The Frogs' second-, third- and fourth-leading receivers are all departed, including top go-to possession wideout Jeremy Kerley and the reliable Jimmy Young. Bookend 6'6" tackles Marcus Cannon and Zach Roth have both graduated. In the interior of the line, the Frogs must replace 300-pound guard Josh Vernon and 308-pound All-American center Jake Kirkpatrick, only the 2010 Rimington Trophy winner.

The good news for TCU is that particularly at the skill positions, they seem positioned to weather the storm. Quarterbacking heir-to-the-throne Casey Pachall was one of Patterson's most highly-regarded recruits, has drawn rave reviews in practice, and should be more than ready as a redshirt sophomore. The tailback tag-team of juniors Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker -- who combined for 1,787 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns in 2010 -- returns intact. Top receiver Josh Boyce is back after a breakout redshirt freshman season that saw him average an eye-popping 19 yards per reception.

But there's only so much all that skill-position talent can do if the four new starters up front aren't up to the task. Spring camp should give Patterson and the TCU fans an excellent chance to gauge their progress across from one of the perennially best-coached defensive fronts in the country (not to mention Tank Carder). If the line shows potential, Pachall lives up to the hype, and some member of the Frog receiving corps steps up to provide some measure of balance across from Boyce, it won't be too early to start dreaming about yet another BCS season.

But if not? Boise's going to start licking their chops (to say nothing of teams like BYU, San Diego State, Baylor, etc.), and the MWC bigwigs can start their dreaming about having the last laugh.


Posted on: March 4, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Oklahoma State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Oklahoma State, who begins practice on Monday, March 7.

Can the Cowboys offense keep the same beat? It seems like every season is supposed to be the season for Oklahoma State. The year where everything comes together, and the Cowboys win the Big 12 South, get past Oklahoma and Texas, and head to a BCS bowl. Then, without fail, the Cowboys fail to meet those expectations.

That wasn't the case in 2010. Most people weren't entirely sure what to make of the Cowboys heading in to 2010, and they shocked the world by winning 11 games and tying for the Big 12 South. The Cowboys were a 47-41 loss to Oklahoma -- one of the most entertaining games of the season -- away from the final Big 12 Championship Game.

It was the most explosive offense in the Big 12, leading the conference with 75 plays of 20 yards or more and in points per game with 44.2. So since it was the offense that brought so much success to the school, it's vital that the offense maintains its performance in 2011 if Oklahoma State is finally going to win the smaller Big 12.

On the surface, this shouldn't be that difficult to do. After all, both quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon are back. Those two paired up 111 times in 2010 for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. Making things even better, all five of Oklahoma State's starters on the offensive line are back as well.

So this should all work out, right? The two biggest playmakers on offense are back, and so is the entire offensive line. Piece of cake!

Yes, well, the man who designed the offense those guys thrived in isn't. Dana Holgorsen has moved on to West Virginia, where he awaits a head coaching job. Replacing him in Stillwater is Todd Monken.

Monken comes to Oklahoma State from the NFL, where he spent last season as the quarterbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but this isn't his first time in Stillwater. Monken was the Cowboys passing-game coordinator and receivers coach from 2002 to 2004 under Les Miles. He then left with Miles to go to LSU for a few seasons before leaving for the Jaguars.

Can Monken maintain what Holgorsen started last season?

He certainly plans on trying, and it seems Monken is no fool. He saw how well the offense worked last season, and he knows all the key components are back, so he's said he has no plans on changing anything. He'll run the same system that Holgorsen ran.

The question is whether or not he can develop the same feel for it as Holgorsen had. So when spring practice begins for the Cowboys on Monday, it will be an odd situation.
Instead of watching the players and seeing how well they grasp the offense, everybody will be keeping their eye on the man now calling the plays. Practice isn't just for the players after all.
Posted on: March 2, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Miami

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Miami , who opens spring camp this Saturday, March 5.

How will Miami buy into Al Golden's plan to change the culture around Miami football?

When Miami left the Big East, they were on a four-season streak of winning the conference and making an appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game, including one national championship in 2001 and the infamous double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the title game the next year. But since moving to the ACC Miami has failed to even win their own division, much less the conference. Randy Shannon put together a 28-22 record in his four seasons as head coach, failing to deliver success with a team loaded with highly-touted recruits at one of the most notable programs of the last 30 years.

Whether you think the blame falls on former coach Randy Shannon, the administration, or the players themselves; the Hurricanes are hungry to be back among college football's elite. At the conclusion of a coaching search that tossed around names like "Gruden" and "Leach," Miami settled on Temple's Al Golden as the head coach of the future. On Saturday, Miami kicks off Spring Practice. It will be the first of fifteen opportunities Golden will get to build the foundations for a new era in Miami football.

But Golden does not want to focus on changing the schemes, but instead changing the themes. His first goal is to change the attitudes and culture of the team.

"Number one we have to become more disciplined. We have to become more physically and mentally tough. We have to become a smarter football team," Golden recently told CBSSports.com's Bryan Fischer. "Those are things you can work on and, as I say to the players all the time, the culture is really the collective capacity of everybody in this building to create value. How are we going to create more value from our four hours today from the other 14 teams we're going to play? Those are the things we're trying to teach them, something larger than the offense and defense and special teams, the culture is larger than that."

After observing a few practices leading up to Miami's 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame, Golden immediately commented that he wanted to change the speed of practice. That mental toughness has been tested in the winter conditioning workouts already. Players are said to have been pushed like never before with the offseason conditioning, with different stories that paint a picture of vomit-inducing physical exertion.  Message boards always give birth to hyperbole, but the fact these things are shocking and different support Golden's message of improving physical and mental toughness.

One of the reasons Golden wants to focus on the toughness and culture in Coral Gables is because the talent is already there. Miami's 2008 recruiting class was heralded as one of the best in the ACC. Those players (now mostly juniors and seniors) came to Miami to be champions. Instead, the class has a combined 23-15 record with three straight bowl losses.

One thing that has helped Golden's cause is that this frustrated group of upperclassmen welcomes the change. With their college days numbered, the leaders of the 2011 Miami team know that they must buy in to Golden's culture or everyone will suffer together. In fact, Golden recently said that it is the older players that have "bought in" first. Starting Saturday, he will count on those players to set the example for the rest of the roster as the Hurricanes begin sorting out the details for the 2011 season.

While Golden has mostly focused on the big picture changes/decisions, there will be a lot of attention on the position battles this spring. According to the head coach, every position is "open" at this point. The hope being that the competition for starting jobs will help push player development and lead to a more polished final product. But most of the attention will fall on the quarterback position.

Jacory Harris has had the opportunity to see the field since he arrived with the rest of the 2008 recruiting class. But between injury and inconsistent play, the hometown Miami native has yet to really take ownership of the quarterbacking duties. Harris recognizes the competition ahead, and welcomes the challenge.

“I really feel like I need the push,” Harris said during an interview last week according to the Palm Beach Post. “The past two years it was me being too comfortable. I think that’s how we felt as a team – too comfortable. These new coaches are bringing the dog out in us. Competition is good for you. All that comfortable stuff is out the door.”

But there is also Stephen Morris. The talented quarterback was called to take over after Harris was sidelined with a concussion against Virginia. Morris displayed flashes of potential at times, but the 9 interceptions in less than 6 full games of action do not support his case as the immediate answer for Harris-based frustrations

So the competition will begin this spring, pushing both quarterbacks to prove why they should be the starter next August. Harris appears to have bought in to Golden's philosophy, and the coach thinks that many of the other leaders have as well. But now he has to make an entire roster buy in to "Al Golden's Miami."

It's a little more hard-nosed and gritty than most of the team has become accustomed to, but after watching the last couple seasons of Hurricanes football it might be their only option for success.

Miami kicks off Spring Practice on March 5, they will hold their annual spring game on April 16. 

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers

Fischer: Golden brings new plan to return Canes to Miami of old
Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 4:08 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Boise State

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Boise State , who opens spring camp next Monday, March 7.

Spring Practice Question: Who'll become the Broncos' new playmakers on the edge?

The conventional wisdom was that 2010 was Boise State's now-or-never moment where the national championship was concerned, their make-or-break campaign as a legitimate BCS title contender. The Broncos lost just four seniors from their undefeated 2009 squad, had the prerequisite preseason poll positioning, got the legitimizing road win at Virginia Tech ... this was supposed to be their one big chance, and Kyle Brotzman blew it all in Reno.

So it's almost shocking to look over the Broncos' depth chart and realize how much talent they still have at their disposal. There's Kellen Moore, of course, but there's also 1,260-yard rusher Doug Martin, first-team All-WAC offensive linemen Thomas Byrd and Nate Potter, their team leaders in sacks (end Shea McClellin) and tackles-for-loss (opposite end Tyrone Crawford), first-team All-WAC safety George Iloka ... all in all, the Broncos have a healthy seven starters returning on both sides of the ball, many of them among the nation's best at their positions. And, most important of all, Chris Petersen is still in Boise, too. 2010 was a great opportunity, no doubt, but it's far from time to start writing the Broncos' obituary as a nationally-relevant college football team.

But that doesn't mean there aren't holes to fill, and as it turns out, nearly all of them are on the edges of the field. Start on offense, where both of the Broncos' bookend deep threats at wide receiver -- Austin Pettis and Titus Young -- are moving on to the NFL. Their primary replacement will likely be senior Tyler Shoemaker, a capable veteran who averaged an impressive 18 yards per-reception in 2010. But behind him, pickings are slim; the only other wideout with more than 8 receptions last season was redshirt freshman Geraldo Hiwat, a converted track star originally from the Netherlands who finished with 11. Hiwat has prototypical size (6'4") and speed, but is still learning the game. If he and the rest of the non-Shoemaker receiving corps can't keep defenses from blanketing Shoemaker, Boise's typically wide-open attack could find the field unusually compressed.

On defense, the Broncos must find replacements for arguably their two best defenders in end Ryan Winterswyk and linebacker/safety hybrid Winston Venable. Though Winterswyk rarely made a large impact on the stat sheet (with just 1.5 sacks in 2010), he did a terrific job of holding the edge against opposing running games--a big reason the Broncos finished the season ranked seventh in the nation in rush defense. Venable was a first-team All-WAC player who made plays all over the field, including in the backfield, where he totaled 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. No other player outside of the defensive line came close to those numbers.

So Boise's absorbed big losses both in terms of their ability to hold up against the run on the outside and to attack the backfield from there. There's players who can take up much of that slack -- McClellin, Iloka, Crawford, and memorable LeGarrette Blount- goader Byron Hout chief among them -- but at Boise, top-shelf athletes who can dominate on the edges just by taking the field are hard to come by. (It won't help that corner Brandyn Thompson and All-WAC safety Jeron Johnson have also moved on). The first question Petersen will have to answer this spring is who on defense will prevent the Broncos from giving their opponents a leg up on the outside ... and what receivers might give them that same leg up on the other side of the ball.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com