BOISE — As young as the Boise State football team seemed in 2012, this number will come as a bit of a shock.
The Broncos only return 11 of 25 starters for 2013.
“That’s what college football is — there’s graduation,” said coach Chris Petersen, whose team beat Washington on Saturday in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas to finish 11-2. “We had that weird crew (in the 2010 and 2011 senior classes) where they played as young guys and we just didn’t lose many guys. So now we’re kind of on a normal cycle where it’s going to be one group or one side of the ball (every year). Hopefully, the program is good enough that we can recruit good players in here and the young guys who are redshirting and playing as young guys are all going to have to take that next step.
“But I think the offense will have some good momentum,” he said.
The offense returns five starters, including quarterback Joe Southwick, All-Mountain West center Matt Paradis, two-year starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and leading receivers Matt Miller and Kirby Moore — a nice start for any offense.
Veterans are available to fill many of the holes, and there is some intriguing young talent with sophomore tailbacks Jay Ajayi and Jack Fields and sophomore wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes.
“I see a lot of young talent,” departing tailback D.J. Harper said. “You’ve seen a lot of young guys making plays this year. Over the next few years, you’re going to see these guys doing a lot of big things around here.”
Southwick’s outstanding play in the four-game winning streak to end the season gives him confidence and momentum going into his senior year. He also stands to benefit from coach Chris Petersen’s talk of streamlining the offense. “The mark of any good quarterback is going to be third down, red zone and then hitting shots (deep balls),” Petersen said. “He’s slowly but surely making progress in those areas.”
The defense also returns five starters but is plagued by more question marks than the offense — particularly at the two essential building-block positions, tackle and cornerback.
Southwick said the scout-team defense at times was as good as the defenses he saw in games. Those redshirts — as well as part-time players such as linebackers Blake Renaud and Tyler Gray and probably some junior college recruits — need to deliver if the Broncos are going to produce another elite defense.
“There are some guys who need to step up in that (locker) room,” Miller said. “That’s how we want it. We’ve got those quality type of guys who want to step up and get to those show lights.”