BOISE • While Boise State fans ponder and armchair quarterback their way into guessing whom head coach Chris Petersen and his staff will ultimately choose from four candidates to replace the program’s greatest player — quarterback Kellen Moore — their consternation levels should be decidedly lower for two other offensive units: offensive line and wide receiver.
Even with the loss of all-American tackle Nate Potter to graduation, the line returns four starters from last year. More importantly, the depth and versatility of the unit has allowed line coach Chris Strausser to work without three starters in spring camp in guards Joe Kellogg and Jake Broyles, and center Cory Yriarte.
But all three missed varying amounts of games due to injury last year, and Kellogg, a two-year starter who has missed five games the previous two years, welcomes the break.
“That’s always my first goal,” Kellogg said on BSU’s first day back at practice after spring break, when asked where staying healthy stands on his list of individual goals. “I definitely want to stay healthy.”
His goals while his teammates are in pads, scrimmaging and running drills at Bronco Stadium?
“I want to get stronger in the weight room, upper-body wise, and to keep improving every day, try to be more vocal and be a leader.”
Of the Broncos’ 14 returning linemen, nine have started at least one game in their career.
“One of the most impressive things about our offensive line is the depth we have,” said Kellogg, who quickly noted Spencer Gerke, who started two games in Kellogg’s absence, and backup center Matt Paradis as two players who have caught his eye this spring.
“We’re going through spring ball with just a handful of guys and they’re doing an awesome job,” Kellogg said. “In the fall, we’ll get about four or five guys back, but we have awesome depth and that’s always great to have as an offensive line. You know someone is going to get dinged up here and there during the season.”
Last year, Boise State averaged 4.5 yards per carry — a good, but not great, number — while giving up just eight sacks in 13 games, which led the nation. The latter number figures to go up, not only because Moore was so good at getting rid of the ball on time, but because Boise State’s quartet of quarterback candidates are all more mobile than Moore and will use their feet to keep plays alive, but which could result in a greater number of sacks allowed.
No one in the BSU program is shy about Moore’s shortcomings in the speed department — “He wasn’t very mobile, to be honest,” Kellogg said — but having more mobile signal callers doesn’t change Kellogg’s mindset toward blocking.
“I think you have to have the same mentality, do your job and protect as long as you can,” Kellogg said. “If he sees a gap he can shoot through, get some yards, he’s going to take it. You can’t really think about him scrambling back there.”
The concern this time last year was over the candidates to replace NFL draft picks Austin Pettis and Titus Young at wide receiver. If the quarterback situation plays out like the wide receiver unit did last year, Boise State is primed for another double-digit win season.
Gone is leading receiver Tyler Shoemaker (62 catches, 994 yards, 16 touchdowns), but coming back are seven of the team’s top 10 pass catchers, including wideouts Matt Miller (62-679-9), Mitch Burroughs (49-500-1), Kirby Moore (22-247-1), Geraldo Boldewjin (19-266-2) and Dallas Burroughs (9-175-1).
“We’re going to miss Shoe greatly, but we have a lot of great guys in that room,” said Miller, a redshirt sophomore who fared well in lessening the blow of Pettis’ and Young’s departures. “I think it helps, no new guys in our group that we’re playing with so we hit the ground running the first day of spring ball.”
About the only thing this unit lacks is a proven deep threat. Pettis (17.1 yards per catch as a senior) and Young (13.4) qualified in that regard, as did Shoemaker (16.0), and Miller wants to be in that category.
“I’m trying to become more of a deep-route guy, try to be two-dimensional,” Miller said. “I can definitely get a little more speed in the weight room and work on my releases off the ball, to get to the second level.”