Welcome to Week 1 everybody! It’s finally here! In anticipation of UW’s matchup with Boise State, I had the pleasure of asking Aiden Petterson of Mountain West Connection about the state of the Broncos heading into the first week:
1. With Michael Penix Jr. returning, along with his top 2 targets, Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze, Boise State will clearly have its work cut out for them defending the pass. What is the current state of the secondary, and how do you expect them to play?
The Broncos are looking to reload on the back line heading into 2023. The departures of JL Skinner and Tyreque Jones leave gaping holes that have been rock solid the last few years. Head coach Andy Avalos brought in two transfers to shore up the secondary via Wisconsin Badger Titus Toler and JUCO transfer A’Marion McCoy. Markel Reed is returning from an injury that stunted his production in 2022, but he will battle with Kaonohi Kaniho and Jaylen Clark for a starting corner spot. At safety, Rodney Robinson has come into his own since arriving in Boise and Seaside, Oregon, native Alexander Teubner is an energy guy that flies around the field. Also, keep an eye on Seyi Oladipo (no relation to NBA player Victor Oladipo). Seyi burst onto the scene as a freshman and has the ability to be a pivotal piece.
For Boise State, their secondary is going to be thrown into the deep end when they face Washington and their electric passing attack. A year ago, the Broncos were susceptible to big plays over the top and at times, corners just couldn’t flip their hips quick enough to adjust and make a play on the ball. If this game were in week three instead of opening weekend, I would have more faith in the Broncos gelling on the back line. Alas, that is not the case, and the arm that Michael Penix Jr. has is certainly capable of overwhelming defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson’s unit. If the Huskies storm out of the gates early and put the Broncos on their heels, I suspect it will be a long day for those in blue and orange.
2. One of Boise State’s strengths last year was its run game, finishing 18th in the nation in total yards. How do you expect them to play to start out the year with a new OC?
If you think that the Broncos heavily relied on the ground game last year, then get ready for that notion to be squashed. Yes, quarterback Taylen Green has had a full offseason as QB1, but his legs are his biggest asset. Green is 6’6, 221 lbs, and ran track during his high school days in Lewisville, Texas. You do not need to turn this guy into a pocket passer to have a successful offense. If UW fans think that I am exaggerating about his speed and running ability, check out his 75-yard TD against Oregon State and his game-clinching 90+ yard TD run versus Utah State in the regular season finale.
Behind TG10, Boise State boasts two of the best running backs in the Mountain West in George Holani and Ashton Jeanty. Holani is a seasoned veteran who is adept at making quick cuts and finding gaps in the trenches. Jeanty fits more of the traditional Bronco bell cow role as he resembles past alumni, such as Alexander Mattison and Jay Ajayi. The sophomore is a wrecking ball and finds a way to muster positive yardage on nearly every carry.
I would be shocked if the Broncos attempt to beat Washington through the air. With the talent in the backfield, Boise State will want to grind the game down and limit the amount of opportunities that Penix Jr. and company see the field.
3. Speaking of the OC, most diehard Husky fans are familiar with the kind of offense that Bush Hamdan ran at UW. What do you expect from him and his scheme in the early part of this year?
Harking back to the previous prompt, I believe that Hamdan wants to establish the ground and pound attack as priority number one. In press conferences and scrimmage recaps, he has emphasized how he wants to have his scheme revolve around the skillsets of his players and not force them to conform to any pre-determined philosophy that doesn’t budge. This is more of a hunch than anything else, but I am curious to see if more RPO (Run-pass-option) looks are used in this offense.
The main difference from last year is that former OC Tim Plough put line adjustments and coverage recognition on now Louisiana Tech QB Hank Bachmeier. During spring ball, Hamdan made a point of saying that these responsibilities will now be placed primarily on the center. Speaking of which, redshirt sophomore Mason Randolph will be the starting center for the Broncos. As the summer drew on, there was uncertainty about the position, but Randolph performed extremely well during his ten starts last year at right guard.
4. Boise State has a pretty good QB in Taylen Green. What does the ceiling look like for him in terms of what he can accomplish?
I firmly expect him to be the top QB in the Mountain West by year’s end if he isn’t already. He will always be able to rely on his legs to get him out of hairy situations, but it will be his development as a downfield passer that will dictate his ceiling. At times last year, Green would evade the pocket a bit prematurely simply because of his youth, inexperience, and the fact that he was thrust into the starting role after one month and his offensive coordinator was just fired.
Not very ideal.
Long-term, Taylen Green could be one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks to ever don a Boise State uniform. A little more balance in his choice of attack and he will have the chance to lead the Broncos back to the big time during his collegiate career. Beyond that, he may just be the first-ever quarterback from Boise State to be drafted once he ends his time in the Treasure Valley.
5. It’s prediction time: what’s the score going to be?
I think this is going to be a high-scoring affair that will be full of fireworks and star power. This means that the advantage lies with Kalen DeBoer and the Washington Huskies. Michael Penix Jr. is a Heisman contender for a reason, and this duel against the Husky receivers is like giving the final exam the very first week of classes. The line is hovering around 14, but I do expect Boise State to be competitive and cover the spread.
Washington 41 – Boise State 31
Thanks Aiden! For my answers to his questions, check it out on Mountain West Connection.