Andy Avalos stood in front of the media on Monday, two days before he embarks on his second fall camp as head coach of his alma mater. He was bouncing behind the podium, almost jittery to answer in action all the questions that arose after Boise State’s unceremonious finish to last season.
Since the Broncos finished 7-5 and endured all the noise that springs up when a perennial power limps to its worst finish in over two decades, Avalos and his staff have done a lot of talking. About the revitalized culture and the vocal veterans and areas of improvement and all the other cliches that should become posters inside classrooms.
On Monday, every single Boise State coach was available to the media, a chance for a final gauge before the 2022 Broncos actually hit the practice field.
Here are the five important things to know.
1. I haven’t listened back to every interview yet. But if I did, I’d put the over/under at 150 (not hyperbole) for the amount of times a Boise State coach said the word “competition” or “compete” on Monday.
At one point during his presser, defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson stopped himself.
“The thing that excites me about fall camp is,” he said. “I apologize guys. I’m beating a dead horse with competition, but that’s what I love about it.”
On direct orders from Avalos, Boise State’s coaches are on a mission to reengineer the mind of their student-athletes, to constantly put them in situations where it’s like “OK, this isn’t what you thought was going to happen,” Danielson said. “How are you going to react? How are you going to respond?”
So how does BSU do that? Myriad ways. Some fun (an impromptu competition in the weight room to see who can hold the bar the longest) and others that bring back high-school PTSD (Giving actual pop quizzes on installs to grade everyone’s understanding).
Some of it sounds silly or merely holding kids accountable, but Boise State’s goal is to train its players to be able to respond to the unexpected, hoping that psychology translates when something unexpected happens on the football field.
2. Position-wise, there are two drastic shifts to keep in mind as fall camp rolls around.
To start, Tyreque Jones — a sixth-year leader — shifted from field safety to the ever-important nickelback position, a spot now-graduated Kekaula Kaniho shined at for years.
With Jones the all-but-certain starter there now, sophomore Seyi Oladipo moved to field safety, where he’ll compete for a starting spot.
“(Jones brings) tremendous versatility, great knowledge of our defense as a whole,” said safeties coach Kane Ioane. “He’s still going to be a guy who can make the calls from a communication standpoint.”
Added Danielson: “Looking at Tyreque Jones, his savviness, how well he knows this defense and his command on the field. He’s one of the best leaders on our defense.”
The other important position switch was with Isaiah Bagnah, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt junior from Canada. After recording 36 tackles and a half-dozen sacks last year at the EDGE position, Bagnah will now compete for a starting job at weakside linebacker.
“Seeing some of the depth we have at EDGE, and seeing a guy like Riley Whimpey leaving,” Danielson said, “(Bagnah’s) athletic ability, how explosive he is. We blitz our WILL linebacker a lot so he was a guy we’re just excited to see compete there this fall camp and I believe he can do it.”
3. Perhaps the biggest concern heading into fall camp is the depth at running back, a position group that boasts just two guys with collegiate playing experience.
Avalos announced Monday that Taequan Tyler is no longer on the roster, which means new running backs coach Keith Bhonapha has at his disposal just six bodies: George Holani, who missed significant time last season with an injury, true freshman Ashton Jeanty, short-yardage back Tyler Crowe, converted-wide-receiver Kaden Dudley and two walk-ons, Eagle alum Ethan Mikita and Timberline alum Taylor Macum.
“I’ve been in rooms where I’ve had nine running backs and I’m concerned about the depth,” Bhonapha said with a smile. “It is what it is. We have to get ready to roll and I have to do my best to manage the group so we feel good about camp and going through the season.”
Expect plenty of the youngsters to get reps throughout the fall because, rightfully so, Boise State is treating Holani like a faberge egg — a valuable asset that doesn’t need to be thrust into harm’s way. The redshirt junior tailback will not endure much contact in the spring, perhaps only being tackled a couple times before the Oregon State game.
Something to watch: The college football roster limit is 110 players. Boise State currently has 109. Could the Broncos grab an extra running back from the transfer portal?
“You never know,” said Bhonapha. “I mean, we start camp in two days. The reality of it: It would have to be a special fit.”
4. It is always a joy to hear the honesty that comes from offensive coordinator Tim Plough. There are some coaches who want to make everyone believe they block out all outside noise, as if they aren’t on Twitter three hours a day and aren’t asked questions from the media every week.
Plough is up front about everything. He understands some people were critical of his play-calling in year one as the Broncos’ OC. He understands his starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier has not had the smoothest three years. He knows they both have to be better in 2022. And, boy, is that refreshing.
On himself: “I feel like I’ve grown and learned a lot in the last year,” Plough said. “You should be humble enough to know that you don’t have all the answers. … Some things we did really well (last year) and some things I wish we could have done better as a staff and (me) as a coordinator. But, also, I’m very grateful for those opportunities. I find joy in the challenge.”
On Bachmeier: “He understands the great opportunity he’s had to play and start for three years, but also the downs that have come with that,” said Plough. “Whether it be injuries or having a tough game or having to deal with the scrutiny of playing the position. … (I want him to) lead us, but he has to lead himself before he leads the whole group.”
5. Avalos shared some personnel news that won’t have a major effect, but are worth knowing.
Notable players who will be limited to start camp but who the Broncos, Avalos said, “fully expect to be ready for the opener:”
— Tyreque Jones (Lower leg injury)
— Riley Smith (Coming off shoulder injury from last year)
— Kaonohi Kaniho (Coming off shoulder injury from last year)
Those who are no longer on the team:
— Jacob Golden (Arrested for DUI in June)
— Taequan Tyler (Personal reasons)