The Boise State football team opens spring practice Friday night inside Albertsons Stadium. The Broncos will practice 15 times before finishing with the annual spring game on April 11.
Here’s a look at five questions the Broncos hope to start solving this spring:
WHO REPLACES CURTIS WEAVER?
One of the biggest questions facing Boise State in 2020 is how it replaces the production from STUD Curtis Weaver, who could be a first round NFL Draft pick next month after leading the Mountain West with 13.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles-for-loss in 2019 and being named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Weaver was a three-time first-team All-Mountain West selection, and one of the best pass rushers the Broncos have had in several years. Replacing him won’t be easy.
Demitri Washington tied for third on the team with 4.5 sacks and had 5.5 tackles-for-loss as a redshirt freshman last season, but is he ready to be ‘the guy’ at the STUD position? Sam Whitney received a sixth-year of eligibility and is back after missing last season due to injury. He’ll contribute, but how much?
Shane Irwin, a transfer from Long Beach City College and a former San Diego State Aztec, provides immediate depth at the STUD position and has a chance to make an impact right away. Dylan Herberg had a sack last season as a redshirt freshman, and both Casey Kline and Isaiah Bagnah are intriguing after redshirting last season.
Boise State finished 14th in the country with 40 sacks last season, but players that combined for 25 won’t be back. Replacing Weaver’s production won’t come from one player, but instead likely a committee of players. How the depth chart stacks up at the STUD spot is a focus this spring.
IS HANK BACHMEIER GOOD TO GO?
It was a weird year for Boise State freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier in 2019. He won the starting job and went 7-0 as the starter before a pair of mysterious injuries forced him to miss six games. He returned to start the bowl game against Washington, but wasn’t sharp and the offense struggled as a result.
Coach Bryan Harsin wouldn’t comment much on Bachmeier’s status late in the season, and then stunningly started him against the Huskies without notice despite the long layoff. Adding to the drama was a tweet from his mom during the Mountain West title game in which she complained that he wasn’t getting into the game.
Bachmeier’s numbers were impressive. He had a stellar debut against Florida State, passing for 407 yards — the most in program history for a player making his first start. But he took too many hits and ultimately went to the bench because of injury.
Can he stay healthy and build upon his freshman season? Will Chase Cord stick around and push him for the starting spot or will Cord elect to transfer? The quarterback position, as always, will be the center of attention moving forward.
WHAT'S THE OFFENSIVE LINE LOOK LIKE?
The Broncos lose four multi-year starters up front that combined for 149 career starts. Included in that is two All-Mountain West selections that will be in NFL training camps come August in left tackle Ezra Cleveland and left guard John Molchon. The only returning starter is right tackle John Ojukwu, who has 17 starts over the past two years.
Jake Stetz, Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez and Garrett Curran all started games last season due to injuries, but asking them to produce at the level of the departing starters seems like a tall ask. The Broncos brought in JUCO transfer Riden Leong to push for immediate playing time, and they’ve got Dante Harrington, Nick Crabtree and Dallas Holliday that will compete as well.
Best guess on a starting five ahead of spring ball? Ojukwu at left tackle, Stetz at left guard, Holomalia-Gonzalez at center, Harrington at right guard and Curran at right tackle. But that’s why spring ball will be worth watching.
HOW DOES THE DEFENSIVE LINE RELOAD?
Weaver is not the only key loss for Boise State’s defense. The Broncos also lose the other three starters in defensive end Chase Hatada and tackles David Moa and Sonatane Lui. The three combined for 38 starts last season and 11.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles-for-loss. Replacing them won’t be easy.
Scale Igiehon could be set for a monster year on the interior, but the Broncos don’t have much else in terms of proven commodities. Scott Matlock and Keegan Freeborn could be ready for increased roles. Aisa Kelemete is the most talented returner at defensive end.
Junior college transfers Irwin and Divine Obichere both could make immediate impacts.
DOES THE OFFENSE LOOK ANY DIFFERENT?
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zak Hill left for Arizona State and co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau was promoted to replace him. The Broncos also lost running backs coach Lee Marks to Fresno State. The Broncos replaced Marks with former linebacker Winston Vennable, and hired for Boise State record-setting wide receiver Matt Miller as wide receivers coach.
After three years of no offensive staff changes, the Broncos have just two offensive coaches in the same roles they were in last year — offensive line coach Brad Bedell and tight ends coach Kent Riddle.
Kiesau said the offense would largely stay the same in 2020, but new coaches at three important spots — quarterback, running back and wide receiver — leave plenty of intrigue heading into the year.