Boise State Broncos

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BOISE — Despite being ranked somewhere between Nos. 15-20 in nearly every preseason publication, the Boise State Broncos aren’t getting much talk nationally as fall camp opens today.

At least the players don’t think so.

Coming off an 11-2 season that featured its lowest scoring output in more than a decade and their most losses since 2007, the Broncos feel they have something to prove — mostly to the national pundits — when they take the field starting this morning.

“I feel like it was a very productive summer for everybody because we all knew coming in, we’re not being talked about and they aren’t expecting a lot from us this year,” running back Jay Ajayi said. “So we just put it upon ourselves to just make it the best summer we’ve ever had as a team. We were all working to get better each day.”

The Broncos came in at No. 19 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll released last Thursday and were the only team from the Mountain West Conference to appear on the list. They’ve also been predicted by most to win the new Mountain Division and play in the first MWC championship game on Dec. 7.

But for a team that’s won the Fiesta Bowl twice since 2007 and lost only five total games the past five seasons, the Broncos are used to even higher expectations.

“It’s been quiet, but at the same time, we’re OK with that,” Ajayi said. “We’re just worried about ourselves and making sure that we get better each day.”

Boise State has plenty of work to do between now and the season opener on Aug. 31 at Washington. They’ve got to figure out how to replace key losses on defense for the second consecutive season and also get the offense back to its high scoring ways of the past.

The defense suffered key losses at linebacker and in the secondary and will be without three of the top four tacklers from last season. They’ll look to solidity both of those positions during fall camp.

Quarterback Joe Southwick admittedly got off to a rough start last season but finished strong. He returns for his senior season and should be much more comfortable and productive running the offense.

D.J. Harper — who rushed for 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns last season — is gone, but Ajayi, a sophomore who rushed for 6.7 yard per carry last season, should be able to step into the starting spot this season for the Broncos.

Also helping Southwick and the offense will be the return of Matt Miller and Kirby Moore, the top two receiver’s from last year’s group which averaged 30.2 points per game.

Among the position battles that figure to bare watching during fall camp come in special teams, where both the kicker and punter positions are undecided. Coach Chris Petersen said at Mountain West media days that both competitions are a dead heat.

Speedster Shane Williams-Rhodes figures to get the majority of the return duties this year but Petersen said he’d give multiple guys a try there during full camp.

A lot has changed since Boise State played Washington in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas eight months ago. After a summer of individual workouts, the Broncos officially reconvene this morning to begin their quest for another undefeated season.

They’ve got 26 days to get ready before they take the field Aug. 31 in Seattle at the remodeled Huskie Stadium. And they’ll need all of them.

“I feel like everybody is really hungry and really looking forward to getting out there for fall camp,” senior wide receiver Aaron Burks said. “Having another new team again and a lot of people are going to have a lot more responsibilities, people are going to have to step up. It’s going to be fun.”

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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