Lindy’s Top 25 Countdown: No. 22 Boise State Staff

August 16, 2015 at 10:19 pm.

Kamalei Correa (8) is an impact player for the Broncos. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Kamalei Correa (8) is an impact player for the Broncos. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)


2014 RECORD: 12-2 MW record: 7-1 (1st, Mountain)

STADIUM: Bronco Stadium (36,387)

LOCATION: Boise, Idaho

COACH: Bryan Harsin — At Boise State: 12-2, 1 year; overall: 19-7, 2 years





RETURNING STARTERS: 18; 9 offense, 8 defense, punter

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Thomas Sperbeck, WR Chaz Anderson, WR Shane Williams-Rhodes, TE Jake Roh, DE Kamalei Correa, LB Tanner Vallejo, CB Donte Deayon, S Darian Thompson

PRIMARY STRENGTHS: The Broncos return their entire offensive line, three starting wide receivers and the starting tight end. Four returning receivers combined for 175 of the team’s 310 catches last season. The defensive line is loaded with talented veterans and all four defensive stars return — Correa, Vallejo, Deayon and Thompson.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: The two starters lost on offense accounted for nearly all of the offense — quarterback Grant Hedrick and tailback Jay Ajayi — and the program doesn’t have an experienced option to replace either. Depth is a concern at wide receiver and defensive back, but the starting units could be the best in the Mountain West.


Outgoing quarterback Grant Hedrick and tailback Jay Ajayi accounted for 89.1 percent of the Broncos’ yards and 92.4 percent of their offensive touchdowns last year. The Broncos don’t have ready-made replacements for either.

Sophomore Ryan Finley, who made one extended appearance as the backup last year, led the quarterbacks in the spring. Sophomore Jeremy McNichols is the favorite at tailback, but he missed most of spring ball after hernia surgery. Good news: The other nine starters return.

The line features All-Mountain West center Marcus Henry and talented left tackle Rees Odhiambo. The group has only one proven backup, however.

It’s a similar story at wide receiver, where the three starters return without a proven backup. Senior Shane Williams-Rhodes, a 5-6 slot receiver, ranks fifth in school history with 170 catches. Junior Chaz Anderson, a converted cornerback, made six catches of at least 46 yards last year. And junior Thomas Sperbeck, the offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, emerged as the Broncos’ next star receiver with a team-high 877 yards.

A deep tight end corps adds to the passing game. Sophomore Jake Roh, who is more receiver than blocker right now, led the group with 35 catches last year.


The defensive line returns Mountain West sack leader Kamalei Correa at stud end, starting tackle Sam McCaskill and starting nose tackle Armand Nance. Three seniors who redshirted last year will compete for starting spots — end/tackle Tyler Horn, nose tackle Justin Taimatuia and tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele.

The linebacker crew is loaded, too. Junior Tanner Vallejo led the team in tackles last season, and junior Ben Weaver was tops in 2013. Their backups are senior Tyler Gray, an excellent coverage linebacker, and sophomore Joe Martarano, who emerged as a key contributor late last season.

The secondary features seniors Darian Thompson (safety) and Donte Deayon (cornerback), who have combined for 27 career interceptions. Junior Jonathan Moxey is another returning starter at cornerback and was much-improved in spring ball.

Two spots remain in flux — nickel, where senior Mercy Maston and sophomore transfer Kam Miles are competing, and the other safety job, where junior Chanceller James will return from a torn ACL to compete with sophomore Dylan Sumner-Gardner.


Junior Tyler Rausa replaces Dan Goodale as the kicker after a two-year wait as a backup. The rest of the specialists remain in place, including punter Sean Wale, who averaged 49.5 yards on eight kicks in the Fiesta Bowl, and kick returners Deayon, Williams- Rhodes and McNichols.


The Broncos will enter the season in Lindy’s Top 25 and as the leading contender for the Group of Five berth in a College Football Playoff bowl. If injuries or complacency don’t get them, it’s difficult to imagine this team winning fewer than 10 games against a schedule that features just five bowl teams from last year.


DT Tutulupeatau Mataele: The junior college transfer was supposed to make his debut in 2013, but he wasn’t in school that fall and was suspended by the NCAA for 2014 because of an academic issue tied to his junior college record. He was the Broncos’ top defensive scout player in 2014 and has participated in three spring practices with Boise State.