Many preseason prognosticators sold Boise State short heading into the 2003 season. Holes needed filling, as only three starters were returning on the offense and seven on defense. Wait, isn't that identical to the above depth chart listings for next year?
Yes… however, one of the key links is missing for 2004 - QB Ryan Dinwiddie. He may have been the most accurate passer in all of 2003, so the off-season question will be...who plays QB? Other skill positions on offense take a beating in terms of experience for 2004. Regardless of how the QB competition plays out, though, never underestimate the Broncos under head coach Dan Hawkins. Heading into the Fort Worth Bowl versus TCU, fans looking to the future will want to keep an eye on some of Dinwiddie's “second choice” receivers. Names such as T.J. Acree and Lawrence Bady may not be the primary target, but Dinwiddie will surely pinpoint who inherits the WR mantle.
What is lost on offense to start spring ball will likely be offset by the defense - four of the Broncos five top tacklers return for 2004 (Avalos, Hall, Carr, Franklin). Look for (soon to be) senior DE Julius Roberts to ground opponents with his balanced approach. Allowing 2.9 yards-per-run and a total of seven ground TDs may not be repeated, but again holding foes to 16 per contest (to rank 8 th ) should. Only one competitor went over the 30 point total (La. Tech in a 43-37 win), and the Bronco's one 2003 loss was to Pac-Ten toughie Oregon State by two, 26-24. This will be a grizzled, experienced squad, regardless.
Boise State has just completed back-to-back 12-1 seasons, with duel WAC Championships as proof. Hence, the Broncos won't sneak up on too many. But BSU's 2003 opponents only had a composite 40% winning rate, which earns the Broncos the NCAA's 112 th -ranked strength of schedule (out of 117 teams). TCU will let us know if State is/was over-rated, and the Fort Worth Bowl will set the tone for the Bronco's off-season.
It's easy to dissect this team on paper and deduce a likely rebuilding process, but don't tell that to Dan Hawkins. As stated, he has been down this road just 11 months prior and successfully reloaded with a Top 20 regular season finish. Their trip to the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl (versus another ranked and one-loss TCU group) earns the NationalChamps.net Best Bowl award for this holiday season. “Bronco Ball” may get a face lift, but to unlucky foes, Boise State will be the same amply competitive unit inside.