Senior Jeremy Avery is one of four running backs that has rushed for over 100 yards in a game for Boise State.
Team leading tackler and top playmaker LB Barquell Rivers hopes to be in full health to boost the inexperience on the Hokie defensive front.


The Broncos are deep in experience at so many positions. None may be more evident than at running back where four different players who have rushed for 100 yards or more return to the lineup. Senior Jeremy Avery is the veteran and the returning leading team rusher after posting 1,150 yards and Second Team All-WAC honors. He is also a major weapon catching passes out of the backfield. D.J. Harper may have been the best of the bunch last year before a torn knee ligament ended his season early on. He will return in full health. Some say Doug Martin may be the best tailback in the WAC already after filling in for the injured Harper last year and posting 765 yards rushing. All three of these Broncos could easily be considered the most explosive in the league. The offensive line paving the way for these backs have a great deal of starts to go around. The problem however has been chemistry exemplified by the fact 17 different starting combinations have been used in their past 27 games and the shuffling still continued through the spring. Four full-time starters are back and five others have started at least one game in their career. Boise State is a balanced attack, they equally do well running and passing which in turn makes both areas work well while keeping opposing defenses on their heels.

If Virginia Tech can shut down the rushing attack and finally force Boise State to get one-dimensional the Hokies would stand a much better chance defending this potent offense. But that formula will prove difficult with three of four starters gone from across the defensive front. Senior defensive tackle John Graves is the lone holdover. The front seven will also miss tackle leader Cody Grimm from his whip linebacker position. Their best playmaker however will be inside backer Barquell Rivers who sat out the spring after March surgery on his left quadriceps. A ton of redshirt freshmen and sophomores will be counted on in this early clash.

On paper, Boise State looks to have a big advantage when it comes to running with the football. But everyone knows that Hokie defense is the biggest part of the success equation in Blacksburg no matter what the personnel turnover appears to be. But this first game of the year is not a good place to start for a very young and inexperienced defensive front as Boise State has plenty of experience at mixing things up and keeping defenses guessing.



Hokie running back coach Billy Hite calls this the best group in his 32 years of coaching the Hokies. He has an All-American type in young Ryan Williams who put up astronomical numbers (1,655 yards, 22 touchdowns) as a frosh last fall. Williams was not the projected starter last August though. Darren Evans was coming off ACC Freshman of the Year honors before a torn ACL in summer camp ended his season. But Evans now looks to be in full health running over defenders like before. This is an amazing duo with tons of promise and is easily the strongest element on this team. If that were not enough there is the factor of quarterback Tyrod Taylor's feet. He too can do damage in the ground game, just another added dimension for defenses to worry about. The offensive line has a few holes to fill while losing some of their best blockers in stars Ed Wang and Sergio Render and not much experience is available from the replacements. The three mainstays who are back (Warren, DeChristopher and Brooks) give this group something to be optimistic about however.

There may be four All-WAC players on this Bronco defensive line and there is plenty of depth behind them. The star is senior end Ryan Winterswyk. Both he and tackle Billy Winn have already earned All-WAC honors while Shea McClellin has developed into a fearsome performer from the other end position. Coaches have three linebackers to chose from that earned part-time starting duties a year ago. If this team has a concern, it would be here at linebacker. While guys like Derrell Acrey and Aaron Tevis can run, none have the ability to chase down the likes of Ryan Williams once he breaks free from the line of scrimmage. The system alignment is a little different in Boise where only two linebackers are utilized while adding an extra nickel back in the secondary. That might work in the WAC but not with a school like Virginia Tech. Look for the Bronco secondary to be on full alert for Hokie ball carriers and don't be surprised if the nickel back scheme gets dumped for a more tradition 4-3 match up in this clash.

The Boise State front should be able to hold their own against the Tech blockers. This will be ever so crucial for not allowing the dangerous Hokie running back duo to roam free in the secondary. These Bronco players have seen the likes of powerful Oregon and TCU rushing attacks and completely dominated them. Boise State gets a slight edge up front but Tech still gets a big advantage in terms of studs with the ball in their hands.




Young RB Ryan Williams will be one of the nation's premier ball carriers.
Ryan Winterswyk has grown from a walk-on safety to one of the best defensive ends in the WAC.
QB Kellen Moore is 26-1 as a starter and set an NCAA record last fall for lowest percentage of interceptions.
Senior CB Rashad Carmichael picked off six passes in 2009 and is already getting high NFL Draft projections for next season.

While it's already been mentioned that Boise State uses a balanced attack, the passing game is what butters the bread. This is due in large part because of quarterback Kellen Moore who is now 26-1 in two years as the starter. What separates Moore from most quarterbacks is his ability to read the field as evident by Moore setting the NCAA single season record for the lowest percentage of passes intercepted last year. Better runners and stronger arms may be available across the country, but none possess the ability to find the open receiver like Moore. He finished seventh in the Heisman Vote last December and was voted the NationalChamps.net Underdog Award Winner given to the nation's best mid-major player. But don't forget about those receivers either. All-WAC seniors Austin Pettis and Titus Young form one of the top pass catching tandems in the country as they combined for 142 receptions and 29 touchdowns in '09. Pettis is online to break school records in every major category. The only issue is finding other playmakers at receiver to emerge. They also possess an oft-used tight end in Kyle Efaw at 6'4 who is also a downfield deep threat. Efaw earned Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP honors last season.

For Va. Tech, senior corner Rashad Carmichael is the star after snagging six interceptions last year and has put his name on some of the 2011 NFL Draft Boards. A big however, he is the only full-time starter returning in this defensive backfield. Senior rover Devon Morgan does have some experience but has battled injuries through out his career. An injury here would be a devastating blow. However free safety Eddie Whitley had some shining moments in the spring. A ton of underclassmen are filling back up roles and/or pushing for part-time starting duties. The pass rush is an unknown to a large extent. When defensive end Jason Worilds declared early for the NFL Draft this past April it left the Hokies front thin in the pass rush department. Other than reliable Steven Friday on the outside applying pressure, it will be up to a group of new faces to provide a spark. And Beamer Ball has always done well here regardless of the player turnover. That trend better hold true or it could be a long evening against this high scoring Bronco team.

Last year, this would have been a much better battle with Tech finishing ranked as the nation's 11th rated pass defense. Only one starter returns in their secondary and this initial clash is not a good place for the newcomers to learn on the fly. Boise State has an extremely accurate guy in Kellen Moore throwing and reading the field with precision and making very few mistakes. The two-man tandem of Pettis and Young on the outside will be a mismatch on most occasions. If Boise State is to take a big win home to Idaho this is the area from which it comes.




For the third season in a row, this is the Tyrod Taylor show in Blacksburg. It's hard to put an exact finger on how good Taylor has been up to this point. While his good numbers (led the ACC in pass efficiency and is the ACC active leader in total offense) make this hurler appear to be stellar, his inferior numbers (9th in the ACC in passing offense and eighth in sacks allowed) indicate that perhaps there are inconsistency issues that have not been ironed out. His feet are certainly dangerous and his scrambling ability allows him to make plays downfield. But offensive coordinator Brian Stinespring continues to take abuse from the media and fans as to the offense's bungling. This is not a thunderous passing attack, but it has the potential to be so. Part of the sputtering had to do with a group of receivers that still has not come of age. Receivers that run imprecise routes with difficulty creating separation place a good deal of the blame on this unit. With three starters returning and a solid spring this department has bigger expectations. Boykin, Coale and Roberts are prime time targets that have now logged serious playing time the past two years. Losing playmakers Greg Boone and Sam Wheeler at TE won't make the course any easier.

The Broncos return four of their five starters in the secondary. The glaring loss is at corner where Kyle Wilson went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick. On the other side though is veteran Brandyn Thompson who already has recorded 10 career interceptions. The safeties have a good one too in NationalChamps.net Preseason Third Team All-American Jeron Johnson. He led the team by 20 tackles in 2008 and by 27 tackles in 2009, with a total of 189 during that span. He has seven career interceptions. Most of these safeties can lay the wood on tackles. The Broncos generally employ a nickel back as a base set but given the rushing prowess of this Tech team, don't be surprised if Boise State opts for a more traditional approach. Getting pressure on Taylor will be key. An intriguing aspect to this game is whether a stud like defensive end Ryan Winterswyk is capable of containing Tyrod Taylor in the pocket. Not many succeed at doing such. And if BSU has a weakness, producing sacks as a team has not been one of their better stats (72nd nationally).

Like most of these match ups, on paper Boise State appears to have the slight edge here based on experience factors. They have seen the likes of Andy Dalton at TCU, Jeremiah Masoli at Oregon and Colin Kaepernick at Nevada and shut them down for the most part. Tyrod Taylor should be nothing new for this defense. The Hokies get a slight edge in terms of speed on the outside with their experienced receivers but more needs to be shown from these route runners before you can give them a complete edge. The big factor is how well Taylor performs as a senior behind center. His time starts now. From what has been shown from the Hokie passing attack thus far under his guidance is not enough to give them the total edge.



Third year starter Tyrod Taylor is still trying to prove he can be an elite QB while scrambling and throwing.
NationalChamps.net Preseason All-American Jeron Johnson has led the team in tackles the last two years from his safety position.
KICK RETURN MEN EXTRAORDINAIRE! Don't leave your seat for popcorn on kickoffs. Titus Young and Tyrell Roberts are come of the nation's best at taking kicks back to the house.

Everyone knows Hokie head coach Frank Beamer is a special teams guru. But so is Chris Peterson on the other side. Both of these coaches excel in this area. In fact, Boise State is one of the top special team outfits found anywhere. They will return a top quality senior in Kyle Brotzman who handles both the punting and kicking chores. While Brotzman has been starting since his freshman year, he has never really been considered to be at the elite level. But he is not that far off either. His experience will prove worthy in a match up of this caliber when it comes to avoiding the blocked punt that VT uses so well as Brotzman uses the rugby style scramble to avoid the rush. The Broncos are even more potent in the return department. Titus Young earned All-American honors at NationalChamps.net as a kick return guy after returning two kicks to the end zone in 2009. He also gets help from Doug Martin who actually averaged more yards at 29.7 per attempt. Look for Young to handle the punt returns in the same dangerous fashion.

Dyrell Roberts was third in the nation with a 31.9-yard kickoff return average, and Jayron Hosley was third in the ACC with his 11.2-yard punt return average and became the first freshman under Beamer to return a punt for a touchdown. Ergo, Beamer Ball continues to keep every fan on the edge of their seat with every kick and/or punt return. Some things never change. The bad news is that Tech will be breaking in both a brand new punter and kicker. Coach Beamer refused to name the clear front-runner for kicking duties between Chris Hazley and Justin Myer although Hazley seems to have the lead. Senior Brian Saunders was Brent Bowden's back up for three years and those are some big shoes to fill as Bowden led the conference last fall and consistently gave the Hokies an advantage in field position.

Dare we say that Boise State has a special teams edge here over a Frank Beamer coached ball club? As mentioned, head coach Chris Peterson takes pride in putting a top rate special teams group on the field at all times. They have a definite edge from the fact that Brotzman has started since his freshman year while the Hokies break in all new faces in the kicking department. While Boise State was fourth in the country last year handling kickoff returns, Virginia Tech per usual has their share of the return men. Brotzman though clearly gives the Broncos an edge.



This is a national championship game for Boise State. Yes, it is the first weekend of football. But given the schedule difficulty (or lack of) that Boise State faces every year and given this is the highest preseason ranking ever for the blue turf school from Idaho...this monster clash on a so-called neutral field (or is it Blacksburg fans?) represents the highest ranked team the Broncos will face all season outside of possibly a home game with Oregon State. Win this game and the odds say that Boise State goes undefeated again and earns another trip to Glendale, AZ this time marching to the beat of a BCS National Championship Game. Never has the pressure been so great on a national scale for a Boise State team that actually has already seen its share of "show me you are for real" tussles. Will the pressure and over confidence make this squad look like a Bronco at his first rodeo?

According to Chris Petersen who has won 94% over his games over his four year stint as head coach, "Everyone needs to be extremely paranoid and have an edge...If we think we're going to repeat because of the guys we have coming back, because of what we did last year, I promise you we won't". Bringing guys back may be an understatement as the Broncos only lost one true starter out of 22 players from each side of the ball plus return the kicker/punter. A big edge exists in the experience department for Boise State, no doubt about it. Sure, people in the stands and in the media will always continue to question the true quality of this team because they play in the WAC and competition is never a test "weekend and week out." That is why this game is so huge, even bigger than the Oregon opener a year ago because of the high preseason expectation stakes.

Virginia Tech comes in as a usual Top 10 - Top 15 ranked team. They really have nothing to lose here as a slight underdog. It's the other team that has the huge target on the chest. What the Hokies need to demonstrate is that senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor is ready to have the type of season expected out of a guy who has started for three straight seasons…that his feet and throwing abilities can make this offense do more through the air…that there is more to Stinespring's offense than just handing the ball off to Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Not likely is the fact that player turnover on defense, and there is a great deal of it, worries fans or coaches. They just continue to find their type of recruits and plug them in to Beamer Ball...great special teams, run with the football and great DEFENSE. Can the new faces on the defensive line and in the secondary for VT come together quickly in time for this Labor Day Clash? They get the big exam right off the bat.

Boise State gets the edge in more categories. Kellen Moore is a more polished quarterback throwing the ball. He rarely makes the big mistake and they will keep Virginia Tech, like most teams they face, on their heels guessing with a complete balance of running and throwing. This combined with the fact that Virginia Tech is breaking in new faces on defense and that they actually meet a team with the same lofty special teams performers adds to the blue favor. This is the best team Boise State has fielded…ever. When the Broncos employ a sturdy defense like the one they have now, they are a tough bunch to beat. This game stays close however based on first game jitters and game plans. Defense is ahead of the offense at this stage or this could wind up becoming a massive scoring fest. Oh, both teams still score. Boise State just scores more and Kellen Moore proves that he may be the best quarterback anywhere at finding the open man.