The Boise State Broncos finished the 2017 campaign as one of the better Group of 5 teams in the country once again. After stumbling out of the gates to a 2-2 start, head coach Bryan Harsin's squad won nine of its last 10 games — including the Mountain West Championship Game and the Las Vegas Bowl — en route to an impressive 11-win season.
Between returning talent and a reasonable schedule, the 2018 season looks like another promising one in Boise. There are some questions to be answered, however, and those answers need to come this spring.
5 Storylines to Watch During Boise State's Spring Practice
1. How does Brett Rypien look?
This team will go as Rypien goes, and in 2017, they went pretty far. When the quarterback was on, Boise was rolling. When he struggled to find the end zone, the Broncos were mediocre — literally. Boise State went 3-3 in games where Rypien did not throw a touchdown pass and 7-0 in games where he did. Look for a more aggressive Rypien near the goal line this spring.
2. Who will Rypien throw to?
Cedrick Wilson is gone and with him went more than 1,500 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Someone — and hopefully more than just one — needs to step up this spring and establish themselves as trusted targets in the passing game. A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster will likely lead that effort, but in all reality, it's pretty wide open at receiver.
3. Can the offensive line build chemistry early?
There were a lot of questions about this unit heading into 2017. They struggled a bit early on, but eventually clicked when it mattered most. The young unit is a year older, but that doesn't automatically mean improvement. The Broncos gave up 28 sacks last season, which placed them in the middle of the pack (tied for 72nd) among FBS teams. It also must replace solid center Mason Hampton. This unit needs to do better for Rypien and the rest of the offense to reach its full potential.
4. Proven depth at running back
Alexander Mattison was Boise State's offensive MVP in 2017 and one of the better all-around backs in the country. The running back position has always been a critical component to Boise State's offense, and the Broncos are at their best when they have a healthy stud lined up behind the quarterback. After Mattison, the number of touches dwindles with each name on the depth chart. Look for Mattison to get plenty of rest this spring while Jake Shaddox, Drake Beasley and Robert Mahone get plenty of work.
5. How good is this defense?
In terms of difference-makers, the Bronco defense lost just one — Leighton Vander Esch. The core of a pretty decent unit returns, and given the schedule they'll face in 2018, it doesn't appear that they'll be challenged regularly. Look for the Bronco defense to be confidently flying around the field all spring, led by middle linebacker Tyson Maeva — a high-volume tackling machine.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.