Replacing some big names on offense will be Bryan Harsin's No. 1 priority this spring
Boise State football has evolved into one of the most consistent and successful programs in all of college sports during the 21st century. The Broncos have failed to reach 10 wins in a season just four times since 2000, winning no fewer than eight games in a single season during that span.
A major reason for that success has been continuity at two positions: head coach and quarterback.
Boise State has had just three full-time head coaches since 2001, with each staying in the position for at least five seasons. In terms of quarterbacks, the Broncos have been blessed with a run of players at the position who were either multi-year stars or took over as upperclassmen. It seems they've always had experience at the position.
Heading into spring practice, Boise State has question marks under center for the first time in a while. That is the headliner in terms of things to keep an eye on as the Broncos return to the field.
5 Storylines to Watch during Boise State's Spring Practice
1. Replacing Brett Rypien
Rypien has been the starter at Boise State since 2015. All he did during that time was throw for 13,581 yards and 90 touchdowns. The leading candidates to replace him look to be true freshmen Hank Bachmeier and Kaiden Bennett. The job appeared to be Chase Cord's to lose before he tore an ACL last season. Now he'll sit out until the fall while the talented youngsters duel for the starting job. It one of them separates from the other early, you could see Cord transfer — especially if it doesn't look like he'll be able to win the job.
2. Replacing Alexander Mattison
Mattison was the latest in a long line of do-it-all backs in Boise. Rypien may have operated the offense over the last couple of years, but Mattison was the engine that powered the Broncos. There's a crowded depth chart at the position right now, and there's not a clear-cut leading candidate for the starting job. Andrew Van Buren brings the most experience, but guys like Robert Mahone, Keegan Duncan, and George Holani are all talented and will get a crack at earning the lead role.
3. How good can the offensive line be?
Replacing a talented quarterback and running back gets a lot easier when you have all five starters returning on your offensive line. That said, the unit allowed 2.5 sacks per game in 2018, placing them in the bottom half of the nation in that category. The experience will be nice to have, but the pass blocking will need to improve, especially considering the uncertainty at quarterback.
4. Defensive questions
The Broncos lost a ton of talent from a very good defense in 2018. On top of that, their defensive coordinator (Andy Avalos) just left for Oregon. The will be growing pains both on the field and on the sidelines as the Broncos adjust. Spring is the perfect time to get those growing pains out of the way and get the house in order.
5. Finding playmakers at wide receiver
If you want to win in the high-scoring Mountain West, you need players who can get vertical in the passing game and get the ball in the end zone. The Broncos lost their two leading receivers from 2018 — Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson. The duo combined for more than 1,800 yards and 16 scores. the search this spring will be for players who can step up and replace that production. Keep an eye on John Hightower to emerge as the go-to guy in the passing game.
— 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. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Top photo courtesy of broncosports.com)