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2011 Non-Conference Preview: Boise State Vs. Georgia

The Chic-Fil-A game on opening weekend is going to be huge for Boise State.  Even bigger than last year when they faced off against the #10 Virginia Tech Hokies back in Maryland.  The last time the Broncos traveled into SEC country to take on the Georgia Bulldogs was in 2005 and they were destroyed by a score of 48-13.  The Dawgs humiliated the Boise State team on national television and ruined the Broncos season before it even started.  The gloating Georgia fans with chants of "O-ver-ra-ted!" as the Broncos trudged off the field at the end of the game still haunts the Boise State fans. 

But this season don't look for deja vu all over again. 

There is no question that the Broncos were totally overwhelmed by Georgia in 2005, but that was then---this is now.  For one thing, Chris Peterson is the head coach, not Dan Hawkins who left QB Jared Zabransky on the line until he had four interceptions and two fumbles before finally taking the poor kid just before halftime.  By then, the game was lost and BSU began the second half with a deficit score of 0-31.  For another,  Boise State's new offensive coordinator, Brent Pease, has no intention of giving up his first game to a pack of dawgs.

Hey, what do you call a 350 pound Dawg fan?

An anorexic. 

But let's stick to football and take a look at the Georgia Bulldog kennel:

While the Broncos have some unanswered questions on both offense and defense, Georgia has a few of their own.  On offense, will Georgia sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray be in sync with his new set of receivers?  On the defensive side, have the Bulldogs moved around and replaced the players that best fit defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme after losing three starters off his front seven?

Georgia head coach Mark Richt said earlier this year that Georgia’s 2011 class was the best and most talented he's recruited since he’s been on campus, even going so far as to call them a "Dream Team."  Some of those recruits have won the position battles and we are bound to see a few them on September 3rd.  Especially with the key losses at receiver where the Dawgs will need to replace WR's A.J. Green and Kris Durham.  So look for Bulldog receivers Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten to get their chances to make a big play downfield in the passing game.

Defensively, the Broncos will have to be on top of their game starting from the moment of kickoff.  The Bulldog special teams players are among the best in the country.  CB Brandon Boykin was Georgia’s top corner last season and will be dangerous in the return game.  Boykin returned four kickoffs for TDs in 2010 so he can be dangerous.

The real battle for Boise State will come after Georgia sophmore QB Aaron Murray gets behind the ball.  Georgia has some big, mean, ugly brutes up front on the offensive line to help Murray out.  They give the QB plenty of time and allowed him to pass for 3,049 yards on 342 attempts last year with 24 TD's and 8 interceptions.  Murray is no runner himself, so he will need to maintain the passing edge against the Bronco defense if he is to be successful.  The loss of receivers Green and Durham might sack that idea, but Murray has others who can step up.  Talented receivers like Tavarres King, Rantavious Wooten and Marlon Brown could all make big plays downfield.  Especially King.  He was the Dawgs leading receiver behind Green and Durham and averaged 18.7 yards on 27 catches.

Backing up the Georgia receiving corps will be a kennel full of runners, thus giving their offense a dual threat.  Junior RB Washaun Ealey rushed for 811 yards in 2010, averaging 5.2 per carry.  Those carries accounted for 11 Georgia TD's.  Senior Caleb King is another veteran RB who will probably see action. He averages 5.4 yards per carry.  Even freshman RB Isaiah Crowell could help out the offensive arsenal in the Georgia backfield.  He is a five-star running back and mentions he has good hands, possessing both the strength and skills for college play.  Don't be surprised if you see him running or catching the ball out of the backfield on September 3rd.

Georgia is expected to use the 3-4 defense this year and it will look much different than it did last year.  The Dawgs are aware that they will have to stop Boise QB Kellen Moore from completing his passes.  That might have been a real problem for Georgia with the loss of key linebacker Akeem Dent last year, but Dawg defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has replaced Dent with Christian Robinson at inside linebacker.  Robinson had 11 starts last season, racking up 46 tackles with 6 for loss.  I will add that 27 of those tackles were solo and he also recovered 2 fumbles making the Georgia standout a one man wrecking crew.  The Bronco offense will not be able to let their guard down and will need to always be aware of his location on the field.  

Grantham might also find several defensive gems in Richt's "Dream Team" of recruits who could see action as well.  DE Ray Drew is another five-star rated defensive end who could make an immediate impact as a pass-rushing outside linebacker.  Another is DB Malcolm Mitchell, a four-star player who is rated one of the top defensive backs in the country who can also give the special teams a hand as a kickoff or punt returner.

The Dawgs sound formidable all right, but lets take a look at the Broncos's stable of assets:

The offensive team is still in a state of flux and probably will be until fall practice is completed.  But large pieces are in place and the O-line is one of those areas.  The left side is anchored by former guard Nate Potter, 6' 6" 293 lbs. who has moved to offensive tackle.  Some 2012 mock drafts have Boise State offensive tackle him as a first-round NFL draft pick.  His fellow left side linemen are OG Joe Kellogg, 6' 2" 305 lbs, and Thomas Byrd (who missed spring ball) at center.  On the right side, the Broncos have a lot of talent to choose from.  But it looks like OT Charles Leno, 6' 3" 249 lbs, and OG Jake Broyles seem to have the starting spots.  Broyles, 6' 4" 257 lbs, has also been consistently mentioned as one of the fastest risers among Boise State offensive linemen.  Others who will get their playing time are G Brenel Myers, OT Faraji Wright, OL Michael Ames, and OL Cory Yriarte, who has worked hard after suffering a serious knee injury in 2009.  Matt Paradis will see action as well and started in the spring game at center.  While he is actually a defensive tackle, he will likely will be a backup center behind Byrd. 

Offensively, the Broncos will field a fresh herd of receivers to catch the passes tossed by 2010 Heisman finalist QB Kellen Moore.  Sophmore WR Geraldo Hiwat, 6' 4" 189 lbs, is one who is already getting a reputation as a playmaker.  During the spring game he finished with 97 yards, including a 49-yard bomb from backup quarterback Joe Southwick.  He runs the 40 in 4.37 seconds.  Aaron Burks, Tyler Shoemaker , 6' 1" 207 lbs, and Chris Potter have proven they can made the big play downfield.  All three were among the standouts at the Broncos’ "pro day" workout in May.  Hiwat, Burks and Shoemaker all run the 40 in 4.40 or better while Potter was among the team’s quickest players in agility drills.  Senior Kyle Efaw, 6' 4" 229 lbs, will start at tight end and be backed up by Gabe Linehan, 6' 3" 213 lbs. 

When Moore decides to hand the ball off he will have a runner or two ready to carry the pig.  In the backfield is tailback Doug Martin, 5' 9" 201 lb.. who was a thousand yard rusher last season with 1,260 yrds on 201 carries.  Right now it looks like senior FB Dan Paul, 6'  0" 241 lbs, will be holding down the duties at fullback.

The Broncos defensive line returns nearly in tact and they have replaced several key losses off last season's squad.  One is junior college transfer Tyrone Crawford, a 6' 4" 275 lb lineman out of Canada who transfered from Bakersfield College, in California.  He was a junior college All-American and earned conference defensive MVP honors as a sophmore.  In his first year with the Broncos he recorded 32 tackles (13 solo and 19 assists) and had 7 sacks and a forced fumble. Crawford shares the D-line with three other starting seniors from last year's nationally ranked squad: DT Chace Baker, 6' 1" 297 lbs; DT Billy Winn, 6' 4" 288 lbs; and DE Shea McClellin, 6' 3" 262 lbs.

The Bronco defensive backfield is packed with a group of rising of stars.  CB Jamar Taylor, 5' 11" 183 lbs is one of those.  The junior cornerback is a returning starter who runs the fastest 40-yard dash on the team.  Safety George Iloka, 6' 3" 207 lb, is another standout.  He had 63 tackles (49 solo), a forced fumble, and 2 interceptions last season.  Cedric Febis has filled the strong safety spot vacated by Jeron Johnson, while both OL Byron Hout, 6' 0" 241 lbs and OL Aaron Tevis, 6' 3"228 lbs are back for a final year at Boise State as linebackers.
So there you have the makings of what will hopefully be a real exciting football game.  A slug fest.  It will be the Boise State Broncos of the Mountain West Conference against the Georgia Bulldog "Dream Team" of the South East Conference. 
Hey, Dawg---its time for some payback.