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August 6, 2010INSIDE SLANT
The Broncos enter the 2010 season as one of the biggest stories in college football.
They have won 26 of their past 27 games, including two defeats of Oregon and one of undefeated TCU. They finished No. 4 in the AP poll last year and return 22 starters-a combination that makes them legitimate national championship contenders.
And adding to the hype is the Broncos' season opener-a Monday night, made-for-TV showdown with ACC power Virginia Tech in Landover, Md. The game is widely considered one of the most important of the season.
This is the second straight season that the Broncos have opened the season with a marquee game. They beat Oregon last year on a Thursday night, propelling them to their second Fiesta Bowl championship in four years.
But the Broncos aren't without their question marks. The offensive line, which was improved last year but has been unstable in recent years, is unsettled. The depth at wide receiver is unproven. All-American quarterback Kellen Moore might be irreplaceable. And one of the two missing starters is NFL first-round cornerback Kyle Wilson.
"We need to be preparing as if our life is on the line," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "Before we know it we're going to be headed back to (Landover) to play (Virginia Tech) and I think our guys realize that as well."
• Coach Chris Petersen, who is 49-4 in four seasons at Boise State and has produced two Fiesta Bowl titles, signed a new five-year contract during the offseason. The deal is worth more than $8 million and provides for one-year extensions each time the Broncos win at least eight regular-season games. His salary will be $1.49 million for 2010 and 2011.
• QB Kellen Moore, who finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting last year, attended the Manning Passing Academy this summer.
• CB Jamar Taylor and CB Jerrell Gavins are locked in the best position battle of camp. They're vying for the spot held the past three and half years by Kyle Wilson, a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets.
Spotlight On September: If the Broncos are undefeated at the end of September, look out. They'll be heavy favorites in the rest of their games.
The September schedule includes just three games-vs. Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 in Landover, Md.; at Wyoming on Sept. 18; and vs. Oregon State on Sept. 25. WAC commissioner Karl Benson already has called the Virginia Tech contest the biggest regular-season, non-conference game in league history.
Keys To Success: The Broncos need to continue the progress they made last year on the offensive line and make the run game a consistent enough factor that quarterback Kellen Moore doesn't have to carry the load. They also need to stay healthy in certain spots-quarterback, wide receiver, defensive tackle and safety, in particular.
Areas Of Concern: The Broncos need to find reliable wide receivers to complement All-WAC standouts Austin Pettis and Titus Young, develop a backup quarterback and figure out why kicker Kyle Brotzman has struggled so much on field goals from the left hash. They also must deal with unprecedented hype and scrutiny.
Quote To Note: "His play speaks for itself. Kellen (Moore) has gotten as much publicity as anyone we've ever had and rightly so, but I think it's our job as coaches to kind of protect him and let him focus on what he needs to focus on-and that (media) stuff can be tremendously distracting. It's tremendously distracting for me and I'm a lot older and don't play."-Boise State coach Chris Petersen, on his decision to limit quarterback Kellen Moore's media obligations since he became the starter in 2008.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Head Coach: Chris Petersen, fifth year, 49-4.
Most Important Player: QB Kellen Moore-Moore, a junior, enters his third year as the starting quarterback. He's 26-1-and he finished second in the nation in pass efficiency last year. His smarts and accuracy make him one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The inexperience behind him-senior Mike Coughlin, who has played sparingly in his career, and redshirt freshman Joe Southwick will compete for the backup job-makes him the Broncos' most important player.
Breakout Star: DE Shea McClellin-The product of a small town in Idaho has quietly turned into a versatile force on the Broncos' defense. He still will be overshadowed by senior end Ryan Winterswyk, but coaches say he's on the verge of becoming a dominant player.
Newcomer To Watch: WR Geraldo Hiwat-The Holland native played high school football in Boise. He's tall, rangy and fast. As he adds polish, he could become the second deep threat the Broncos' offense needs.
Projected Starting Lineup:
Offense-QB Kellen Moore, TB Jeremy Avery, FB Dan Paul, TE Tommy Gallarda, WR Austin Pettis, WR Titus Young, LT Faraji Wright, LG Nate Potter, C Thomas Byrd, RG Will Lawrence, RT Brenel Myers.
Defense-DE Ryan Winterswyk, DT Chase Baker, DT Billy Winn, DE Shea McClellin, LB Derrell Acrey, LB Aaron Tevis, N Winston Venable, CB Jamar Taylor, CB Brandyn Thompson, S George Iloka, S Jeron Johnson.
• Special teams coach Jeff Choate has moved from linebackers to nickels as his position assignment. Newcomer Bob Gregory, the former defensive coordinator at Cal, coached nickels in spring ball but now will handle linebackers.
• Senior safety Jason Robinson has been suspended for the first three games of the season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge. He also was suspended during spring ball. Robinson is a key special-teamer.
• Committed recruit Emil Smith, scheduled to join the Broncos in 2011, was killed in a car accident this summer.