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August 9, 2010

Fire Planes

Dry lightning sparked a dozen fires in Idaho this week. To battle the blazes, planes loaded with fire retardant sky northeast over the Boise State practice field every five minutes.

Almost on cue, the siren sounds in 5-minute increments, marking a need to move from station to station, drill to drill, from the middle of one field to the far corner of another. The Broncos never stick with one drill for an extended period. There is always something else to be learned, another skill to master. Position groups rep rep repeat and move on, stepping over triangle pads, speeding around cones or testing angles in wrap-n-tackle exercises.

The difference today: Shoulder pads and the persistent pop/crunch crawling down my ear canal, banging my drum. See Derrell Acrey slam up the B-Gap on a stunt and hear/feel the collision with right guard Will Lawrence, who deftly pushes Acrey outside right and the handoff goes counter left. Acrey made a good fill, but Lawrence's block sprung Doug Martin for a big gain.

That's how team drills seemed to go today, the offense with a solid upper hand. After throwing six interceptions Saturday, the BSU quarterbacks had something to prove against their mates. They went error-free Sunday at Dona Larsen Park, no interceptions. The only turnover of the day was caused by the bombastic Jarrell Root on an outside speed rush. He swiped the ball from true freshman quarterback Grant Hedrick, forced a fumble (Darren Koontz recovered it in the melee).

I had a hard time picking a play of the day, torn between Root's rip, a ball batted down at the line by big Billy Winn and a pair of touchdown passes on consecutive plays by Joe Southwick in 7-on-7. Southwick hit Gabe Linehan, then Tyler Shoemaker on a sliding haul. I'll call it a 3-way tie.

Southwick practiced with the second unit Sunday, a spot ahead of Michael Coughlin. It's not his job yet. I can see these two battling it out all fall long. It's clear that Southwick stands a better chance of starting in the future, but this season? Man, I just don't know which will play more. Both will get on the field.

Hedrick is quick (I sure wish I hadn't missed day one to see his media-lore scramble) and his throws typically land in the right spot. He hit a receiver today, under duress, square in the breadbasket on a delayed slant. I know that's what quarterbacks are supposed to do, but to see it calmly delivered on day three of camp by a true freshman? It's impressive.

It's fair to say Kellen Moore is again as sharp as samurai steel (Tamahagane for you specificists) But, you cannot hang your future on your past. All that success must be recreated in 2010. He sure is spoiled with Austin Pettis, smooth as silk, and Titus Young, jackrabbit quick. Seriously, Young was returning a punt in practice today, changing directions on purpose to drill the tacklers on the punt team. His plant, hop and switch to strict sprints happens in a snap. Add in burgeoning ballers like Aaron Burks and Geraldo Hiwat, Tommy Gallarda (so huge (6-5, 259) at tight end) and young beacons Matt Miller and Kirby Moore, Kellen Moore has more toys than Richie Rich.

I wanted to point out Miller in particular, just because his hype is so huge. Miller (6-3, 203) is lauded as the best athlete to ever come out of the state of Montana. He looks to own it. He caught a fade in 1-on-1's today at its highest point, two feet higher than the defending corner and came down like it was no big deal. I don't know if he can avoid a redshirt, but it would be real hard to watch him sit if this is his norm.

I know how unlikely it is that Josh Borgman will get a start around this program at corner, but he's made some plays these early fall days to prove he can handle the game. Like all the other players, he just looks bigger this year. The offseason weight training can take a scrawny speedster and make him firm enough to take the standard gridiron beating.

There were few eye-openers today, but it was far from ho-hum. The physicality increased 10-fold with shoulder pads in the mix. The rivalry between offense and defense intensified to a fever pitch (head slaps and jersey jerks). The fourth quarter drill made me feel tired just watching; running gassers between plays sounds demented, but all the Broncos ran right through it.

BSU runs a complex camp. It's a mix between Bear Bryant's storied dust-ups and Late Night at the Apollo. Humor and brotherhood walk hand-in-hand with discipline and hustle. I've tried for years to snag the right metaphor, a proper descriptor, but all language falls short. Simply put, it's football in a pure form.


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