The offensive line has been a point of emphasis for Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin this fall, and for good reason. The Broncos have no senior linemen and return just two starters, both changing positions.
Harsin uses two words to describe how he feels about junior Rees Odhiambo, the key cog in this year's offensive line: "Really confident." Still, there's plenty to question. The 6'4'', 310-pound behemoth was limited by an ankle injury last year, and now he's shifting from right to left tackle, filling the hole vacated by Chicago Bears' draft pick Charles Leno.
"He's got the physical abilities to go out and play the position," said Harsin. "We feel like he is a guy that just has that demeanor that we're looking for. He has to go out there and prove all that... We're not anointing anybody as 'The Guy.'"
"He's a big dude, and he's very strong," notes offensive line coach Scott Huff. "Good in the weight room, athletic. He definitely has the ability to do it. It's just mentally, can he transition? You saw flashes that he could be really, really good."
Odhiambo played on the left side in his first two years at Boise State, but that doesn't mean the position change will be easy for him.
"The thing I'm trying to work on most is pass protection," admits Odhiambo. "The way your body mechanics work on one side versus another is completely different. I'm just trying to get adjusted to it."
Boise State only returns eight scholarship athletes on the offensive line, none of them seniors. Only one other lineman has started more than one game- redshirt junior Travis Henry, who is also swapping spots from right guard to center. So far, he likes the change of scenery.
"I got miles and miles better," says Henry. "I feel like I'm much better now than I was at guard."
Huff has a seven-man rotation ready to fill five positions. Travis Averill will likely start at left guard, Mario Yakoo at right guard, and Archie Lewis at right tackle. Redshirt sophomore Steven Baggett and Rocky Mountain redshirt freshman Eli McCullough will push for playing time.
"Lord knows no one is going to stay healthy all year," notes Huff. "Unfortunately, it's football. At the same time, you're letting those guys compete and building some depth down the road in case someone does get hurt."
The young group spent this summer trying to build chemistry, even grinding out some extra conditioning together by climbing Table Rock every Friday after workouts.
"Rees liked to do it, so he kind of got us on board and it was a fun thing to do all together," laughed Henry.
"They really had a great summer," said quarterback Grant Hedrick. "They worked their tail off, and they're really jelling together really well. It's exciting to see that, and they're only going to get better."