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"They've been the standard for the Group of Five, but they're not the same animal they have been. Don't get me wrong, they're still damn good, but last season, for the first time in a while, they lost games they should have won.

They've got new co--offensive coordinators in Scott Huff and Zak Hill, but it doesn't really matter, because coach Bryan Harsin is heavily involved offensively. He wants to throw the ball around out of the shotgun. Their [sophomore] quarterback, Brett Rypien, was impressive last year. He's going to be one heck of a player, but he's not very mobile.

If you decide to pressure Rypien, you better make sure you can cover their receivers one-on-one, a really good group led by crafty [senior] Thomas Sperbeck. They're also a real big deception team, so you've got to be prepared for trick plays.

There's a ton of questions on defense with just five starters back. And there's a new defensive coordinator, Andy Avalos; we expect him to run a 3--4 scheme. Their line has been overhauled, but they'll be fierce in the secondary with ball-hawking safeties Cameron Hartsfield [a junior] and Chanceller James [a senior]. Kicker Tyler Rausa and punter Sean Wale, both seniors, are outstanding, which is a real advantage.

They don't make a lot of mistakes, but they're a beatable team. If they're going to be the Boise of old, it'll depend on their defensive line."


Although senior outside linebacker Ben Weaver led the team in tackles in 2015, 6'1", 227-pound middle linebacker TANNER VALLEJO will be the key to the D. The senior's quickness, pass-rushing skills and ability to slip blocks make him a rare three-down player and earned him a spot on the Butkus Award watch list.