Boise State tailbacks pose a triple threat

Aug 24 2010 - 6:51pm

The Boise State football team has built a personnel group for this season called "Stable" that puts all three standout tailbacks on the field together -- senior Jeremy Avery and juniors Doug Martin and D.J. Harper.

They also will utilize packages for two tailbacks, including the wildcat plays that became a staple in the red zone last year.

And don't be surprised to see a tailback line up at receiver.

The unconventional wrinkles are one way coaches are dealing with one of the most-vexing issues they face this season -- how to properly utilize three All-WAC-caliber tailbacks.

"If they're on the field, defenses are worried about them," running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said. "So it's very exciting." The tailback trio certainly likes the Stable idea -- they're even drawing up plays.

And offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, whose playbook already includes all kinds of funk, will have some ideas of his own.

"Those are three of our best players," Harsin said. "We'll try to get three guys on the field if there's a possibility for that. Those guys should be on the field, whether they're doing what they're doing or out there playing some different positions." All three are proven playmakers.

Avery, with little fanfare, has produced 3,073 yards of offense and 21 touchdowns in his career. He rushed for 1,151 yards last year and has a career average of 5.8 yards per carry.

"He's definitely a spark plug," Bhonapha said. "He's been durable, he's been productive and he's a guy who's going to benefit a lot from being in this program and this program has benefited from him." Harper was leading the team in rushing when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the third game last season at Fresno State. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and showed a knack for the big play.

He returned this fall determined to show he's better than ever.

"He looks good," Bhonapha said.

Martin, the most powerful runner of the bunch, moved over from defense to replace Harper in the backfield last season. He finished with 765 rushing yards and 15 TDs.

"He can run you over and the next thing you know he cuts on a dime and makes you look stupid," senior linebacker Derrell Acrey said.

All three are among the fastest, quickest players on the team. All three are standouts in the weight room, too.

"I'd hate to be our running backs coach," senior safety Jeron Johnson said. "It's kind of hard to share that rock." The tailbacks say they understand that -- coaches talked to them about the challenge long ago. They also are good friends who help, and push, each other on the practice field.

"If another running back is going to play hard, I'm going to play harder," Martin said.

That fits with one of the coaches' main talking points with the tailbacks.

"Take advantage of the time you're in," Bhonapha said. "Go as hard as you can, the time you're in. That's all you can worry about." Coach Chris Petersen also has asked for patience. He knows the tailbacks won't get as many carries as they want -- and he appreciates that.

"If you're a complete competitor, you're not going to be good with it," Petersen said. "But we expect them to be very good team guys. It has always seemed to work itself out as the season has gone on. Nobody needs to get into a panic early in the season. Just hang with us and it'll work out." The tailbacks' attitude will be "very important for our team's success," Martin says.

The coaches "are going to do the best they can," Harper says.

The tailbacks are a "band of brothers," Avery says.

All the right words.

And one reason coaches may reward them with a few plays out of Stable.

"With all of us in there, we never know what's going to happen," Harper said. "There are so many options."

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