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Scouting Boise State with ex-Beaver Jonathan Smith

Boise State enters the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl against Oregon State with an unusual amount of uncertainty for what OSU coach Mike Riley calls "the most consistent program in the country over the past decade."

There's the Broncos' 8-4 regular-season record, solid but their worst since an 8-4 campaign in 2001. And there's the departure of coach Chris Petersen for Washington and a five-year, $18-million contract, leaving the Boise State program in the hands of interim coach Bob Gregory for the bowl game.

An insider who doesn't see Petersen's exit as a death knell for the Broncos is quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith, the former quarterback great at Oregon State. Smith is among a Boise State staff that will remain intact for the Hawaii Bowl other than running backs coach Keith Bhonapha.SMITH

"I feel pretty good about where we are with the staff in preparation for the game," says Smith, in his second season as Boise State's QB coach. "At first, (Petersen leaving) was tough on the kids. But now that we've practiced a couple of times, the kids are excited to play. They're definitely excited to play Oregon State.

"Bob is a good coach, a good person, very experienced, well-respected on this team. I think we'll be fine. (The loss of Petersen) is not going to be a huge factor."

Gregory and associate head coach/offensive line coach Chris Strausser are candidates for the job Petersen left behind. If either gets the position, Smith could have a difficult decision to make. He could join Petersen's staff at Washington, or perhaps get an opportunity to move up as offensive coordinator under either Gregory or Strausser.

For now, Smith is concerning himself with the Beavers, who have the attention of the Boise State players, he says.

"Before the bowl pairing got announced, we talked to the players about different scenarios," Smith says. "(The Beavers) were at the top of the list. They wanted to play a Pac-12 school and the best opponent possible. It worked out well."

It will be a nostalgic trip to Honolulu for Smith, revered by Beaver Nation as the signal-caller for the teams that brought the program out of the Dark Ages from 1998-2001. Smith quarterbacked the 1999 Dennis Erickson team that became Oregon State's first bowl team since 1965, falling 23-17 to June Jone's Hawaii team in the Oahu Bowl.

"It was a good season, with so much excitement about the first bowl in so long, and getting to go over to Hawaii," says Smith, who quarterbacked the Beavers to an 11-1 mark and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame the following season. "But Hawaii was really jacked up to play the game, and we didn't play very well."

Over the past eight years, Boise State has gone 92-12 -- best of any FBS school -- with two BCS bowl victories and two undefeated seasons (2006 and '09). This year's record includes losses to Washington (38-6 in the opener), Fresno State (41-40), Brigham Young (37-20) and San Diego State (34-31 in overtime). The Broncos were 5-2 in Mountain West Conference games.

"We had some attrition, lost some good seniors, and had some players who didn't stick," Smith says. "We ended up being really young on both sides of ball, but especially defense. And we lost a couple of close games."

Boise State was balanced offensively, averaging 38.8 points per game while passing for 3,228 yards and rushing for 2,422 using a system Smith describes as having "spread-ish tendencies."

Quarterback Joe Southwick, a 6-1, 200-pound senior, broke an ankle on the first play of the Oct. 19 game against Nevada. He was replaced by 6-foot, 200-pound junior Grant Hedrick from Central High in Independence. Southwick returned to play the first series on Senior Night against New Mexico on Nov. 30, "but he wasn't completely healthy at that time," Smith says. "He's starting to work his way back."

Southwick has completed 151 of 208 passes (72.6 percent) for 1,654 yards and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions and run for 111 yards and three TDs.

Hedrick has completed 135 of 198 passes (68.2 percent) for 1,443 yards and 15 TDs with five picks and run for 257 yards and six scores.

"Joe has had a good year," Smith says. "He's a student of the game, completes a lot of passes, goes to the right spot with the ball. Grant came in and played well for a backup. He's more athletic and can run a little bit. Both of those guys can help us win games."

Who will start in the Hawaii Bowl?

"We'll see how Joe looks in the practices leading up to the game," Smith says. "It's up in the air right now."

Boise State's two biggest offensive producers are running back Jay Ajayi, a 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore who has gained 1,328 yards (5.9 average) and 17 touchdowns, second in the Mountain West, and 6-3, 220-pound junior Matt Miller, who has caught 77 passes for 934 yards and 11 TDs.

"Jay is a good, hard runner, a thick, physical specimen," Smith says. "Matt is a strong, physical wideout, a hard worker who comes down with some contested balls."

Smith says the best player on the team is probably 6-3, 245-pound junior defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who has 67 tackles, including 19 1/2 for loss with 10 1/2 sacks.

"DeMarcus can cause some havoc," Smith says. "He can rush the passer and run down things in the run game. I'm sure (the Beavers) will take notice of him."

Smith has spent some time watching video of Oregon State's defense.

"They're pretty good," Smith says. "They ran into some good teams at the end of the year, but they're very sound, play very hard and physical, and they look athletic. (End) Scott Crichton makes a lot of plays for them, and they can disrupt the quarterback with pressure. They'll challenge you on the perimeter in coverage, force you to be accurate."

How to attack the Beaver 'D'?

"We're always going to start with ways to run the ball," Smith says. "Some teams had a tough time doing that; some had better success. And we'll try to create some (pass) plays for longer yardage. We'll have a tough time if we nickel-and-dime it down the field. That makes it hard to continually convert against a solid defense like they have."

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