One-two running back punch showcases different styles

Everyone remembers the 2006 game when Boise State running back Ian Johnson scored the winning points in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. He romped into the end zone, and in the celebration, he asked his cheerleader girlfriend to marry him.

But now Johnson has graduated, and highly touted juniors Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper are ready to take over.

Both backs played in every game last year, with Avery getting 111 carries and Harper, 55. Avery gained 639 yards on the year, and while Harper gained just 278, both had four touchdowns. That depth at running back will be needed this year for the Broncos, and head coach Chris Petersen says he’s really excited for the two to show off their abilities.

“They’re a good one-two combination,” Petersen said at his weekly press conference last week. “The styles of the two are different, but the bottom line is that they’ll both be productive this year.”

Petersen contrasted their two styles, saying Avery uses a never-quit attitude to wear down competitors and Harper is just one of those bruisers who puts his head down.

“Jeremy is one of those running backs that plays bigger than he is. He’s extremely tough and runs like a big back. D.J. is a thicker back who keeps his legs moving and manages to escape tackles that you wonder how he does that.”

But while the running back situation is a non-issue, the lack of numbers at defensive tackle and youth on defense has drawn some concern. Petersen touched on it, saying that his coaching staff has been creative in the past to cover up weak spots, and they’re prepared todo it again if need be.

“If we’re forced to, we’ll do what we need to,” Petersen said. “We have Plan A, B and C in place and we’re hopeful it stays to Plan A. However, it usually doesn’t.”

That concern still doesn’t eliminate any of the expectations for this year’s squad. Bronco Nation is hoping for another BCS bowl, and with the opening-night game against No. 16 Oregon at home, a win would catapult the No. 14 Broncos into the mix.

But Petersen warns against fans getting too greedy and hoping for a 13-0 season. He says perfection is always the goal of any football team, but too many things have to go right in order for it to happen.

“In some ways, (the talk) could have a negative effect,” he said. “Expectations are always high, but in concerns to going 13-0, so many things have to go right. It’s not easy. When I hear that stuff, I just chuckle and move on and not listen.”

But the truth is, if the Broncos hope to be considered in the BCS talk, the team must have a spotless record. One loss would again put them on the bubble, instead of safely inside where they strive so hard to be.

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