2011 Boise State Preview – Defense
Boise State LB Byron Hout
Boise State LB Byron Hout
Posted Jun 9, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Boise State Bronco Defense

Boise State Broncos

Preview 2011 - Defense

- 2011 Boise State Preview | 2011 Boise State Offense
- 2011 Boise State Defense | 2011 Boise State Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: The offense gets all the credit and all the respect. After all, the Broncos were second in the nation behind Oregon in yards and points with an ultra-efficient, unstoppable attack. However, the defense also finished second in the nation in yards and points allowed and it was No. 1 in sacks and second in tackles for loss. This might be a no-name defense, but it's going to be really, really good, especially in the front seven. The starting defensive line will be a terror in opposing backfields with all four positions getting to the quarterback on a regular basis. The linebackers aren't household names, but they're all great hitters and they're all built like NFL-sized defenders. The secondary loses three key players in Jeron Johnson, Winston Venable, and Brandyn Thompson, but it'll be fine thanks to the terrific pass rush helping the cause.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: J.C. Percy, 65
Sacks: Shea McClellin, 95
Interceptions: George Iloka, Aaron Tevis, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Shea McClellin
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman S Ebenezer Makinde
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Tyrone Crawford
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McClellin, 2) Crawford, 3) DT Billy Winn
Strength of the defense: Pass Rush, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: No. 2 Safety, Backup Linebacker

Defensive Line

State of the Unit: The defensive front loss heart-and-soul end Ryan Winterswyk might be gone, but as good as he was he only made 2.5 sacks last year with nine tackles for loss. Even so, he was a tough, talented veteran who was always moving. But there are replacements. The Broncos led the nation in sacks and was second in tackles for loss and seventh in run defense, and the production won't stop.

Senior Shea McClellin has been overshadowed by others throughout his career, but he earned First Team All-WAC honors after leading the way with 9.5 sacks with 13.5 tackles for loss and 30 tackles. At 6-3 and 258 pounds he has decent size, but he's fast off the ball and has linebacker-like athleticism. Now he'll have to get used to being the main man and the focus of every opponent's blocking scheme. He won't be under the radar anymore. Pushing for time at both end spots and likely to work behind McClellin is sophomore Kharyee Marshall, a 6-1, 216-pound athlete who should be able to get into the backfield on a regular basis after making ten tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss in his limited time. He's a pure pass rusher.

Ready to step up and shine in place of Winterswyk is senior Tyrone Crawford, a 6-4, 276-pound senior who transferred over from Bakersfield College and was terrific making 32 tackles with seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. A great part of the rotation last year, now he appears ready to blow up after a dominant spring. Marshall will be a part of the equation on the left side, as will 6-3, 268-pound senior Jarrell Root, a big veteran who made 11 tackles and registered three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in his limited time. He has seen starting time and he knows what he's doing, but he's at his best as a reserve with a knee problem keeping him in check. With size and athleticism, though, he'll produce whenever he's on the field.

Senior Billy Winn bulked up, improved, and earned Second Team All-WAC honors over the last two seasons finishing with 28 tackles with four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 295 pounds he has good size, is ultra-active on the inside, and he's a rock against the run. Great against the run and better when he's able to pin his ears back and get into the backfield, the former high school sprinter and an all-star wrestler is fast, mauling, and should be on several All-America short lists. Bringing more size on the inside is 6-3, 307-pound sophomore Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe after a brilliant season making 24 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. The Amsterdam native played one year of high school football and is still figuring out what he's doing, but he's big, quick, and is an amazing interior pass rusher.

6-1, 296-pound senior Chase Baker started every game over the last two years and was terrific in all phases. Not only did he make 31 tackles, but he also came up with 4.5 sack and 6.5 tackles for loss earning Second Team All-WAC honors. A disappointment early in his career, he kicked his game up a few notches and was outstanding. Extremely smart and very strong, he's quick off the ball and is a brick wall against the power running games. Watch Out For … Crawford. He was terrific last year coming in from the JUCO ranks, and it could be argued that he was more effective than the more celebrated Winterswyk. Now Crawford has the job all to himself.
Strength: Pass rush. The line gets pressure from all sides and from all four spots, and with Crawford getting a bigger role and with the potential for an excellent rotation, expect opposing quarterbacks to get knocked around on a regular basis once again.
Weakness: Backup end ... ? It's nitpicking considering the starting foursome will be devastating, but Root and Marshall have to prove they can produce on a regular basis if something happens to Crawford and McClellin. Winterswyck's production can be replaced, but he was a tone-setter who took the heat off of everyone else.
Outlook: The Broncos came up with a dominant season up front stuffing Virginia Tech for 128 rushing yards and allowing over 200 yards just twice, with both games coming late against Nevada and Utah State. Winn, Baker, Crawford, and McClellin are all going to be all-stars, and Tjong-A-Tjoe is good enough to be a star with more time. The line will do everything right in another great season.
Unit Rating: 9


State of the Unit: The Boise State linebackers might not be household names, and there might not be any Butkus candidates or All-Americans, but the top players are all returning, the depth is full of upperclassmen, and with a great line doing its job up front, this should be one of the team's strongest units.

Junior J.C. Pearcy isn't really a returning starter. He worked in a variety of roles in the defense as a backup on the weakside and on the outside in three linebacker sets, but he made his impact finishing second on the team with 65 tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss. At 6-0 and 222 pounds he has decent size and terrific athleticism. Very fast, very smart, and very versatile, he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps and come up with big play after big play. The Idaho state championship-level sprinter will be turned loose even more, while former star high school receiver Hunter White will be a part of the outside rotation again after making 38 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. He's only 5-11 and 206 pounds, but he can move with unlimited range and good pop for his size.

Back in the middle after earning Second Team All-WAC honors is Byron Hout, who'll be forever known as the guy who got slugged by Oregon's LeGarrette Blount. A 6-0, 240-pound former defensive lineman and a true tweener, he came up with 34 tackles after moving over from the end to the inside. He got knocked out with a foot injury but was enough of a playmaker to earn the respect to generate all-star recognition. 6-1, 227-pound junior Tommy Smith was a strong special teamer and came up with a big year as a backup linebacker making 26 tackles. The Atlanta native isn't all that big, but he has limitless range with 11.2 speed in the 100.

Senior Aaron Tevis has been a steady starter on the weakside for the last few years following up a 54-tackle 2009 with 46 tackles with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss last season. While he didn't earn all-star honors, he was all over the field and was ultra-steady. At 6-3 and 232 pounds he has great size for the position and he hits like a ton of bricks. With a non-stop motor, he's always working and always hustling. On the way is star recruit Blake Renaud, a 6-2, 235-pound live body for the middle with great leadership skills, good hitting ability, and the potential to be a part of the mix from Day One. The California native from the famed De La Salle program, was the captain and was a three-star prospect.

Watch Out For … the rotation. With the Bronco defense often using two linebackers in a 4-2-5 alignment, there are always fresh bodies and there are always playmakers at the ready. Boise State is loaded with options and will likely go with a 4-3 more often than not to get all the talent on the field.
Strength: Experience. Hout, Tevis, and Percy all know what they're doing, and White and Smith are veterans who can step in and make things happen right away. This was a veteran group last year, and now everyone is back.
Weakness: Young talent for the future. There will be a major transition next year, and while there are some like White and Smith going to be starters, it'll be a must to get more from the underclassmen to add more bodies to the mix.
Outlook: This will be a very quiet, very under-the-radar group compared to the outstanding line, but it'll be effective. Hout is back and healthy and Tevis and Percy are going to be among the team's leading tacklers. These three will clean up everything against the run, and they should stay active and fresh with a decent second team waiting in the wings.
Unit Rating: 8

Defensive Backs

State of the Unit: Helped by the nation's best pass rush, Boise State's secondary had it relatively easy. It was still great on its own, finishing fourth in the nation in yards allowed and second in pass efficiency defense, but it got help. No matter how it happened, though, to hold Hawaii to 151 passing yards and to allow just eight touchdown passes on the entire year, with two coming in the opener to Virginia Tech and with five coming in the first five games, is impressive no matter how it's sliced. There are some huge losses, particularly leading tackler Jeron Johnson along with Winston Venable, but the production will still be there.

The leading returning playmaker is safety George Iloka, a 6-2, 216-pound hitter who finished third on the team with 63 tackles and three tackles for loss with five broken up passes. The senior came up with two picks, made four in his freshman year, and is decent when the ball is in the air. He has prototype strong safety size, but he also has the speed, smarts, and athleticism to work as a free safety.

Trying to play a bigger role in the safety rotation will be senior Travis Stanaway, redshirt freshman Jeremy Ioane, and senior Cedric Febis, who will all get a look at the open safety job. The 5-11, 197-pound Ioane is a strong safety from Hawaii, graduating from Barack Obama's high school, starring as a big-hitting linebacker. He's athletic, but he'll do more against the run than the pass. The 5-11, 203-pound Stanaway made nine tackles with a broken up pass, but his strength has been as a special teamer. Very active, he can play either safety spot without a problem, while the 6-3, 202-pound Febis is a terrific veteran fill-in who made 27 stops last year and has been a star on special teams. He played just one year of football in the U.S., but he was a club level player in Holland.

Also seeing time at safety, while serving as the main nickel back, is Hunter White, a 5-11, 206-pound senior who made 38 tackles with a pick and 1.5 tackles for loss. A good hitter against the run, and very active, he has to do even more against the pass with the range and ability to be a dangerous ball-hawk. The stats aren't there, but he's been effective.

5-11, 194-pound junior Jamar Taylor is the key returning corner after making 35 tackles with two sacks, but he didn't come up with a pick. Originally considered a main backup, he turned in a strong year with the smarts, physical play, and all-around talent to make him a fixture on one side of the field. He'll combine with 5-9, 162-pound redshirt freshman Bryan Douglas, a smart, lightning fast prospect who ripped off a 10.68 100, and walk-on JUCO transfer Jerrell Gavins, a dangerous return man with 5-9, 175-pound size and terrific quickness.

It'll be a battle for the corner job on the other side of Taylor between sophomore Dane Turner, a 5-10, 179-pound walk-on who didn't do anything in his first year, and 5-11, 172-pound Ebenezer Makinde, a good-sized speedster who was an Arizona high school track star. "Ebo" made four tackles in his limited time as a redshirt freshman, but he has the size and speed to grow into the job.

Watch Out For … the open safety job next to Iloka. Assume that White is the main nickel defender, but it'll be a battle for the other job with at least three players good enough to get the call. Stanaway would be the safe choice, Febis is the veteran, and Ioane is the growing talent.
Strength: Pass rush. When the defense is coming up with 48 sacks and is constantly hitting the quarterback, good things happen for the secondary. The Boise State defensive backs aren't world-beaters talent-wise, but they don't have to cover for very long.
Weakness: Experienced, sure-thing starters. Iloka and Taylor know what they're doing, and there are a slew of seniors who have been around, but the starting foursome is hardly settled.
Outlook: The secondary takes a hit by losing Brandyn Thompson, Johnson and Venable, but everyone can hit and there's plenty of athleticism and lots of options to go around. Teams have to bomb away in desperation mode to try to keep up with the high-octane offense, and the Broncos will once again pounce. It would be nice if there were more interceptions, but 14 wasn't bad, and now this group has to show early on that it can come up with big plays without so many key parts to last year's puzzle.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

State of the Unit: The world won't have Kyle Brotzman to kick around anymore. He might have missed two very, very big kicks against Nevada, but he wasn't that bad hitting 16-of-23 field goals on the year. True freshman Jake Van Ginkel was a top high school kicker and he could be the main man for the next four years. With a big leg and great range, he should be terrific on kickoffs and he's steady from short range. He should be ready right away, but junior Jimmy Pavel will get a shot at the job after missing his lone attempt last year.

The Boise State punting game was just fine averaging 42.9 yards per try with Brotzman averaging 44.1 yards per kick, but he only put four inside the 20. Now it'll be up to senior Brad Elkin, who has seen a little bit of time and is way overdue to be a factor. Considered the No. 4 punter in the nation out of high school, he has the talent and potential to be solid.

Gone are star kick returners Titus Young and Jeremy Avery, and corner Jerrell Gavins will get the first look after returning three kickoffs for a 19-yard average. WR Chris Potter is an elite punt returner averaging 13.3 yards per pop, and Mitch Burroughs averaged an impressive 15.9 yards per try on eight attempts.

Watch Out For … Van Ginkel. It's not like Boise State plays a slew of tight game, so the true freshman won't be in too many pressure situations if he wins the job, but he'll be under the microscope. Again, Brotzman wasn't that bad.
Strength: Returners. The kickoff returners have to be replaced, but the punt returners are going to be terrific. The Broncos finished 16th in the nation in punt returns and should be hovering around 13 yards per try again.
Weakness: Sure-thing kickers. The Broncos are going from the known in Brotzman to the unknown. It might be addition by subtraction, but it'll take a little while before everyone will feel comfortable with the new guys.
Outlook: The Boise State special teams have been among the best in America over the last few years and they usually do all the little things right. The coverage teams are excellent, the return game is fine, and the kicking game will turn out to be solid in time. The Broncos almost never get outplayed on special teams.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2011 Boise State Preview | 2011 Boise State Offense
- 2011 Boise State Defense | 2011 Boise State Depth Chart
- Boise State Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006