2012 Boise State Preview – Defense
Boise State CB Jamar Taylor
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Boise State Bronco Defense
Preview 2012 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Once again the defense was amazing, and it could be again despite the loss of nine starters. It broke down against TCU and gave up passing yards the San Diego State's Ryan Lindley and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler, but secondary was strong and should be a rock despite the last of both starting safeties and the nickel defender. The corner situation is great, but it could be better with more of a pass rush. The hope will be for JUCO transfer Demarcus Lawrence to become a star on one side and for the tackles to crash into the backfield on a regular basis. J.C. Percy and Blake Renaud could be the Mountain West's best linebacking duo. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has to figure out a way to generate more of a pass rush, but overall the numbers should be terrific.
Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Blake Renaud
Tackles: J.C. Percy, 48
Sacks: Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 2
Interceptions: Jerrell Gavins, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore SS Jeremy Ioane
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Demarcus Lawrence
Best pro prospect: Renaud
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Renaud, 2) Lawrence, 3) LB J.C. Percy
Strength of the defense: Cornerback, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Experience, Pass Rush
The defensive front wasn't exactly a terror when it came to getting into the backfield, and now it has to replace top sacker and Chicago Bear Shea McClellin. The hope is that star JUCO transfer Demarcus Lawrence can fill in the gap right away after earning All-America honors at Butler CC. The 6-3, 241-pounder is a blur off the ball and should become an instant pass rushing specialist at one of the end spots.
Working on the other side will likely be Samuel Ukwuachu, a 6-4, 218-pound redshirt freshman with tremendous speed and quickness. A high school wide receiver as well as an end, he has the athleticism and the ability to be a key factor in the backfield, but he needs to bulk up a little bit. He'll see time in the rotation with Beau Martin, a linebacker-like 6-2, 255-pound sophomore who started out his career at Colorado State-Pueblo before transferring over. He took last year off but was dominant at times in practices with a great motor and fire.
6-3, 298-pound junior Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe only saw time in seven games after being suspended for the first half of the season, but he made 15 tackles with two sacks and three tackles for loss on the inside. A veteran interior pass rusher, he came up with 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss two years ago. Now the Amsterdam native will be the key star on the inside with tremendous quickness off the ball and a nice motor.
Holding things down on the nose will be 6-0, 311-pound senior Michael Atkinson, a bowling ball of a defender who started six times making 31 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. While he's not going to do anything in the backfield he's extremely strong and good enough to hold down the middle as the anchor up front.
Seeing time in the tackle rotation will be 6-3, 280-pound redshirt freshman Jeffrey Worthy, an active prospect who was a superior high school interior pass rusher with 29 sacks in two seasons. He hit the weights a bit and he's getting bulkier, but his game is about quickness off the ball.
Watch Out For … Lawrence. Talk about finding a much-needed replacement, the JUCO star is a perfect replacement for McClellin. While he might not be the same athlete, he could flirt with double-digit sacks.
Strength: Pass rush. At least that's the hope. With Lawrence and Ukwuachu, the speed and athleticism on the outside will be terrific, while Tjong-A-Tjoe is a strong interior pass rusher who'll collapse the pocket from time to time. Be disappointed if the line doesn't help the defense crank out more than the 24 sacks it came up with last year.
Weakness: Experienced ends. Lawrence and Ukwuachu should be excellent, but they haven't done it yet. McClellin was a first round draft pick from the outside, while losing tackles Billy Winn and Chase Baker in the interior will hurt.
Outlook: It's a stretch to assume the line will be better than it was last season with four new starters in the mix, but don't be shocked if there isn't a drop-off in production. The run defense should be a rock on the inside, while the potential is there to do big things and come up with a slew of big plays on the outside. Expect more activity in the backfield but a slight dip in the run defense production.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The linebacking corps loses leading tackler Byron Hout, but it gets back a nice all-around talent in veteran J.C Percy, a 6-0, 221-pound senior who made 48 tackles with a pick. A speedster on the weakside, he has worked in a variety of roles over the years with the ability to play any linebacker spot if needed while also serving as a top special teamer. With 65 tackles two years ago, he has the experience to go along with the smarts and speed to be the leader of the front six.
Percy will likely rotate with new recruit Ben Weaver, a 6-1, 225-pound hitting machine from Texas who delivers a bit wallop and doesn't miss an open field stop. Also in the fight for time will likely be true freshman Chris Collins, a 6-1, 208-pound safety-sized speedster from Los Angeles who made 124 tackles and 15 sacks as a high school senior. He'll be given every shot at instant playing time.
6-2, 250-pound sophomore Blake Renaud was the team's star recruit last season, and he got on the field right away seeing time in the first ten games making ten tackles before getting hurt. Big and athletic, he has great range and is a perfect fit to be a statistical star in the middle for the next three years. The California native from the famed De La Salle program could've been a starter for a Pac-12 school, but he should be the Broncos' leading tackler. He'll be backed up by senior Tommy Smith, a strong veteran special teamer who came up with 18 tackles and three tackles for loss for the defense. The 6-1, 236-pounder from Atlanta has great size and 11.2 speed in the 100.
Watch Out For … the freshmen. The coaching staff is never shy about throwing first-timers out on the field to see what they can do, and it's possible that Weaver and Collins make a big impact right out of the box. At the very least they should be needed for their depth.
Strength: Speed. This is an athletic, quick group with great range and the potential to get around the ball in a hurry. The Boise State linebackers aren't asked to make a ton of big plays, but this group should be able to do it.
Weakness: Proven depth. Yes, the true freshmen should be solid and there's plenty of upside and potential, but it's never a positive to have to rely on first-year players to perform. There will be big problems if Renaud gets hurt again or if Percy struggles.
Outlook: The linebacking corps did a nice job last season with Hout cleaning things up with a team-leading 69 tackles. Hout was good, but Renaud will eventually be better. The recruiting class focused heavily on improving the position, and now it's going to take a steady rotation to find the right mix to occasionally use a 4-3 in the 4-2-5 scheme.
Unit Rating: 6
The Broncos like to use five defensive backs more often than not including a nickel defender. Junior Jonathan Brown will take over for Hunter White after starting four times making 19 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and a pick. At 5-10 and 216 pounds he's built to be like a third linebacker and he's a big hitter who'll be one of the team's leading tacklers. Extremely smart and very quick, he'll always be in the right spot.
The strength should be at corner led by senior Jamar Taylor, a 5-11, 198-pound veteran who made 35 tackles as a starter two years ago and followed it up with 27 tackles with two picks – including a pick-six in the bowl win over Arizona State - and six broken up passes. Originally considered a main backup, he has grown into a good, sound defender with good athleticism and a physical style.
Former walk-on JUCO transfer Jerrell Gavins has dangerous abilities as a returner and got the starting job in three games before getting hurt with a knee injury. He made 11 tackles with three picks and three broken up passes making two interceptions against Tulsa. While he's only 5-9 and 169 pounds he's not all that big, but he can move. He's one of the team's quickest players and has a great nose for the ball.
Sophomore Jeremy Ioane is a 5-10, 190-pound strong safety from Hawaii, graduating from Barack Obama's high school, staring as a big-hitting linebacker. Athletic, he made the transition to defensive back coming up with six tackles and showing nice upside. Now he's expected to be a big playmaker in the secondary.
6-2, 193-pound sophomore Lee Hightower got on the field as a true freshman and ended up taking over a starting cornerback job by the end of the year. A nice tackler, he made 25 stops with a pick and four broken up passes in just eight games of work showing terrific upside. With good size he could be used like a safety, but he's a physical presence on the outside with great instincts to sniff out plays.
Seeing time in the corner rotation will be sophomore Bryan Douglas, a lightning-fast defender who tore off a 10.68 in the 100. At 5-9 and 168 pounds he's not all that huge, but he's a willing tackler who made ten stops and broke up a pass in his limited time. He'll be the main backup at corner, while 5-11, 201-pound senior Dextrell Simmons will see time at nickel but could play any of the three safety spots. The former JUCO All-American from Texas made 16 tackles and broke up two passes in his first year.
Watch Out For … Ioane. He showed good promise in his first season despite making just six tackles in ten games, and now he should be one of the team's leading tacklers. He's good against the run and he should be all over the field.
Strength: Corner. Even though the pass rush was merely average and teams had to bomb away to keep up the pace, the corners did a great job. Taylor and Gavins are good, sound defenders who should be one of the biggest keys to a good pass defense.
Weakness: Safety experience. Losing George Iloka hurts. There's promise and potential at all three safety spots, but the Broncos are still going young and will have to prove they can handle the workload on a consistent basis.
Outlook: The secondary could be the strength of the defense and might be the team's brightest area if the safeties came through as expected. The defensive backfield lost a slew of players last year and was fine, and it has to rebuild a bit again but this time should be even stronger.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Redshirt freshman Jake Van Ginkel was a star high school kicker and was considered to possibly be a part of the mix right away, but he redshirted, while senior Michael Frisina stepped in and hit 3-of-4 field goals. Van Ginkel has a big leg and great range, and now it's his turn to show what he can do.
The punting game was excellent last year with Brad Elkin averaging 42 yards per kick with 25 put inside the 20, but there's a chance it could be even better with junior Trevor Harman ready to take over. With a cannon, he should be able to blast away and he should be able to bail the offense out of jams on a regular basis.
The return games was fantastic, but running back and top kickoff returner Doug Martin is gone after averaging 33.8 yards per try. Dallas Burroughs averaged just 17.2 yards per try on his eight kickoff attempts, while Mitch Burroughs averaged 22.8 yards per try while coming up with 13.3 yards per punt return.
Watch Out For … Van Ginkel. He was brought in last year to make an instant splash, but he ended up redshirting. Now the placekicking job should be all his for the next four years, and he could provide a major upgrade.
Strength: The return game. The Broncos always gets production out of its kick and punt returners, and Mitch Burroughs has proven to be another good one. The returners will continue to be a major plus.
Weakness: Proven kickers. There kicking and punting game might end up being better with a little bit of time, and the legs are bigger, but the team will still be relying on new starters to take over.
Outlook: The Boise State special teams are always among the best in America, and even with a little bit of turnover they should be great again. The coverage teams are always sound, the kicking game will be fine, and the returners should be excellent.
Unit Rating: 8
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