What you need to know ...
It'll be a shock if this isn't the WAC's best defense.
This is the first time as a coordinator for Justin Wilcox, but
he has plenty of talent to work with thanks to several all-star
caliber players led by linebacker Korey Hall along with a deep
and talented secondary. Getting to the quarterback won't be a
problem with everyone coming from all angles to generate
pressure. The run defense will put up nice stats because there
aren't many running teams on the schedule; the secondary has to
be tighter after allowing 262 yards per game.
Tackles: Korey Hall,
Colt Brooks, 6
Interceptions: Marty Tadman, 5
Star of the defense: Senior LB Korey Hall
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Mike T. Williams
Best pro prospect: Hall
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hall, 2) DT Andrew
Browning, 3) S Marty Tadman
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
The line isn't full of stars, but it has
enough talent to form a good rotation to keep everyone fresh and allow
the coaching staff to tinker with the lineup. The one sure thing is
Andrew Browning at tackle; everyone else is interchangeable. While
there's not a killer pass rusher in the group, sophomore backup Mike T.
Williams is close. This will be an active group that finds its way to
the quarterback, but could use a few more tackles for loss.
The key to the unit: The rotation has to keep working. It's not a
big enough line to hold up against anyone who can pound the ball unless
all the reserves are working well with the starters.
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Nick Schlekeway, Jr. - 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL
Good enough to see starting time at both end and tackle, the 262-pound
junior will get the start on the left side with Alex Guerrero gone. He
has been an active tackler with good quickness on the inside, but now he
has to prove he can be a consistent pass rusher on the end. If he can't
get into the backfield, he'll be moved back to tackle.
- DT Tim Volk, Sr. - 4 tackles
Volk came over from the JUCO ranks as a big end, but at 289 pounds he's
more suited for tackle. After originally signing with Arizona, he was a
backup for the Broncos over the last two seasons after starting out on
the outside. Now he'll get the starting not at left tackle.
- DT Andrew Browning, Sr. - 35 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL
The team's top defensive lineman, Browning has earned All-WAC honors in
each of the last two seasons as a steady anchor at tackle. While he's
not huge at 6-0 and 278 pounds and isn't flashy, the former walk-on is
active against the run and should be one of the league's best defenders.
- DE Mike G. Williams, Sr. - 24 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 TFL
A starter for the last three seasons, Williams knows what he's doing on
the right side and should grow into an all-star performer if he can get
into the backfield a bit more. He's a fantastic athlete and, at 244
pounds, is pound-for-pound one of the team's strongest players. While
not a pure pass rusher, he has the talent and the experience to become
- DE Mike Dominguez, Sr. - 10 tackles, 4 sacks, 4.5 TFL
While not necessarily a pass rushing specialist, he's far better at
getting into the backfield than he is against the run. He has seen
enough starting time to get the job on right end if Mike G. Williams
moves over to the other side, or else he'll be a top end in a rotation
- DT Ian Smart, Jr. - 2 tackles
A little used baackup over the last two seasons, the 278-pound junior
will get every shot at the left tackle spot. At the very least, he'll
play a bigger role in a rotation with Tim Volk.
- DE Mike T. Williams, Soph. - 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 broken up
Only used in pass rushing situations so far, the 6-4, 238-pound
sophomore will see action behind Nick Schlekeway on the left side to
provide more of a burst into the backfield. He's a fantastic athlete who
should put up big numbers with more time.
Korey Hall and Colt Brooks are two of the
WAC's most active, most talented defenders leading one of the WAC's best
linebacking corps. There's a good blend of size and speed with players
like David Shields and Kyle Gingg fast enough to add more athleticism to
the group, while backup Josh Bean is a good-looking reserve behind Hall
in the middle.
The key to the unit: Hall has to play like the WAC
Defensive Player of the Year he's supposed to be, and everyone else will
fall into line.
Linebacker Rating: 6.5
- Colt Brooks, Sr. - 80 tackles, 6 sacks, 11 TFL, 2
broken up passes, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception
Brooks was a good starter in 2004 combining forces on the outside, and
that experience paid off as he grew into a star last year making better,
bigger plays while becoming a more disruptive playmaker. While
undersized on the strongside at 216 pounds, he has good speed and
handles himself well against the run.
- Korey Hall, Sr. - 106 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 3 broken up
passes, 2 interceptions
One of the nation's best returning linebackers, Hall has cranked out 191
tackles over the last two seasons earning first-team All-WAC honors in
each of the last two years. He wasn't sent into the backfield as much
last season, but he grew into a better defender using his experience and
fantastic range to always be around the ball. If needed, he can be a top
pass rusher from the middle.
David Shields, Soph. - 9 tackles, 1 sack
Mostly a special teamer last year, Sheilds will step into the job on the
weakside where he should be a terror. He's 6-2 and 225 pounds with
tremendous speed. He runs as well as any of the linebackers with enough
toughness to move to the middle if needed.
- Mike Altieri, Jr. - 11 tackles, 1 TFL
A special teamer so far, the 218-pound junior is still trying to find
his way into the defensive mix playing behind Colt Brooks on the
- Josh Bean, Jr. - 18 tackles, 1 TFL
One of the team's hardest-hitting and most talented special teamers, the
231-pound Bean is also the biggest linebacker option. He has seen a
little bit of time in the middle with enough versatility to play on the
outside if needed.
- Kyle Gingg, Soph. - 9 tackles
Gingg saw a little bit of time in mop-up duty last season and now will
push for the starting spot on the weakside. He's not as big or as fast
as David Shields, but he's quick and should grow into a bigger role.
The talent is better than the production will
be. Boise State always gives up tons of passing yards partially because
it plays in the WAC and partially because it gets up early and teams
have to bomb away to come back. Even so, the secondary has great speed,
loads of experience, and All-WAC talent led by safeties Marty Tadman and
Gerald Alexander. Orlando Scandrick is a talented young corner who
should grow into something special in more time. There's good depth to
provide plenty of options.
The key to the unit: With the plan being to get the
best four defensive backs on the field at the same time, the coaching
staff has to be sure that it's not forcing square pegs into round holes.
Secondary Rating: 6.5
- CB Orlando Scandrick, Soph - 50 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL,
11 broken up passes, 1 interception
Scandrick had a terrific true freshman season as both a special teamer
and a corner, and now appears ready to be a consistent All-WAC star. He
has decent size at 5-11 and 187 pounds with great hitting ability and
good cover skills. While he made several freshman mistakes, he also
showed flashes of big-time potential.
- S Gerald Alexander, Sr. - 50 tackles, 2 TFL, 13 broken up
passes, 1 interception
Alexander will move to safety after spending last two years at corner.
He's tremendous in coverage with the range and speed that will make him
even more effective with room to roam and free-lance at safety. At 6-0
and 204 pounds, he has the size to go along with next-level athleticism;
he can jump out of the stadium.
- S Marty Tadman, Jr. - 101 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 7 broken up
passes, 5 interceptions
While he's not big and doesn't has average speed, he's a fantastic
hitter and is always around the ball. A second-team All-WAC performer
last season after finishing second on the team in tackles, he'll make a
few preseason All-America teams. He's more of a free safety than a
strong safety, but he'll do a little of both.
- CB Austin Smith, Jr. - 51 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 5 broken
The former safety will move to corner after finishing fifth on the team
in tackle while also serving part time as a punt returner. He has
tremendous speed and good ball skills, but he'll end up combining with
the faster Quinton Jones for the job. If needed, he could move back to
safety to get more speed on the field.
Quinton Jones, Jr. - 16 tackles, 3 broken up passes
The team's fastest player and all-star kick returner will combine with
Austin Smith for the starting corner job after starting out his career
at running back. While not all that big at 5-9 and 177 pounds, he makes
up for it with his speed and athleticism.
- S Ashlei Nyong-Dunham, Jr. - 13 tackles, 2 TFL, 2
broken up passes, 2 interceptions
A good hitting reserve, Nyong-Dunham is one of the team's biggest
defensive backs at 5-10 and 210 pounds with decent speed. He'll back up
Gerald Alexander and could end up starting if more help is needed at
corner and Marty Tadman or Alexander have to move to the outside.
- S Ellis Powers Soph. - 19 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL
Mostly a nickel back last year as a true freshman, Powers will mostly
see time as a fifth defender since Marty Tadman won't leave the field
much. He's fast and talented, but he needs a spot to play.
This is the one area of the team that will look a little
bit different after the coaching change, and that might not be a good
thing considering the special teams were among the best in the WAC for
the last several years. Punter Kyle Stringer is an All-WAC candidate
even though his production dipped last year after a brilliant 2004, and
Anthony Montgomery is a veteran placekicker, even if he's a bit too
shaky. Quinton Jones is an All-America return man who averaged a
whopping 20.9 yards per punt return and 24.7 yards per kickoff return.
The key to the unit:
New special teams coach Jeff Choate shouldn't mess with
much. Montgomery has to be better..
Special Teams Rating: 8.5
- PK Anthony Montgomery, Sr. - 6-10 FGs, 61-62 extra
Montgomery is a serviceable kicker who doesn't have the greatest range
around and could stand to be more consistent. While he's not going to be
a weak link, he hasn't proven to be a strength and will have to battle
redshirt freshman Chris Chalmers to keep the gig.
- P Kyle Stringer, Sr. - 52 kicks, 2,159 yds, 41.5 yards per
kick, 9 inside the 20
While he didn't have the season last year that he had as a sophomore,
Stringer was still among the league's best kickers and should be so
again. A bomber who has been the team's main punter for the last three
seasons, he should be in the hunt for All-WAC honors with an average
well over 40 yards a pop.