Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know: The defense will keep on rolling with
a good, sound group from front to back led by a strong front
four. Ryan Winterswyck is the new star of the show after turning
in a fantastic first season as a pass rusher, while Mike T.
Williams is a good veteran tackle to build around. The run
defense, overall, has to be better, but the pass rush should be
great and the linebackers are experienced enough to get to
everything. Now the linebackers have to be tougher against the
run, while there will be a step back in overall pass defense
production after losing Marty Tadman and Orlando Scandrick. Even
so, in a mediocre year for WAC defenses, this one will be more
Tackles: Kyle Gingg,
Mike Williams, 6
Interceptions: Dallas Dobbs, 3
Star of the defense: Sophomore DE Ryan Winterswyck
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman DT J.P. Nisby
Unsung star on the rise:
Best pro prospect:
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Winterswyck, 2) CB Kyle Wilson, 3) DE Mike T. Williams
Strength of the defense: Pass rush, linebacker experience
Weakness of the defense:
Tackle, run defense against the top ground games
Projected Starters: Get ready to learn how to spell his name.
6-4, 259-pound sophomore Ryan Winterswyck is expected to be a
superstar. After making 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks last year, he showed
great promise as a pass rushing specialist. He was absolutely
unstoppable in spring ball and has the look of a player with eyes on
soon becoming a WAC Defensive Player of the Year. Of course, he was
going against the green Boise State O line this off-season, but he
really does appear to be next big thing. A great athlete, he bulked up
over the last two years adding around 40 pounds to his frame, but he
didn't lose his quickness.
With the emergence of Winterswyck, veteran Mike T. Williams might
get lost in the limelight. The team's leading sacker last year with six,
to go along with 28 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss, the 6-4, 245-pound
senior has been a great specialist who now appears ready to make a jump
up and become the type of all-star to build a line around.
6-1, 279-pound senior Joe Bozikovich is a good inside presence
and a nice tackle to work around coming off an 18-tackle season with a
sack. While not much of an interior pass rusher, he has good quickness.
The big issue is his health. Able to stay on the field last season, he
was out all of 2005 with a knee injury and was dinged up for almost all
of 2006. He needs to be on the field for the run defense to be a rock
Taking over one of starting tackle jobs is 6-2, 308-pound redshirt
freshman J.P. Nisby, a scary-strong weight room star who benches
over 400 pounds and has registered a squat of 620 pounds. He got heavier
over the last year and won't be moved around by anyone on the inside.
Now he has to use his strength to show he can be a factor in the
Projected Top Reserves: Working somewhere on the
line will be 6-4, 283-poound senior Phil Edwards. An end by
trade, he'll start out at tackle behind Nisby and he should create a
little bit of a pass rush. A good athlete, he made 4.5 tackles for loss
last year along with 11 tackles.
6-3, 233-pound redshirt freshman Jarrell Root is one of the
team's most promising young pass rushers, but he suffered a knee injury
and could be out. The scout team defensive player of the year, he's a
pass rushing specialist who should be a major factor next year.
One of the more interesting prospects working either inside or out is
6-4, 260-pound redshirt freshman Billy Wynn, a high school
sprinter and star wrestler who'll use his tremendous strength on the
inside behind Bosikovich. A promising pass rusher, he has all the tools
to be special. Now he needs the experience.
Watch Out For ... Winterswyck. How much of his great
spring was because he's fantastic and how much of it was going against a
group of linemen trying to get their feet wet? It was a little of both,
but pencil him in for all-star honors and double digit sacks. He's going
to be a force.
Strength: Pass rush. The combination of
Winterswyck and Williams should combine for at least 15 sacks. While the
starting tackles might not get to the quarterback, the backups can.
Weakness: Backup end and tackle. If Winn and
Edwards stay inside, and assuming Root will need a little while before
he's 100%, there isn't much to count on unless sophomore Kapono
Rawlins-Crivello becomes more of a factor behind Winterswyck. The
tackles are fine, but nothing special.
Outlook: The line should be solid as long as
Bozikovich holds up for the entire season and Nisby plays up to his
weight room strength. If Winterswyck is the player he was this
off-season, and if Williams is a little bit better, there won't be any
stopping those two from getting to the quarterback.
Projected Starters: Senior Kyle Gingg had a strong
statistical season in the middle, leading the team with 94 stops to go
along with 2.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, but he was out of
position and wasn't as effective as the numbers might indicate. The
5-11, 216-pounder is a tough tackler, but he's an outside linebacker and
will move to a far more natural weakside spot where he'll have more room
to roam, more space to run free into the backfield, and more chances to
use his good abilities as a pass defender.
Moving to the middle will be 6-2, 232-pound sophomore Derrell Acrey
after making 17 tackles and a tackle for loss as a key reserve. The
biggest linebacker in the rotation and with the best combination of
skills and athleticism to go along with his size, he has all the
potential to be the team's next great defensive playmaker.
The strongside job is up for grabs, but 6-2, 220-pound senior Dallas
Dobbs, who made 71 tackles last season with two sacks, three
interceptions and six tackles for loss, will likely get the starting nod
if he can work his way out of a backup spot in the middle behind Acrey.
A great athlete who started out as a defensive back, he has fantastic
range and a good ability to get in on seemingly every tackle.
Projected Top Reserves: Getting a job somewhere will be 6-1,
205-pound senior Tim Brady, a weakside linebacker who could start
if Gingg ends up playing in the middle at some point or on the
strongside if Dobbs really does turn into a backup. The team's fourth
leading tackler with 57 stops and 2.5 sacks, he came through with good
production after spending his career as a special teamer.
A pair of newcomers will likely see key minutes as backups early on.
6-1, 225-pound freshman Byron Hout was the Idaho Gatorade Player
of the Year making 80 tackles, three sacks and 20 tackles for loss. A
big hitting pass rusher with great range, he'll be ideal for the
weakside if he ends up not taking a redshirt season.
6-0, 230-pound JUCO transfer Daron Mackey made 191 tackles in two
years for Bakersfield College. A tackling machine, he made 271 stops in
his last two years in high school and now will work in the middle along
Watch Out For ... Acrey. He's being mentioned in the
same breath with former Bronco star Korey Hall, and not just because
they're both middle linebackers. That was the belief going into last
year, too, and it didn't really happen. Now Acrey should become a star.
Strength: Experience. After making plenty of
stops, but not being as tough against the run, the veterans should come
through and good reserves, like Acrey, should make the big jump into
being major producers.
Weakness: Run defense. The Broncos might have led
the WAC in run defense, but those teams that could run the ball, could.
East Carolina tore off 322 yards and four touchdowns, Nevada, in the
bazillion overtime game, ran for 396 yards and six touchdowns, and
Louisiana Tech ran for 208 yards and three scores. The linebackers were
the main problem.
Outlook: The call has gone out for the linebacking
corps to be far tougher and far better against the run, and the move of
Acrey to a starting role should help. There's plenty of experience and
plenty of versatility to play around with, but even though the stats
were fine, and should be again, the coaching staff wants more
Projected Starters: Replacing second leading tackler and
heart-and-soul type defender Marty Tadman will be job one, and sophomore
Jason Robinson will get the first look at the strong safety job.
The former wide receiver came up with 39 tackles and two tackles for
loss with two interceptions and three broken up passes, and now he
should come up with a big year. A talented 6-0, 190-pound prospect, he's
a great athlete who should be all over the field.
An even bigger loss was Orlando Scandrick leaving early for the
NFL and became a Dallas Cowboy. 5-10, 166-pound sophomore Brandyn
Thompson was a great high school wide receiver and saw a little bit
of time last year making 16 tackles on defense and special teams. A
great athlete, he'll have to use all his skills when getting picked on
until he can prove he can make big plays when the ball is in the air.
Junior Kyle Wilson stepped in as a freshman and emerged
as a shut-down defender and continued to produce with 41 tackles and
eight broken up passes with two interceptions, A strong open field
tackler, the 5-10, 190-pounder is a good number one corner who can hold
his own against most top receivers. Is he going to be Scandrick? No, but
he's a good veteran to count on.
Sophomore Jeron Johnson came through with a nice season
at free safety making 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and
six broken up passes in nine games. He missed a little bit of time with
a hip problem, but he's fine going into the season and he should be one
of the team's top playmakers against the pass.
Projected Top Reserves: Two redshirt freshmen, Shaun Jordan
and Cedric Febis, will be the main backups at safety. The
6-3, 208-pound Jordan is an athlete strong safety who provides a big
pop, while the 6-3, 190-pound Febis, who's from the Netherlands, is a
fast defender and a strong tackler. While still raw, Febis is very
Working behind Wilson will be 5-10, 177-pound sophomore Keith McGowen
after making four tackles in a limited role. Mostly a special teamer
so far, he's one of the team's faster players and could be used in
Senior corner Rashaun Scott has made more noise as a kick
returner than a defender, but he'll see more time on the defensive side
behind Wilson after making eight tackles. He's been a part of the
rotation for a few years, and now he has to use his tremendous speed,
along with his experience, to grow into a key reserve.
6-2, 196-pound junior Garcia Day is the biggest corner option.
The former JUCO transfer tackles like a safety, but he has to prove he
doesn't cover like one. He needs to show early on that he can make the
big play and pick off a pass or two to earn playing time.
Watch Out For ... Wilson to get a little more
attention. In a defensive backfield with Scandrick and Tadman, it was
hard to get too much pub. Even so, Wilson earned second-team All-WAC
honors. Now he should be recognized more as one of the WAC's best
Strength: Speed. You don't get faster by losing
Scandrick, but the Broncos have good wheels at all four spots and they
should continue to be among the league's most productive secondaries.
Weakness: Sure-thing second corner. While Thompson
should be fine, and McGowen and Day are promising, Scandrick was a
next-level corner who won't easily be replaced. Teams will pick on
anyone but Wilson until someone proves able to come up with the big
Outlook: You can't win big in the WAC without
being able to slow down the pass, and no one did that better than the
Broncos. While there will be a step back in overall production after
losing Tadman and Scandrick, the numbers won't go up too much. If the
pass rush improves, like it should, that could make up for the
inexperience in the secondary.
Projected Starters: The kicking game was supposed to be a
concern, and then Kyle Brotzman made the situation at both punter
and placekicker better. The sophomore nailed 16 of 18 field goals with
one getting clocked and a miss from 51 yards. He has an excellent
midrange leg and he should come up with a bigger year after earning
second-team All-WAC honors.
Brotzman led the WAC's best punting game averaging 44.5 yards per kick,
but now he'll turn the reins over to sophomore Brad Elkin, who
averaged 37.5 yards per boot but put eight of his 27 kicks inside the
20. Brotzman can certainly take back the job when needed.
Replacing solid punt returner Marty Tadman, who averaged 11.4 yards per
kick, might not be that hard considering Kyle Wilson averaged 14
yards on his five returns. Speedy WR Titus Young and running
backs D.J. Harper and Jeremy Avery will get the first look
at the kick return duties.
Watch Out For ... Brotzman to not give up all his
punting duties. He's too good. Elkin is more than fine, but Brotzman has
a big leg and was strong enough last year to just be a punter if needed.
Strength: The kicking game. Brotzman was an
all-star and the punting game led the WAC. Boise State always gets the
most out of its kickers, and it will do so again.
Weakness: Kick coverage. Looking for a problem
that isn't there, the Broncos allowed 20.3 yards per kickoff return and
9.8 yards per punt return. Hardly bad numbers, but they're not terrific.
Outlook: If Brotzman can be the star he was last
year and if Elkin is consistent, the kicking game will be rock-solid.
There are more than enough speedy options to handle the return duties