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2009 Boise State Preview - Defense
Boise State CB Kyle Wilson
Boise State CB Kyle Wilson
Posted Jun 4, 2009 2009 Preview - Boise State Bronco Defense

Boise State Broncos

Preview 2009 - Defense

2009 CFN Boise State Preview |
2009 Boise State Offense
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What you need to know:
The defense has some major rebuilding to do, but everything will be fine. The line has to replace three starters to work around star end Ryan Winterswyk, but there's size, athleticism, and promise to keep up the production from a group that camped out in opposing backfields. The big question will be the consistent alignment. The 4-3 won't be scrapped, but there are so many good defensive backs, and so many options, there will be a 4-2-5 used more often than not. The secondary is loaded with four starters returning to a group that was second in the nation in pass efficiency defense. CB Kyle Wilson will play in the NFL, while CB Brandyn Thompson and FS Jeron Johnson are sure-thing all-stars. The linebacking corps is the typical undersized, scrappy unit that Boise State always has, and while the starting experience isn't there, outside of Derrell Acrey, tackling won't be an issue.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jeron Johnson, 98
Sacks: Ryan Winterswyk, 4.5
Interceptions: Kyle Wilson, 5

Star of the defense: Senior CB Kyle Wilson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DT Billy Winn
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Chase Baker
Best pro prospect: Wilson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wilson, 2) DE Ryan Winterswyk, 3) FS Jeron Johnson
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Line size
Weakness of the defense: Starting experience in the front 6/7, Backup defensive backs

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
Junior Ryan Winterswyck was expected to be the breakout defensive star of last year, and he didn't disappoint earning first-team All-WAC honors making 40 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. The only returning starter to the line, the 6-4, 260-pounder will be keyed on by everyone, and he'll have to fight and battle through double teams and everyone's A game. A fantastic athlete, he bulked up 40 pounds since arriving on campus, but he didn't lose his quickness and has become tougher against the run.

Taking over on the other side will be a steady rotation, led by 6-3, 243-pound sophomore Jarrell Root. He wasn't able to do much last year playing in a reserve role before suffering a season-ending injury against Utah State after having problems with his knee going into the season. In nine games, he made nine tackles with 2.5 sacks, and while he's not a pure pass rusher, he's athletic and talented, rocking on the scout team two years ago.

Ready to shine on the inside is Chase Baker, a 6-1, 293-pound sophomore who had a good spring and has All-WAC written all over him. He got his feet wet as a true freshman making ten tackles in his limited time, but he has bulked up, filled out, and appears to be ready to grow into an anchor up front for the next three years.

6-4, 279-pound sophomore Billy Winn was one of the team's top backup tackles making 26 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. A star high school sprinter and a phenomenal wrestler, he bulked up and now has a tremendous array of tools with quickness, athleticism, and strength. He should shine now that he has a bigger role.

Projected Top Reserves: Former fullback Michael Atkinson will bring his impressive size to the defensive line as a potential block of granite on the inside. He's 6-0, 324 pounds, and very, very promising. He dominated at times on the scout team last year, and just a redshirt freshman, he's still figuring out what he's doing. He'll be one of the team's most interesting players to keep an eye on.

Working in a rotation with Root at left end will be Byron Hout after making 27 tackles with four sacks and six tackles for loss. The sophomore isn't all that big at 6-1 and 241 pounds, but he's extremely quick and is a nice finisher. A pure playmaker, the former Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, and former linebacker, picked off a pass against TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl and took it 62 yards. He'll make things happen whenever he's on the field.

Sophomore J.P. Nisby was supposed to be a starter on the inside last year, but he ended up spending the season as a reserve making eight tackles. However, he has the tools to do a lot more in the rotation behind Baker. Scary-strong, the 6-1, 302-pounder is a weight room star who benches over 400 pounds and has registered a squat of 620 pounds.

Watch Out For ... Baker. It might take a little while before he gets used to the playing time, but he's an athletic inside presence who should be a regular in the backfield. He should be tremendous as the year goes on.
Strength: The rotation. Losing a ton of talent and experience always hurts no matter what, but Boise State is usually better than most at reloading on the defensive line because of the way it rotates in so many players. Everyone stays fresh and it makes it hard for offenses to find a groove.
Weakness: Experience. Yeah, it'll hurt a little bit. Boise was 18th in the nation in sack and 22nd against the run thanks to a veteran line, but now three starters are gone. While there's some experience returning, thanks to the rotation, Winterswyk is the returning full-timer.
Outlook: There might not be the production of last year, but it'll be a good line in time with big tackles, bigger backup tackles, and quickness across the board to make up for the lack of overall starting experience. Winterswyk is a star to work around, while others should step up with more responsibility.
Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters
There's one returning starter to the linebacking corps, Derrell Acrey, and he's likely going to be a backup because of the emergence of Hunter White. The 5-11, 215-pound sophomore saw a little time as a backup in his first season making 25 tackles with two tackles for loss, but he looked special this offseason. A star high school wide receiver, he's very fast with unlimited range and with surprising hitting ability for his size. He'll either start in the middle or will move to the strongside.

Taking over on the weakside, unless White moves into the spot, will be sophomore Aaron Tevis, a versatile outside defender who could play on the strongside if needed. At 6-3 and 223 pounds he's like a beefed up safety and has the same sort of range making 27 tackles with two sacks. Always working, his non-stop motor will get him in on just about every play. 

Projected Top Reserves
Alright, junior Derrell Acrey will likely end up starting again after finishing fifth on the team with 59 tackles with a sack and is the only returning starter. Solid in the middle, the 6-1, 233-pounder could also be used at either outside spot if needed. The biggest linebacker in the rotation, and with a tremendous combination of size, strength, and athleticism, he's a solid defender who'll be the leader of the unit.

Redshirt freshman J.C. Percy is a pure weakside defender at 6-0 and 211 pounds. Extremely fast, he was an Idaho state championship-level sprinter and graduated at the top of his class. Now he's ready to make a big impact playing in a rotation with Tevis.

The good: 6-0, 227-pound junior Daron Mackey has another year of eligibility. The bad: he got it because he tore his ACL. The former JUCO transfer made 191 tackles in two years for Bakersfield College after making 271 stops in his last two years in high school. He can play any spot in the linebacking corps, but he's the best fit for the middle. As he gets healthier, he'll start out working on the weakside.

Watch Out For ... the 4-3. Yes, going into the fall the depth chart has a 4-2-5 alignment with Acrey a backup. While that might be the defense against the better passing teams, there's no way Acrey will be on the sidelines on a regular basis.
Strength: Tacklers. Boise State always gets productive linebackers who fit a type. They're small, they're feisty, and they play with a chip on their shoulder. And they make tackles. Lots and lots of tackles. it doesn't matter who's in the mix, everyone hits.
Weakness: Experience. There's only one returning starter, and while there's backup experience coming back, there isn't a lot of proven prime time players, and while that'll quickly change, the Oregon game is the first one out of the gate. Is everyone ready?
Outlook: After a down year for the linebackers in 2007, the unit rocked last year. Now there are several good, young players to work with, and the spotlight will be on. With so much turnover in the front four, this group has to produce right away or the defense will be exposed by Oregon and Fresno State in the first three games.
Rating: 6.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
The secondary is the strength of the defense, by far, and the strength of the team with five returning starters and several all-star talents. The star of the show is Kyle Wilson, the first-team All-WAC corner who flirted with the idea of turning pro, found out he likely would've been a second day selection, and chose to come back to what should be an All-America caliber season. The 5-10, 187-pound senior is one of the nation's best tackling corners, making 35 tackles with 29 of them solo, and he came up with five interceptions and ten broken up passes. He proved he could handle the No. 1 corner job, and then some, and he should up his stock and be one of the WAC's premier playmakers if anyone dares to throw his way.

Working on the other side will once again by junior Brandyn Thompson after making 54 tackles with four interceptions and six broken up passes, highlighted by three picks against Hawaii. A great high school wide receiver, the 5-10, 178-pounder is fast, athletic, and a big-play performer on the other side of Wilson. He'll earn all-star honors.

The team's leading returning tackler, Jeron Johnson, is back at free safety after making 98 tackles, three interceptions, and seven broken up passes. All over the field, the second-team All-WAC performer recovered three fumbles and made 20 more tackles than the No. 2 man. How productive was he? His 72 solo stops, and not counting the assisted stops, would've made him third on the team. At 5-11 and 190 pounds, he has decent size, is a good hitter, and will be one of the WAC's best all-around playmakers yet again.

Unsung compared to stars like Wilson and Johnson, sophomore George Iloka came up with an under-the-radar season making 63 tackles with six broken up passes and four picks as a true freshman. A nice hitter with 6-3, 210-pound size and tremendous range, he's a prototype strong safety who'll get more attention this year and should be in the hunt for all-star honors.

While the defense will go with a 4-3 at times, it'll more often than not employ a nickelback against the WAC"s better passing teams. That means junior Winston Venable will see time after coming in from the JUCO ranks. The 6-0, 206-pounder made 94 tackles last year for Glendale CC in Arizona and is ready-made to be one of the team's leading tacklers. 

Projected Top Reserves
Former running back Doug Martin will move over to the defensive side to work in nickel and dime packages. The 5-10, 204-pound sophomore was a star in practices two years ago, but he struggled with a hamstring problem last year and ran for 107 yards. Very fast and with cut-on-a-dime quickness, he's built for the defensive backfield.

Junior Jason Robinson was supposed to be a starter going into last fall, but he ended up working as a key reserve making 22 tackles. The former wide receiver has good range and nice versatility, but he'll have to work to get back into the mix with so many good options stepping up this offseason.

6-3, 195-pound sophomore Cedric Febis will be a key backup safety working behind Iloka at strong safety. He has good size and is a strong special teamer, making four tackles last year, and he has great athleticism. Now he needs more seasoning, having learned the game in the Netherlands and playing just one year of American high school ball.

Watch Out For ...
Iloka. There are several options to choose from at the second safety spot next to Johnson, but Iloka has the upside and the potential to be fantastic. He was strong in spring ball and will be tough to knock out of a spot.
Strength: Talent and experience. With four returning starters, and a stud JUCO transfer in Venable ready to make an impact as a nickelback, the nation's No. 2 secondary in pass efficiency defense should be tremendous yet again.
Weakness: Sure-thing backups. It's nitpicking, but Martin is a former running back and several of the other key backups haven't seen much action, if any. Again, nitpicking.
Outlook: A case could be made that Boise State's highly-rated secondary didn't exactly face a who's who of passing teams, with the WAC passing games getting by more on reputation than production, but New Mexico State and Hawaii combined for just 344 yards with no touchdowns and six interceptions. Whatever. The Broncos allowed just eight touchdown passes with 22 interceptions, and now all the key parts are back.
Rating: 8.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Junior Kyle Brotzman was fantastic as a freshman, hitting 16-of-18 field goals with one kick getting blocked and one missed from 51 yards out. Last year he was almost as solid, but not quite as good hitting 13-of-17 kicks with all four misses coming from beyond 40 yards. However, he nailed both his 50 yarders with a key 51-yarder against Oregon and a 50-yarder against Nevada. As good as he was kicking field goals, he was even better as a punter averaging 45.8 yards per kick putting 14 inside the 20. He has a huge leg, banging a 75-yarder, and was consistent. He's an All-WAC star and an possible All-American.

RB Jeremy Avery averaged 23.9 yards per kickoff return highlighted by a 42-yarder. While the kickoff return game is fine, the punt returning is fantastic netting 12.25 yards per try helped by Kyle Wilson, who averaged 14.2 yards per try. 

Watch Out For ... junior Brad Elkin to get a bit more work as a punter. He's not Brotzman, but he was more than fine when he got his chances averaging 40.2 yards on his ten kicks. In a perfect world, he takes over the job and Brotzman can just focus on field goals. It won't happen.
Strength: Brotzman. He's good enough to earn All-America recognition as both a kicker and a punter. He could be in the hunt for both the Lou Groza and the Ray Guy awards.
Weakness: A second punt returner. It's not like Wilson needs much help, but it would be nice if there was someone, likely Mitch Burrough, who could show some pop, too. No one did anything last year when Wilson wasn't the punt returner.
Outlook: The special teams could be the best in America. Brotzman is a weapon who'll be a difference maker in at least one tight game, if Boise State plays any close ones, while Avery and Wilson are terrific returners.
Rating: 9