2010 Boise State Preview – Defense
Boise State DE Ryan Winterswyk
Boise State DE Ryan Winterswyk
Posted Jun 23, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Boise State Bronco Defense

Boise State Broncos

Preview 2010 - Defense

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- 2010 Boise State Defense | 2010 Boise State Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: In his first year at the helm, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatowski has inherited a heater. Ten starters return from a defense that finished 14th in the nation in both yards and points allowed, and it should be even better with excellent depth to go along with all the starting talent. To nitpick, the pass rush from everyone other than star end Ryan Winterswyk and tackle Billy Winn was non-existent, and the corner situation is a wee bit shaky with Kyle Wilson on the New York Jets. Whatever. The front seven will be a brick wall against the run, the safeties, helped by the use of a nickel (Winston Venable) will be phenomenal, and it'll be a shock if anyone on the schedule has any consistent success.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jeron Johnson, 91
Sacks: Ryan Winterswyk, 9
Interceptions: Brandyn Thompson, 6

Star of the defense: Senior DE Ryan Winterswyk
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior CB Jerrell Gavins
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS George Iloka
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Billy Winn
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Winterswyk, 2) SS Jeron Johnson, 3) Winn
Strength of the defense: Experience, Run Defense
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, No. 2 Corner

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Senior Ryan Winterswyk went from a walk-on to an All-American. The 6-4, 267-pound veteran has been a major-league pass rusher from the start registering 19 career sacks with nine last year to go along with 41 tackles and 17 tackles for loss. Ultra-consistent, he made 43 stops as a freshman and 40 as a sophomore. While he's not huge, he's extremely tough against the run and has learned how to battle through double teams while showing the athleticism to be able to fly around the outside. A fantastic athlete, he bulked up 40 pounds since arriving on campus, but he has only played quicker.

Overshadowed by the rest of the stars on the line, junior Shea McClellin turned in a good season with 36 tackles with three sacks and six tackles for loss as a steady force on the right side. While the 6-3, 258-pounder isn't all that big, he's a good pass rusher who finds his way into the backfield and has the experience to be even better.

6-4, 290-pound junior Billy Winn bulked up over the last few years and should be an even bigger force on the inside after making 44 tackles with six sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in a second-team All-WAC season. After serving as one of the team's top backups, he has grown into the job and now should become one of the nation's top interior presences with a freakish blend of athleticism and added bulk. The former high school sprinter and an all-star wrestler, he's fast, mauling, and great against the run.

Junior Chase Baker didn't have the all-star season expected of him, but he was strong on the inside making 37 tackles at right tackle. He saw a little time as a true freshman and then turned into an anchor up front using his 6-1, 300-pound frame to be a rock against the run. While he made two sacks and four tackles for loss, he's not going to be a regular into the backfield. Extremely smart and very strong, he'll be one of the team's key defenders for another three years.

Projected Top Reserves: Veteran Jarrell Root was in the mix for starting time last year, getting the call three times, finishing with 11 tackles with a tackle for loss, and now he'll work behind Ryan Winterswyk on the left side. At his best as a reserve, he has had a knee problem that has kept him under wraps, but he's a good athlete who can fill in and get into the backfield.

Former fullback Michael Atkinson has been a regular backup and top run defender with good size and solid strength. A brick on the inside with 6-0, 335-pound size, he has been dominant at times in practices and can work at either tackle spot after making nine stops last year.

6-1, 314-pound junior J.P. Nisby hasn't been able to force his way into a starting role, but he has been a key backup over the last two seasons making 12 stops last year. One of the team's strongest players, he's a great part of the rotation with the toughness to step in at any time and keep the run defense productive.

Known mostly for getting socked in the face by former Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount, junior Byron Hout is also a decent backup defender making 27 tackles with two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss and two recovered fumbles. A tweener, the 6-0, 227-pounder will see time on the end but could end up moving to linebacker if there's a spot to get him on the field more. The former Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year makes things happen.

Watch Out For … Even more from the reserves. The rotation was excellent last year with just enough time logged in by the backups to keep everyone fresh. The starting foursome is set and strong, but the second-team would make for one of the best lines in the WAC.
Strength: Run defense. The pass rush is fine, but the foursome is more about getting into the backfield on tackles for loss. Forget about running on this group when it needs to come up with stops; all four positions are active and no one gets pushed around.
Weakness: Sacks. Winterswyk is a great sacker and Winn is one of the WAC's top interior pass rushers, but that's about it. The Broncos only came up with 25 sacks.
Outlook: When challenged, the line was a brick wall against some of the nation's most dangerous rushing attacks. Oregon only ran for 31 yards and TCU was shut down for just 36 yards. Fresno State and Ryan Mathews went ballistic, but overall, this was a phenomenal line that should be even better this year with so much returning talent.
Unit Rating: 8.5


Projected Starters: A steady starter on the weakside, Aaron Tevis was fourth on the team with 54 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, and he has the talent to do even more. At 6-3 and 231 pounds, he's a good-sized athlete with great range and excellent hitting ability. He's like a beefed up safety who's always working with a non-stop motor that gets him in on just about every play.

Returning in the middle for a third year is Derrell Acrey , a very tough, very sound hitter who started four games making 34 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss. At 6-1 and 233 pounds, he's one of the team's bigger defenders and he plays like it on the inside. While he won't likely to be a full-season starter, he'll be one of the leaders of the front seven while using his combination of speed, strength, and size to be a top playmaker.

Back on the strongside is Hunter White , an undersized 5-11, 219-pound veteran who made 37 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and a pick using his speed and athleticism to come up with big plays. A star high school wide receiver, he has unlimited range with great pop for his size. Tough enough to play in the middle, he's better on the outside.

Projected Top Reserves: Working as a spot starter and a top backup, sophomore J.C. Percy finished second on the team with 64 stops with 4.5 tackles for loss. Able to play any of the three spots, he'll work mostly on the weakside but even at 6-0 and 220 pounds he's tough enough to play in the middle. Extremely fast and very smart, he was an Idaho state championship-level sprinter who graduated at the top of his class. If he got more starting time, he'd be one of the WAC's top tacklers.

After suffering a torn ACL, Daron Mackey returned to start eight times last year making 36 tackles. A hitting machine, the former JUCO transfer made 191 tackles in two years for Bakersfield College after making 271 stops in two years in high school. While he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps, he'll work mostly in the middle.

Watch Out For … even more of a rotation. How will Percy and Mackey stay on the bench? Paul is a playmaker who'll shine when he gets time, too. White, Acrey and Tevis are a phenomenal threesome, and they'll stay fresh with the great backups waiting in the wings.
Strength: Experience. Boise State has five starting linebackers for three spots, so playing around with the combination won't be a problem and overcoming injuries shouldn't be an issue. Experience was a weakness last year, but now it's a major positive having been through so many big games.
Weakness: Consistency? … Nitpicking time. Because the Broncos haven't had much of a steady starting linebacking trio, with others coming in and out, there might be a few hiccups here and there. Fresno State was able to rumble with the Bronco linebackers struggling, and Idaho and Nevada were able to make things happen with their running game.
Outlook: This is a very good, very athletic linebacking corps with a great blend of skills and talents, and no matter what the combination is, the group will be loaded. The unit was good in 2007, great in 2008, and should be phenomenal in 2009 with a superior front four to work behind.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: The secondary is loaded with talent and experience, but the one big loss is at corner where Kyle Wilson left to become a first round draft pick by the New York Jets. Stepping in to try to replace him is junior Jerrell Gavins, a ready-made former JUCO transfer who saw time in 12 games with two starts including the Fiesta Bowl against TCU. The 5-9, 178-pounder walked on to the team and became a tremendous special teamer, and while he's not Wilson in any way as a cover-corner, he's a good tackler making 31 stops with four broken up passes. With great speed, he can be used as a kick returner, too.

Everyone spent the last two years staying away from Kyle Wilson, and Brandyn Thompson benefitted making four picks two years ago and six last year. Used more on blitzes two years ago, making five tackles for loss and 54 tackles, he spent last year working more in pure coverage making 45 stops to go along with his plays when the ball was in the air. At 5-10 and 180 pounds, the former wide receiver has decent size and is fast, athletic, and a big play performer earning Defensive Player of the Game honors in the Fiesta Bowl making seven tackles with two picks and a touchdown.

After earning second-team all-star honors two years in a row, senior Jeron Johnson is ready to be the star of the secondary. The 5-11, 195-pound strong safety led the team with 91 stops to go along with six broken up passes and four interceptions playing at times like a corner in the middle of the field against the pass and like a linebacker against the run. All over the field doing a little of everything, he's a disruptive force who's one of the WAC's best open field tacklers making 54 unassisted stops last year and 72 in 2008. While he's not a huge hitter, he doesn't miss a stop.

One of the team's unsung stars over the last two years has been junior George Iloka , a big 6-3, 207-pound hitter who followed up a 63 tackle, four pick freshman year with 48 tackles and an interception. While he has prototype strong safety size, he's a good enough athlete with enough speed, smarts, and range to shine at free safety. He'll move around where needed.

Projected Top Reserves: More often than not, the Broncos use a fifth defensive back as a nickel defender. Senior Winston Venable started every game as the nickel making 63 tackles with two picks and eight tackles for loss. At 5-11 and 218 pounds with great pop, the former JUCO transfer stepped in and did exactly what he was supposed to do earning second-team All-WAC honors. While he was good all season long, he made his biggest play late against TCU with a big pick in the fourth quarter.

The coaching staff will be counting on sophomore Jamar Taylor to be the main backup at both corner spots after redshirting last year. He started off his career making 24 tackles with a pick as a freshman, sat out last year, and now is ready to play a key role. Very smart, very physical, and very promising, he could quickly become too good to keep off the field.

Junior Cedric Febis has been a key backup safety over the last few years and a great special teamer. The 6-3, 198-pounder from the Netherlands did most of his work on special teams last year but finished with 23 tackles. He's getting the experience, but he's still very raw having played just one year of American high school football, but he played at a club level in Holland. A great athlete, he'll find time on the field.

5-11, 193-pound junior Travis Stanaway came up with 20 tackles and three broken up passes as a backup, strong safety, but he was the strongest on special teams. While he's not all that big, he's an active, very sure tackler who can step in at free safety if needed or even see time as a nickel defender.

Watch Out For … Gavins. All eyes will be on Kyle Wilson's replacement as he has to show he can hold up as the main man on one side of the field. He'll get plenty of safety help, but he'll get picked on early with passing games likely to stay away from Thompson.
Strength: Interceptions. The linebackers helped the cause, but the secondary did the most work as the Broncos picked off 24 passes with four going for touchdowns. Wilson had three of those picks and two of those scores, but Thompson, Johnson, Tevis, Iloka, and Venable combined for 16 interceptions.
Weakness: Teams that can actually throw. No, Hawaii didn't really count last year. Idaho threw for 305 yards and TCU's Andy Dalton threw for 272, and no one else on the schedule had a passing attack to truly challenge the Bronco secondary. However, the Broncos picked off eight passes against the Vandals and Horned Frogs.
Outlook: The secondary is good, but it's made better by not facing many teams that throw. Teams that do throw often have to do it in comeback, desperation mode. This is an experienced secondary that will put up better numbers than the talent, but it's still going to be opportunistic and will come up with several big plays when challenged. The loss of Wilson hurts, but the safeties will pick up the slack to help out the decent corners.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Projected Starters: It's a push to say that senior Kyle Brotzman has regressed, but after hitting 16-of-18 field goals as a freshman and 13-of-17 as a sophomore, his 18-of-25 season was a wee bit disappointing. His seven missed didn't turn out to matter much, and his biggest play of the year was a fake punt in the Fiesta Bowl, but he's good from 40 yards and in and has enough range to hit a 52 yarder against Utah State. A better punter than a placekicker, he averaged 43.9 yards per kick putting 15 inside the 20. He has a big leg, three years of experience, and the potential to be an all-star at two spots.

Receiver Titus Young is the team's main kickoff returner averaging 26.9 yards per try with two scores, but back Doug Martin was great on his six tries averaging 29.7 yards and corner Jerrell Gavins averaged 37.3 yards per try on his three returns.

There are several options to replace Kyle Wilson on punt returns, but receiver Chris Potter is the top possibility after averaging 12.9 yards on his ten tries. He's extremely quick and could become an all-star with more work.

Watch Out For … Potter IF he ends up being used as the main punt returner. The Broncos averaged 10.9 yards per try last year, and while Wilson wasn't a gamebreaker, he was a good one. The team has other strong options.
Strength: Brotzman. The kick return game finished fourth in the nation averaging 26.6 yards per try, but Brotzman is the star of the special teams with a tremendous leg and steady punting ability, but ...
Weakness: Brotzman's consistency. Yeah, he's really good, but he also missed several makeable kicks with four misses inside the 40. The Broncos have played a game decided by fewer than six points in the last 26, and there likely won't be any key kicks to be made this year, but it would be nice if he hit everything.
Outlook: The special teams were among the best in America and they will be once again as long as the punt return game is solid. The coverage teams are fantastic allowing just 19.1 yards per kickoff return and 6.9 yards per punt return, and kickoff returners are tremendous. Brotzman could be a bit stronger inside the 40, but overall, this will be a strength and a big advantage in every game.
Unit Rating: 9

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