Less than two weeks from now, the Boise State Broncos will put on the pads and head onto the blue turf for the 2013 Spring Game.
In what has seemed like little more than a blur, the team has gone from raising up the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas trophy for a third straight season to being evaluated by the coaching staff during spring practices.
In this segment, we’ll take a look at one of the areas that will be integral to the Broncos’ success in 2013, particularly from the standpoint of replacing very talented players. That area is the defensive secondary, which has been a strong point for the Broncos for much of the past two seasons.
Before we get down to business, here is a list of the other position breakdowns that have been done in case you missed one of them.
To clarify, this preview will take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the defensive secondary, as well as highlight any key positions battles that are taking place right now and that may continue into the summer.
Let’s take a look at the 2013 Boise State Broncos defensive secondary.
Returning starting safety Jeremy Ioane is one of the most talented defensive players on Boise State's roster.
There are fans out there that are very concerned about Boise State’s situation at cornerback and for good reason. Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins were both talented players and will be missed this coming season.
But that doesn’t mean that the Broncos are totally starting over in the defensive secondary.
In fact, Boise State is in relatively good shape at the safety position. Returning starter Jeremy Ioane was a consistent performer in 2012, finishing second on the team in tackles and tied for third in interceptions with the team’s other safety, Darian Thompson.
Thompson, who will be a redshirt sophomore this season, was not exactly expected to do a lot for the Broncos in 2012. But thanks to an increase in playing time due to Lee Hightower’s suspension at the end of October, Thompson was named the starter for the remainder of the year.
Both Ioane and Thompson are expected to be top performers on the defense once again, and their presence makes it difficult to make the argument that Boise State’s defensive secondary as a whole could be a severe issue in 2013.
As well as being pretty set at the safety position, the Broncos do have several decent options to fill the voids left by Taylor and Gavins.
Junior Bryan Douglas may have actually been the starter over Gavins for the majority of the 2012 season but tore his ACL against Wyoming in October. He’ll be back for the beginning of the 2013 season and assuming that he is back to his regular form, will ease some of the worries of the Boise State faithful.
At the other cornerback slot, several players will be vying for the position in the spring and likely well into the summer. Junior Deon’tae Florence, sophomore Donte Deayon and a couple of junior college recruits (Cleshawn Page and Mercy Maston) will all get a chance to prove their worth.
So far, Florence and Deayon appear to have the early lead for the starting position, as both have reportedly looked good in spring practices.
With so much depth at the corner position and Ebo Makinde moving from corner to safety to provide depth there, the Broncos are nowhere near lacking talent in the defensive secondary.
While replacing Taylor and Gavins may appear difficult, the overwhelming feeling should be that the Broncos have players who will be able to step right in and perform equally as well.
Jamar Taylor is an NFL-caliber talent, and will not be easy to replace at cornerback.
In the last slide, an attempt was made to lessen the fear of fans that the Broncos could have significant trouble against the pass because of the loss of Taylor and Gavins.
Although it may be true that there is plenty of depth left in the Broncos’ secondary, finding replacements at cornerback was one of the most important tasks of the coaching staff for a reason.
Taylor was a first team All-MWC Conference selection and has been impressing pro scouts since the Senior Bowl, climbing to fourth on both Mel Kiper Jr.'s and Todd McShay’s list of top cornerbacks.
Gavins, while not starting the first three games of the year, was still a second team All-MWC selection and also got a chance to improve his NFL Draft stock at Boise State’s pro day.
Regardless of the depth that the Broncos have at cornerback, it would be foolish to assume that the team won’t experience some rough patches throughout the season after losing two potential NFL talents.
In addition, the loss of Taylor and Gavins means that teams will be more willing to test the defensive secondary, which didn’t occur all that often in 2012.
It may be a wait-and-see game for the coaching staff, which will ultimately have to select starters for the opener against Washington but need to have each new starter on a short leash. It isn’t a reflection of bad coaching if they need to pull a starter who isn’t performing, but rather the normal process of finding the best fit to replace both Taylor and Gavins.
Deon'tae Florence could be the man to replace Jerrell Gavins, but has major competition leading up to the season opener.
Obviously, the battle for both cornerback positions is already heating up in spring practices. Of any position on the field, cornerback is the one that appears to be the widest open for Boise State.
To replace Gavins, junior Bryan Douglas appears to have the upper hand as long as he is 100 percent heading into the season opener. Douglas tore his ACL last season and would have contended for the starting spot in 2012 had it not been for his injury.
On the other side, several players will be competing for Jamar Taylor’s old spot. Junior Deon’tae Florence and sophomore Donte Deayon are the two players with experience on the Boise State sideline, but 2013 recruits Cleshawn Page and Mercy Maston were brought in with the intent of competing for the job as well.
Chances are that all five of the previously named players will see time on the field in 2013. In addition to trying to find the best fit, the coaching staff understands that they have the opportunity to develop a lot of young players for the future.
Even if someone like Deayon does not win the starting job, expect him to see time on the field because one day he will be a starter.
As for the safety position, Jeremy Ioane and Darian Thompson are almost surely going to be the starters. However, Ebo Makinde’s move to the position should allow him to see more playing time than he got as a cornerback the previous two seasons.
Finding adaquate replacements at cornerback is a challenge, but it is nothing that Coach Petersen hasn't faced before.
To phrase Boise State’s situation in the defensive secondary heading into the upcoming season as anything but a work in progress would be understating the fact.
The Broncos do have their work cut out for them in the secondary, and there is the possibility that cornerback could be a stitch in the team’s side throughout the entirety of the 2013 campaign.
But at the same time, it is clear that the tools are there to turn the “work in progress” into a beautiful piece of art before the season even begins.
The safety position remains intact from 2012. Bryan Douglas should return at corner and could make fans forget that Gavins took over the starting job midway into last season. Both Deon’tae Florence and Donte Deayon are having a fantastic spring, which will hopefully translate into success during the season.
Teams will test the Broncos’ secondary. And they should. But fans in Boise could be pleasantly surprised with what they get out of this group in 2013.
Games where the defensive secondary could have the most impact: Washington, Nevada, Fresno State, Utah State
Make sure to follow along with us as we continue to work through the entire Boise State team. Next time, we’ll take a look at the Broncos’ running backs.