Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
As mentioned, the Broncos are going to have to improve on defense to compete for a title. However, the month of September did see some key signs of growth that could be encouraging for Boise State fans.
However, before looking at those improvements, it is important to note just how young this defense is—at least when it comes to playing together.
Boise State has seven new starters on defense this season, and only two of the current starters are seniors.
Among the listed starters, besides the two seniors, the Broncos start six juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. However, key backups who have a significant role consist of 12 underclassmen.
Among the group of juniors, there are also three JUCO transfers who are new to the system. That list includes cornerbacks Mercy Maston and Cleshawn Page and tackle Justin Taimatuia.
Overall, it is clear that there are a large number of players who are new to the system or have very limited playing-time experience.
Is it any wonder they have struggled at times?
Is it any wonder that they are getting better every week?
Against Tennessee-Martin, the young Boise State team struggled in the area of tackling. It got better against Air Force, especially in the second half, but there were still arm tackles and open-field tackles that were missed at far too high a frequency.
Against Fresno State, the secondary was exposed big time, but some of that was how they chose to play coverage. The corners were 10 yards off the wide receivers, many times at the line of scrimmage, and Derek Carr had a field day picking apart the huge gaps the Broncos were giving.
Against Southern Miss, the coverage was better, missed tackles were far less frequent and the defensive line started getting penetration—something that had not happened in any game previously.
Also, the young defense seems to be gaining confidence. Saturday night, in Bronco Stadium, the defense was flying around like the type of Boise State defense we are used to seeing. Players were swarming to the ball, laying down big hits and going for the ball at every opportunity.
It was, by far, the best defensive performance of the season for Boise State. Granted, it was against a Southern Miss team that has lost every game this season, but it was the way the defense played more than who they played.
It looked like a much meaner, faster and better defense than previously seen this season. That bodes well for the Broncos, as they get into the thick of their Mountain Division schedule, starting against Utah State on Oct. 12.