Boise State Broncos Preview: Defense
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 Thompsonand FS Jeron Johnson are sure-thing All-Stars.
Junior Ryan Winterswyck lead the D-line. Last year, he emerged as a huge part of this defense. Earning first-team All-WAC honors, Ryan had 40 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
Taking over on the other side will be a steady rotation, led by 6'3", 243-lb sophomore Jarrell Root. While he's not a pure pass rusher, he's athletic and talented.
Ready to shine on the inside is Chase Baker, a 6'1", 293-lb sophomore who had a good spring and has All-WAC written all over him.
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.
Former Fullback Michael Atkinson will bring his impressive size to the defensive line as a reserve. He's 6', 324 lbs, and very, very promising.
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-lb 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.
I expect for Boise State to run a 4-2-5 the majority of the year; there isn't much to say about linebackers.
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.
The secondary is the strength of this defense. With five returning starters and several all-star talents, I see this the best secondary in the nation. The star of the show is Kyle Wilson, the first-team All-WAC corner. He has All-American written all over him.
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. He will be an All-star.
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. I love this kid.
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-lb 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.
Also, look for Doug Martin to come in during the nickel packages. He is a good running back, but he's better in the defensive backfield.
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