Rushing yards allowed per game, sacks, and tackles for loss are some of the statistics that go in to ranking a team’s defensive line. With several returning starters, plus the return of a couple of injured Broncos, the outlook for play on the Boise State defensive line is as good as it has been in several years.
(video by Shelby Ransom)
Bronco defensive line coach Steve Caldwell has high hopes for his unit. The Broncos played well at times last year, but had their lapses too, such as when they allowed 49 points to 4-8 New Mexico or when they allowed 46 points to 7-6 Nevada. Chief among the concerns for Caldwell and Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates are eliminating those lapses.
Junior Kamalei Correa (6-3, 248) has a chance to become one of the top defensive ends (or the STUD at Boise State) in school history, and Gabe Perez may be one of the best backups in the Mountain West Conference.
Correa is on preseason Watch Lists for the Chuck Bednarik Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (both presented annually to the nation’s best collegiate defensive football player), and the Rotary Lombardi Award, given each year to the collegiate player who best exemplifies the discipline of Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers. Correa led the Mountain West Conference in sacks with 12, and was third in tackles for loss with 19. After two seasons, Correa already ranks #20 all-time in sacks at Boise State, and with a year similar to last season, could move all the way to #3.
Perez (6-4, 236, Jr.) has done everything the coaches have asked of him and more. He hit the field as a freshman and played in 12 games, registering 29 tackles, 7 for loss, with 2.5 sacks. Those totals improved in his sophomore season, when Perez posted 29 tackles, 7 ½ tackles for loss and 3 ½ sacks. Although he missed a good deal of fall camp with an injury, and may not break into the starting rotation this year, defensive line coach Steve Caldwell will utilize him often.
Tyler Horn (6-5, 268, Sr.) will serve his post at the other end, with either Sam McCaskill (6-3, 257, Jr.) or Rondell McNair (6-2, 236, Sr.) backing him up. Horn has started eight games in his career at defensive tackle for the Broncos, but went down in the opener last year against Mississippi with a season-ending injury. Caldwell and the Broncos are glad to get him back. As a junior, Horn had 44 tackles, with 5 ½ for loss and a sack.
Mc Caskill filled in for Horn last year in the remaining 13 games, registering 26 tackles, 4 for loss, with 2 sacks. McNair, a junior college transfer from Contra Costa College, saw limited duty last year, but made an impact in the Utah State game when he shared a sack that resulted in a safety.
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Freshman Jabril Frazier (6-4, 232) has earned high marks in practice and is a name to watch, and Robert Ash (6-3, 288, Sr.) and Austin Silsby (6-3, 248, Fr.) will battle for playing time. As a senior at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles, Frazier recorded 99 tackles, 91 of them solo. His future is bright in Boise.
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Freshmen Kaleb Hill (6-1, 237) and Durrant Miles (6-5, 226), both members of the recruiting class of 2015, just have to put on some weight, but the Boise State coaches expect great things from them. Hill had a phenomenal senior year at Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz, Texas, credited with 75 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and four pass break-ups.
Miles signed with Boise State in 2013 and will join the program after a church mission. Miles was a star at Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah, earning all-state honors his senior season.
Senior Armand Nance (6-0, 306) will hold down the fort in the middle of the Bronco line at nose tackle. Nance was in on 36 tackles last year, 6 of them for loss, with 2 ½ sacks. Justin Taimatuia (6-0, 298, Sr.) will likely back up Nance. The Broncos are also glad to get Taimatuia back after an injury last season forced him to redshirt. Taimatuia was a big contributor in 2013 and figures to play a key role in the Broncos’ defensive rotation whether he starts or not. Tutulupeatau Mataele (6-3, 296, Sr.) is slated to see his first action of his Boise State career, as he is battling with Antoine Turner (6-1, 275, Sr.) and Elliot Hoyte (6-4, 271, Jr.) for the starting spot at defensive tackle. Mataele only participated in spring practices in 2013 because of an injury, and he redshirted last season. Turner and Hoyte have thus far played limited roles, but both have enjoyed a great fall camp.
Freshmen Derek Boles (6-2, 277) and Paul Semons (6-3, 266) are the next wave of Bronco talent at the position. Boles earned all-county honors at Lakeland High School in Florida, while Semons was named all-state at Eagle High School in Idaho.
Redshirt freshman David Moa (6-3, 269) and true freshmen Matt Locher (6-2, 252), and Sam Whitney (6-1, 234) are reserves. With so many seniors in the two-deep, it is possible that coach Caldwell may elect to get some experience for his youngsters this season.
Just as the offensive line is the strength of the Boise State offense, the defensive line is a solid force on the Bronco defensive line. So much of how a defense performs starts and stops with the battle in the trenches, and with contributions from a deep unit, Boise State should be solid this year.