It’s no secret Boise State has a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball going into the 2016 college football season. With a brand new coordinator (Andy Avalos), just five returning starters, and a large group of freshmen who have yet to play a down, there are probably some sleepless nights among the Broncos coaching staff.
The greatest area of need among the defense where even true freshmen will have to step up this season is on the line. After losing players like Armand Nance, Justin Taimatuia, Deuce Mataele, Robert Ash, Rondell McNair, Tyler Horn, and Kamalei Correa, you can't blame fans and coaches alike for losing a little sleep.
The only two players on the current Boise State roster with career starts are defensive tackle Elliot Hoyte, with just one, and defensive end Sam McCaskill with 13 starts two seasons ago. McCaskill did appear in 13 games in 2015 however. Hoyte also had a significant amount of playing time in the past as a backup appearing in all 14 games in 2014, and playing in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2013.
Gabe Perez will be back playing defensive end (STUD) in 2016 after redshirting 2015 because of injury. While he doesn't have a start on his resume' at Boise State he did contribute greatly in 2014 playing in all 14 games of the season. He also played 12 games in his true freshman season of 2013. He will be a key player, and leader on this young defense this season.
Perez will be splitting time with Jabril Frazier who appeared in 11 games last season. This combo should be a real hassle to opposing quarterbacks, and the coaching staff has mentioned they will have packages where both players line up on the field at the same time.
In the middle of the line at nose tackle look for redshirt sophomore David Moa to get the nod as starter. He appeared in five contests in 2015, and impressed coaches last spring and has done so again during fall camp. The other starting tackle spot will most likely belong to the aforementioned Elliot Hoyte.
Backups inside are still a bit up in the air, but redshirt junior Austin Silsby and junior Daniel Auelua should be part of that rotation. Silsby, who has been doing good things in fall camp, has only appeared in two games during his career at Boise State (2015). Auelua is a JUCO transfer from Mesa Community College in his first season as a Bronco.
McCaskill should get the start at the other defensive end spot, and look for sophomore Durrant Miles to start the season at backup. Both should see significant playing time, and they will be critical for the Broncos success this season. McCaskill will be one of the key leaders on defense. Don't be surprised to see redshirt freshman Sam Whitney get some playing time as well.
Other returning players that will be working hard to find the field this season will be redshirt sophomore Paul Semons out of Eagle, Idaho, and redshirt freshman Matt Locher from Los Alamitos, Calf. Locher was an outstanding high school linebacker, and a solid athlete. He now lists at 6-2, 272 lbs, and he could be an intriguing player to watch in the future. Both have their work cut out for them to see playing time in 2016.
Looking at the current Boise State roster there are a total 19 defensive lineman. Among that group are 10 freshmen, two of which are redshirts with no playing experience. The eight remaining true freshmen are Derriyon Shaw, who will redshirt the season with an injury, Kayode Rufai, Dane Gooch, Sonatane Lui, Jabari Watson, Emmanuel Fesili, Chase Hatada, and Curtis Weaver.
The one thing that stands out when looking at this group of freshmen, besides inexperience, is their size. Minus Shaw, the remaining seven freshmen stack up well against the veteran roster. This new group of Broncos averages just over 6-2 in height, and 275 lbs. The veterans come in at just under 260 lbs on average, and 6-3 in height.
Among the freshman class Fesili and Lui weigh in at 308, and 293 lbs respectively, and both players have been mentioned by coaches as those likely to see playing time this fall. Rufai is another player mentioned, and although he is one of the lightest of the group at 255 lbs he also stands 6-4. He will likely be a backup on the end, and his physical abilities have little in common with most true freshman.
Other players on this freshmen list making noise in fall camp are Jabari Watson, and Chase Hatada. Both have decent size to play inside, and will most likely see playing time during the season. Dane Gooch, a local player out of Bishop Kelly (6-2, 254 lbs) will probably redshirt, but Curtis Weaver is another intriguing true freshman that may see the field.
Weaver is 6-3, 287 lbs, and came to Boise out of St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, Calf. His film is impressive, and with his size he could be a great help with the depth of this defense.
Overall, this group of true freshmen are not your average group of first year players. Their size will help build depth inside, and should allow some of them to contribute immediately.
The Broncos also have a secret weapon when it comes to the defensive line. It’s not a player either. It’s defensive line coach Steve Caldwell. Last season Coach Caldwell had the defensive line performing as one of the most dominant in the nation against the rush allowing only 108 yards per game.
There are those who will point to the depth and experience of last year’s group as the main reason for that success. However, Caldwell also had his line performing well in 2014 when he took on the task of rebuilding a defensive line that had lost three starters, and had several unproven players on the roster. In 2014 his squad finished the year ranked seventh in the nation in sacks, and allowed just 142 yards per game on the ground.
In 2016 Caldwell will face a slightly more challenging task of rebuilding than in 2014, but with over three decades (closer to four) of coaching experience under his belt he has a lot to draw from. He also seems like the type of coach that thrives on a good challenge.
- Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 259 lbs, Eugene, Ore.
- Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 279 lbs, Tavistock, England (Ivybridge CC)
- Austin Silsby, 6-3, 258 lbs, Kuna, Idaho
- Gabe Perez, 6-4, 234 lbs, Placentia, Calif.
- Daniel Auelua, 6-2, 293 lbs, Alpine, Utah (Mesa CC)
- Jabril Frazier, 6-4, 239 lbs, Los Angeles, Calif.
- David Moa, 6-3, 271 lbs, San Diego, Calif.
- Paul Semons, 6-3, 270 lbs, Eagle, Idaho
- Durrant Miles, 6-5, 244 lbs, South Jordan, Utah
- Matt Locher, 6-2, 272 lbs, Los Alamitos, Calif.
- Sam Whitney, 6-2, 239 lbs, Folsom, Calif.
- Kayode Rufai, 6-4, 255 lbs, Portland, Ore.
- Derriyon Shaw, 6-2, 222 lbs, North Las Vegas, Nev.
- Dane Gooch, 6-2, 254 lbs, Boise, Idaho
- Sonatane Lui, 6-1, 293 lbs, Sandy, Utah
- Jabari Watson, 6-1, 262 lbs, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
- Emmanuel Fesili, 6-2, 308 lbs, Long Beach, Calif.
- Chase Hatada, 6-3, 268 lbs, Rocklin, Calif.
- Curtis Weaver, 6-3, 287 lbs, Long Beach, Calif.