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Bronco Spring Ball Battles: Defensive Line

To say the Boise State defense struggled in 2016 is not an accurate nor fair statement. To say it left something to be desired — especially down the stretch — is more appropriate. And a lot of that late-season wilting can be traced back to the play of the defensive line, which simply ran out of size and scheme when it mattered. This fall, however, promises to be different.

Thanks to another year of getting stronger and more experience, plus an injection of much-needed size, the Broncos look to maximize the talent it has on the field and once again wreak havoc in the Mountain West.

In terms of size, 309-pound sophomore Emmanuel Fesili (Long Beach, Calif.) and 298-pound sophomore Sonatane Lui (Sandy, Utah) are the heaviest defensive players on the team. They will line up at nose tackle, a position better suited for them than redshirt junior David Moa (San Diego, Calif.), who lined up there last season out of necessity. If Fesili and Lui can hold down that spot at a high level, it will free up Moa to destroy offenses like he did early in the year.


In fact, Moa will be the leader of the defense after notching a team-high 8.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and 30 total tackles during his 2016 campaign. And all that was done playing at a position he is not suited for. Moa will be the guy opposing offenses game plan for this fall.


Also listed at defensive tackle/nose tackle is redshirt sophomore Matt Locher (Los Alamitos, Calif.). Senior Daniel Auelua (Alpine, Utah), redshirt junior Paul Semons (Eagle, Idaho), and redshirt freshmen Dane Kordopatis (Boise, Idaho) and Curtis Weaver (Long Beach, Calif.) will play defensive tackle for the Broncos. Auelua and Weaver are uber-talented and should get plenty of time on the field.  


At defensive end, Boise State boasts redshirt senior Austin Silsby (Kuna, Idaho), junior Durrant Miles (South Jordan, Utah), sophomore Chase Hatada (Rocklin, Calif.), and redshirt freshmen Jabari Watson (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), and Kayode Rufai (Portland, Ore.). Miles has the most experience of the group with 38 career tackles, but the three young guys will vie for playing time. Of the young guns, Rufai turned heads last year on the Scout team.


The STUD position contains massive amounts of talent in redshirt senior Gabe Perez (Placentia, Calif.), redshirt junior Jabril Frazier (Los Angeles, Calif.) and redshirt sophomore Sam Whitney (Folsom, Calif.), it is also believed that Derriyon Shaw (North Las Vegas, Nev.), while listed as a DE, will eventually move to STUD as it fits his frame better, (6'2  230lbs) and to take advantage of his speed off the line. If Perez can stay healthy, he and Frazier will make quite the duo tag-teaming the position. Whitney is no slouch himself and can make plays with the best. Only Shaw, who spent last year nursing a leg injury, is unknown, but his HS stats were eye-popping.


Success amongst a defensive line is like playing in an orchestra; the individual pieces must be in harmony and execute their individual roles for the entirety of the group to be a success. If nose tackles can take up space and  command/absorb double teams, it frees up the DT to make the play and stop the run. If that is successful, the ends and STUDS have free shots at the quarterback early and often.

Last season, the Broncos were hit and miss in performing their defensive line concerto. Spring camp will be used to perfect that showing and prepare for this fall’s performance.

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