Andy Avalos, Sr.; Tim Hefty, Sr.; Chris Barrios, Jr.; Ben Chuckovich, Jr.; Korey Hall, So.; Jared Hunter, So.; Colt Brooks, So.; Chris Hansen So
Mike Altieri, RFr.; Josh Bean, RFr.; Matt Erdman, RFr.; Alain Karapateyan, RFr.; Royce Robertson, RFr.; Shawn Robson, Jr.; Colin Wiest, RFr.
Casey Herron, Fr.; Kyle Gingg, Fr.; Dallas Dobbs, Fr.
Travis Burgher OLB
Returning starter Andy Avalos
Despite returning only four upperclassmen, the linebackers look to be the strength of the defense in 2004. Back to anchor the linebackers are a pair of All-WAC performers and the two leading tacklers from last year's squad.
Returning starter Korey Hall
First team All-WAC linebacker, and Pre-Season WAC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Andy Avalos (5-10, 225, Sr.) returns as the defensive leader and one of three team captains. A three-year starter, Avalos lead the Bronco defense in 2003 with 99 tackles, 8 for loss and 2 fumble recoveries. In 2002, Avalos lead the team with 107 tackles. A stronger front four may cut down on the total number of tackles this year, but Avalos will likely return as an All-WAC performer and should get serious consideration for WAC defensive player of the year. Look for Tim Hefty (6-2, 208, Sr.) and Chris Hansen (5-11, 210, So.) to back up Avalos.
Honorable mention All-WAC middle linebacker Korey Hall (6-0, 228, So.) returns to patrol the middle. Hall was number two in tackles last year, but first in big hits. He amassed 85 tackles, 3 sacks and 1 fumble recovery, along with a highlight hit of the year on BYU quarterback John Berry. Chris Barrios (5-10, 221, Jr.) returns as Hall's backup.
Possible Replacements for Burgher:
With Avalos and Hall returning to their starting positions, the most anticipated battle this spring will be for the outside linebacker spot vacated by departing senior and second team All-WAC player Travis Burgher. Sophomore Jared Hunter (6-4, 220, So.) would have likely pushed Burgher for playing time last fall had it not been for a freakish broken leg suffered midway through the season. Hunter is reportedly still on the mend, but there are others waiting in the wings to make their marks and compete for the starting spot regardless of when Hunter returns to playing shape. Besides the already mentioned Chris Barrios, Tim Hefty, and Chris Hansen, the group of potential replacements also includes Ben Chuckovich (6-0, 205, Jr.) who earned playing time behind Burgher and Colt Brooks (6-0, 203 Fr.), a special teams contributor and local product from Bishop Kelly High School.
Recent speculation by some fans has Junior Safety Cam Hall (6-0, 210, Jr.) moving to Linebacker to take over Burgher's spot. From his nickel back position, Hall, one of the fastest Broncos, finished ninth on the team with 35 tackles, including 4 for loss, two sacks, three interceptions and a blocked punt for a touchdown. Spring practices should provide a glimpse into whether there's any truth to the rumors.
The wild card of the group going into spring camp is Canadian phenom Josh Bean (6-2, 225, RFr.). The coaches seriously considered playing him as a true freshman last year, but decided at the last minute to hold him out. Bean is big, strong, talented athlete with a nose for the ball carrier. It will be difficult to keep Bean off the field and he will push the starters for playing time.
Bean is just one of several young, talented players and the future of the linebacker position looks bright at Boise State. This stable of young linebackers is eagerly awaiting the start of spring practices to show the coaches they are ready to step up and compete for playing time. With seven players coming off a redshirt or transfer year, the competition for backup spots and special teams spots looks to be very competitive. Bronco fans will want to keep track of this group of seven and see how they progress during the spring and into fall camp.
Other's to know:
Alain Karapateyan (6-1, 225, Fr.). Karapateyan, a product of Chatsworth, California, was receiving recruiting interest from major programs before suffering an injury his senior year. When the big schools left, the Broncos swept in and took a chance on him. A walk-on who joined the team for the Fort Worth Bowl, we anticipate the gamble will return huge dividends.
Mike Altieri (6-1, 195, Fr.). A name familiar to all Bronco fans, Mike was an outstanding quarterback at Vista High School who is looking to make his mark on the defensive side of the ball.
Royce Robertson (6-0, 210, Fr.). An invited walk-on from Kent, Washington.
Colin Wiest (5-11, 205, Fr.). An invited walk-on from Eugene, Oregon.
Shawn Robson (5-11, 195, Jr.). A walk-on transfer originally from Driggs, Idaho.
Brock Drake (5-10, 210, Fr.). A local product from Weiser, Idaho.
Matt Erdman (5-11, 195, Fr.). A favorite of the BroncoCountry.com staff, and a walk-on from Bayard, Nebraska.
Despite the depth of the young linebacking corps, the coaching staff found three players that they could not pass up. It is expected that these players will spend some quality time with the strength coach and use their redshirt year to learn the system and adjust to the college game.
Kyle Gingg (5-10, 200, Fr), an outstanding student from Phoenix Arizona ran a 4.51 at the Nike Camp last summer. He was named the 1A-3A Player of the Year in Arizona and was a first-team, All-Arizona, first-team, All-Fever, first-team, All-Region linebacker. A three-year starter, he compiled a school-record 342 tackles.
Dallas Dobbs (6-2, 215, Fr.), graduated from Chaparral High School in Las Vegas, Nevada and immediately left on an LDS mission. Dobbs was a first-team, all-conference defensive back as both a junior and senior and as the team captain, led the team in tackles his senior year. He enrolled at Boise State in January and will participate in spring practice.
Casey Herron (6-1, 221, Fr.). The Broncos reached east and snagged a four-year letterman from Limon, Colorado. A team captain and student body president at Limon High School, Herron fits the Bronco mold of a hard-working, hard-hitting linebacker. Although from a small school, Herron expects to make a name for himself at Boise State.