The way the Broncos play defense requires 1 thing above all others... and that is capable corners who can not only defend the pass, but also make sure-handed open field tackles. Rarely does a Bronco corner have any help.. he's out there on his island with a WR, and it's his job to make sure that all the blitzing doesn't result in long pass plays. Thankfully, over the past couple of years, the Bronco have been blessed with 2 of the best cover corners ever to play at Boise State. (Julius Brown and Gabe Franklin.) Gabe returns for his senior season, but for the first time in a couple years, who will be opposite him is a mystery. Logic would dictate that it will be last years #1 CB backup, Gerald Alexander, however early reports from Spring Ball have Chris Carr taking reps at CB, and new JC Transfer Marcosus LeBlanc has the credentials to make some noise if given the chance, and that list doesn't even include the Freshmen coming off redshirt. In other words.. there's a lot of time between now and September, and who lines up opposite Gabe could come down to the last practice before the Idaho game. With that as a backdrop, lets look at the cast of characters who vying for playing time.
Bronco CB Gabe Franklin
Franklin (Sr. 5'10 185lbs)
Gabe has become something of a dynasty player for the Broncos. A starter since his RSFR season, he IS the prototypical cover corner. With instincts and reactions that are perfectly suited for the position, he is also a very, very reliable tackler. The only knock on Gabe is that he has always seemed to have a slump during the middle of the season. Whether that's because of a more aggressive defensive alignment that puts all the pressure on the DB's, or whether it's a matchup problem since he usually draws oppositions best WR, he seems to have 2-3 average games, and then come alive toward the last 1/3 of the season. What should be clarified, however, is that a slumping Gabe is still an All-WAC performer. Gabe ended the season last year 4th on the team in tackles with 74, he also had 16 passes defended and 3 INT's.
The loss of Julius Brown will put even more pressure on Gabe, but he has shown the talent, heart, and intelligence to take it in stride. Anything less than an All-WAC 1st Team season would be a disappointment.
Bronco CB Gerald Alexander
(Soph, 5'11 185lbs)
Gerald had a wonderful spring a year ago and that catapulted him into the playing rotation, and at one time, made him the favorite for the Nickel Back spot. He ended up losing the nickel spot to Cam Hall, but Gerald was always the first CB off the bench. Gerald ended the season last year with 20 tackles and 1 INT, (shown left). Coming into Spring Ball, Gerald has to be the favorite to take over for JBrown.. but with the addition of 3 new players into the mix, (Marcosus LeBlanc, Rashaun Scott and Austin Smith) as well as a floating Chris Carr could put a crimp into GA's plans.
Gerald also has the distinction of owning the best Vertical Jump on the Bronco team, an extremely impressive 40.5 inches. One thing is for sure in all this, regardless of who starts, Gerald will see plenty of playing time as he has shown that he is simply too talented to sit.
RSFR Austin Smith
Smith (RSFR, 5'9 165lbs)
Not much is known about Smith. He is rumored to be a pure cover corner with great instincts and good playing speed. As a senior in HS, he was a first-team all-league defensive back and the league offensive most valuable player, as well as being named first-team all-county, first-team All-CIF, and first-team All-Southern Section. People familiar with California High Schools will be impressed by those stats alone. His Senior season, he finished with 97 tackles and six interceptions on defense, however, even more impressive was his Junior season when he was named first-team all-league and first-team all-county as a defensive back with 110 tackles and eight interceptions. That gives him 207 tackles and 14 INT's in his last 2 seasons of HS football.
Scott (RSFR, 5'10 175lbs)
Speed. Rashaun, (Anthony) Scott's name should be synonymous with speed for Bronco fans. Rashaun may be the first legit 4.3 player for the Broncos, and has been timed at an even more astounding 4.29. He ran a 4.31 three times in a row at one pre-season combine. With that kind of speed, it is hardly a stretch to say that Rashaun could see the field for the Broncos right away. Not a 1-trick pony, Scott is not just fast, but strong as he bested all the other DB's including Upper Classmen at both CB and S with a very impressive 320lb Bench Press.
While a Senior in HS, he was named the most valuable defensive player in his
league, as well as earning all-city, all-league, and All-Southern Nevada
recognition. He finished the year with 67 tackles, three interceptions (one
returned for a touchdown), three sacks, and one fumble recovery.
We put these players under this classification because, quite frankly, they're so versatile that we don't know if they'll be playing CB or S in the fall.
S/CB/PR/KR... Chris Carr
Carr (Sr, 5'9 180lbs)
Another in a long line of excellent Safeties at Boise State, Carr is listed here instead of with the Safeties because of recent sightings of him working out with the CB's during the first couple of weeks of Spring Ball. Carr is the type of player who could excel at either CB or S. A former Nevada Offensive POTY, those that have seen him return punts and Kickoffs know that he could easily excel on the offensive side of the ball as well. Carr single-handedly sunk Nevada this past season, with 3 INT's against his home-state team. For the season, he finished with 71 tackles (5th on the team) and 4 INT's (2nd on the team).
Carr joins Marcosus LeBlanc as interesting DB prospects. They are seemingly interchangeable at either CB or S, and are too talented to keep off the field.
Regardless of where Carr ends up on the Defensive Backfield, he will almost assuredly be a starter as he is simply that good. Also look for him to take over for Tim Gilligan as the Punt Returner, and to keep his spot on Kickoff returns.
(Jr, 5'11 185lbs)
Marcosus joined the Bronco squad in January as a JC. Originally a University of Colorado commit out of HS, Marcosus is a big hitter who owned the defensive backfield for 2 seasons at Compton Community College. He has the speed and reflexes to play CB, but the hitting power and mentality of a S, which makes Marcosus a very intriguing CB prospect. "I love to hit and am a physical player," said LeBlanc when asked about his style. "I'm kind of an 'in your face' guy. Expect to see a smart physical, confident guy out there making plays." Making plays is what he did last season as he was the Western States player of the week for the week of November 17, 2003 when he had 8 unassisted tackles, 2 Passes defended, and an INT against LA Harbor CC. He finished last season with 70 tackles and 21 pass breakups for Compton and 8 interceptions in his JUCO career.
A testament to his playing ability comes from the schools that were after him once he'd decided Boise State was where he wanted to play. LeBlanc committed over interest from Arizona State, Washington, Kansas State, Iowa State and Nevada, among others. He'll have 3 years to play 2 starting this fall, so if he needs time to adjust to the speed of D1 ball, there is that option, however it's not a very likely scenario at this point.
RSFR Ashlei Nyong-Dunham
Nyong-Dunham (RSFR 5'10 185lbs)
AN-D went into his Senior season in HS with a lot of hype and recruiting interest, but was injured at the beginning of the season and fell off the radar for a lot of teams. Luckily, not for the Broncos. He was a three-year varsity starter at Luther Burbank High School. He was named first-team All-Metro after his junior season when he scored 12 touchdowns, had 700 yards receiving and five interceptions. He was the team captain at Luther Burbank during his senior season. Reportedly N-D is more of a Safety, but also has the ability to play corner. As of right now he projects out as a Safety, but that could change as things get a little more clear with Spring ball.
Soph. Chad McKibben
McKibben (Soph. 5'9 165lbs)
A local walk-on, (Capital HS-Boise, ID), McKibben made a name for himself on Special Teams last year and should look to do the same this season. His prospects of breaking into the playing rotation are slim, but then again we said the same thing about Brad Allen last season, and all he did was lead the team in Sacks with 4 for -31 yards. One thing we should've all learned by now is to never count out the Idaho walk-ons.
Jones (Sr. 5'8 180lbs)
A JC-Transfer walk-on. could see time on Special Teams, but will have a hard time breaking into the playing rotation in the Bronco Dbackfield.
Another local walk-on, (Mountain Home HS-Mountain Home, ID). Redshirted last season. Relative unknown at this point, but doesn't factor into the playing rotation.
Last years Nickelback, Cam Hall
(Jr. 6'0 210lbs)
One of the fastest Broncos, (4.45-40), Cam came into his own last season as the Nickel Back for the Broncos. He should slip into the spot vacated by Wes Nurse without much of a drop-off.. that is if he isn't moved around to another position, say... LB'r. (There's that pesky rumor floating around again.) While a bit undersized at only 210lbs, Cam is all muscle, as he has the best strength marks for all DB's in both the Power Clean, (347lbs) and the Hang Clean, (357lbs). With strength like that, is it any wonder that there's speculation about moving him to LB'r?
He finished last season with 35 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 INT's. Not bad for someone who was relegated to passing downs. He also blocked 3 kicks, and recovered a blocked punt for a TD against BYU.
Look for Cam to make his presence felt next year for the Broncos, especially if Chris Carr is moved to CB. That would likely make Cam the seasoned veteran at S, which would put a lot more pressure on his shoulders, but as he showed last season, he is more than qualified to take over. Cam should tie up one S spot.. but who has the inside track at the other?
(Sr, 6'1 185lbs)
Deshan has steadily improved over his 4 seasons at Boise State. When he has gotten the chance to play he has been very successful. Deshan played in every game over the past 2 seasons either as a backup S or on special teams. Last season he ended the season with 17 tackles, 1 pass breakup, and 1 blocked kick. This is his last chance to see significant playing time, and he is right in the thick of the hunt for a spot in the playing rotation. Regardless of where he ends up in the playing rotation, he will most likely still be a mainstay of the Special Teams as he has become one of the best Special Team's players for the Broncos.
RSFR Duran Cooley
Cooley (RSFR 6'0 205lbs)
Last years 'big get' for the Defensive Backfield, Cooley was a HS "Preseason DB to watch" out of Los Angeles' Cathedral HS. He was initially recruited by a number of Pac-10 teams, but ended up choosing the Broncos over offers from Colorado State, Hawaii, and Utah, (among others).
Cooley is big, strong, and fast. He has good hands but also is a very physical player. He excelled on both sides of the ball in HS. As a junior, he picked off nine passes, returning four for touchdowns to earn All-City honors. As a Senior, (after transferring schools), he had 65 tackles, four interceptions, forced six fumbles, and returned two kicks and two punts for touchdowns. He was named the team's defensive most valuable player. (Forced 6 fumbles.. sounds a lot like a former Bronco/current Philadelphia Eagle.. I seem to remember.)
Cooley should push for playing time right out of the gate, and don't be too
surprised if you see him on the field along side Cam Hall come August.
This group doesn't factor into the race yet, but a couple of them are good enough to warrant serious consideration despite their lack of knowledge about the Bronco defensive scheme.
(Fr 5'11 180lbs) (Safety/Rover)
Could be THE 'get' of the recruiting season. Not only received interest from the Pac-10, but turned down multiple offers to join the Broncos. A big time player who simply dominated at the highest level of competition in HS. Would probably benefit from a RS year, but can the Broncos stand to let him?
(Fr 5'11 165lbs) (Corner Back)
Another big-time 'get' for the Broncos, Barmer is a burner at CB. Chose the Broncos over Colorado State and Utah. Barmer had the top time in the 20yard shuttle at the Ultra-competitive SoCal Nike Camp, (3.87). Barmer has run a sub 4.3 40, (4.28), and plans on running track at Boise State.
(6'0 171lbs) (Corner Back)
Very quiet 'get' who should pay big dividends. Ended his Sr. season in HS with over 120 tackles, 4 INT's and 4 sacks. A little bigger than the usual Bronco CB, Richards is very versatile, being able to move from CB to S. Also very intelligent recruit who played QB in HS like Gerald Alexander.
(5'11 190lbs) (Safety)
Chose the Broncos over offers from SJSU and Nevada, and interest from Oregon. Finished Sr. season with 58 tackles and 2 INT's. Was a 2-year all league performer.