Spring Ball Preview: Defensive Line

<p>Gone is 2003 All WAC defensive-end Julius Roberts but the cupboard is hardly bare. From this vantage point it appears that Bronco D-Line Coach Romeo Bandison should be smiling as the fruits of a consistent recruiting philosophy appear to be paying off on the defensive line.</p><p>This year the Broncos return their most experienced D-Line in the Hawkins era with three starters and three more guys who all played significant minutes in at least ten games in 2004.</p>

While JRob's senior year didn't result in the same accolades he earned as a junior, attribute it to frequent double teams and several games lost to injury. According to Coach Bandison, Julius continues to work out and will participate in timing drills for pro scouts when they are on campus this spring. Good luck to JRob.

The D-Line Environment for 2005

Coach Hawkins (Hawk Talk, KTIK, 3-9-2005) has said that he would like to see 12 guys ready to play on the D-Line so that we could constantly be sending strong, fresh players into the game. Minimally, he wants 5 ends and 5 tackles ready to go at all times. So even with three very experienced players returning at tackle and 3 more at end, there is plenty of opportunity for all the D-Line guys to show that they can contribute.

Even though the Broncos are returning quite a bit of experience, D-Line Coach Bandison says there are plenty of things to work on in spring ball. The coaches' primary efforts will be directed towards correcting flaws exposed by studying tape from 2004 and evaluating players for potential contributions in 2005. As part of that effort, individual players are watching plenty of film to see where they can improve both in their techniques and in reading keys. And that doesn't even count time spent in the weight room. Due to diligent off-season weight training under the watchful eye of strength coach Jeff Pitman, the D-Line hogs return almost universally heavier and definitely stronger.

Coach B assured me that "guys who aren't working hard during the off-season will be exposed." But don't even think about including Alex Guerrero, Andrew Browning, Mike G Williams, Nick Schlekeway, Mike Dominguez, and Tim Volk in the group that will be exposed for lack of effort. They are expected to form the core of the defensive line in 2005.

The Core Group at DT

Senior Alex Guerrero (6-1,293) returns for his third season as a starter after earning time as a true freshman in 2002. Alex, fresh off a PR of 600 pounds in the back squat at Coach Pit's winter graduation ceremony, appears to be the emotional leader of the D-Line. Add in 46 total tackles with 8.5 of them for losses in 2004 plus a few more pounds of muscle and it evokes images of the original immovable object.

Under-tall but not short on heart, junior Andrew Browning (6-0,278) returns opposite Guerrero after earning a starting DT position as a sophomore in 2004. Coach Bandison describes Andrew as someone who "leads by example, works very hard, and takes great pride in his play." Andrew had 31 total tackles with 4.5 for losses last season--expect no less from him in 2005.

Sophomore Nick Schlekeway (6-4, 261), who earned time as a true freshman in 2004, returns for his second season with his 4.00 GPA and at least 10 pounds more muscle. This is a guy who wants to be on the field. Nick played in 11 games last season and not only had 15 tackles but had 2 pass break-ups--suggesting that he already reads the plays quite well.

 

Alex Guerrero

Andrew Browning

 

Nick Schlekeway

The Core Group at DE

Junior Mike G Williams (6-3, 244) started as a redshirt freshman in 2003 and returned in 2004 to post 40 total tackles with 4 for losses and 2.5 sacks. Mike G is a force off the edge and he should be even better next season partly due to more competition for playing time.

Mike G Williams

 

Mike Dominguez

Tim Volk

Mike Dominguez (6-2,251) played in all 12 games last season accumulating 13 tackles, three of them for losses. He also saw action as the long snapper where he will likely perform again in 2005. Mike D has gained about 10 pounds since last season—Coach Pitman strikes again.

Tim Volk (6-3, 260 PICTURED ABOVE, TOP) is listed a few pounds lighter than his arrival weight but he is no doubt stronger after his first year in Pit's weight room. Blessed with a pair of really strong legs, Tim is more than capable of turning plays to the inside. Look for even greater contributions than the 14 tackles (2.5 for loss) that Tim collected in 11 games last year.

Look out for These Guys

In the past 2 recruiting seasons, the Broncos have brought in 8 D-Line guys. Dan Gore, Ian Smart, and Jeff Biederman arrived in the fall of 2003. Jeff moved to the O-Line but Dan and Ian look like they are ready to get in the mix at the tackle spot. In 2004 the Broncos recruited Nick Schlekeway who played as a true freshman, DEs Sean Bingham and Mike T Williams, and DTs Phillip Edwards and Joe Bozikovich.

Sophomore Dan Gore (6-4,281) has gained over 30 pounds since arriving from Prosser, WA. He saw action in four games in 2004 and he should be well versed in the Bronco D after two years in the fold. Sophomore Ian Smart (6-3,277) was a late recruit in 2003 and has had some injury problems that kept him from the field. But now it appears he is healthy and ready to build on the two games he played in last season.

Mike G Williams will likely be backed up by redshirt freshman Mike T Williams (6-4/240) from Natomas HS in Sacramento. Coach Bandison says Mike T has a nose for the ball and fans should expect him to make some exciting plays in 2005 but (isn't there always a but?) he'll have to take care of gap responsibilities first. Mike T has gained 25 pounds since first showing up on campus and even Coach Hawkins mentioned that he was interested in seeing Mike T in spring ball after causing problems on scout team last season. Hawk says Mike T is very fast off the edge so he could be the rush DE that fans have been yearning to watch.

 

Mike T Williams

Ian Smart

Dan Gore

 

Joe Bozikovich (6-1, 283) from Woodrow Wilson HS in Portland, Oregon was a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year in the tough Portland Interscholastic League. He has gained over 20 pounds since arriving in Boise and looks to be cut in the mold of Alex Guerrero.

Joe Bozikovich

Phillip Edwards

Sean Bingham

Erik Brunken

Phillip Edwards (6-4, 266) from Cypress HS in Cypress, CA, has trimmed a few pounds since showing up in Bronco blue and orange, no doubt thanks to Coach Pitman. Phillip is multi-talented, having been named MVP of the track and field team in high school as well as catching 10 passes at tight end. Transferring those skills to the D-Line suggests Phillip will be an active, mobile DT. One Bronco Country admin, after seeing Phillip in the first day of spring ball, forecast he will see plenty of action on the D-Line and maybe in the opponent's backfield.

Sean Bingham (6-3, 244) from Reno HS in Reno, NV has gained 12 pounds, no doubt mostly muscle after nearly a year in Pit's weight room. Sean is another Bronco who was a team captain in high school so he likely will provide leadership too.

Sophomore walk-on Erik Brunken (6-2,255) from Tigard, OR, also returns with and no doubt plans to be in the mix at tackle. Maybe Erik will be another of the great stories in the tradition of walk-ons at Boise State.

The Wild Card

One of the most anticipated recruits from the 2005 class is JC defensive-end Dennis Ellis from College of the Canyons—the 2004 JC National Champions with a 14-0 record. Dennis was named first team All-American at Canyons after recording 91 tackles and 18.5 sacks (yes 18.5). Originally from Cleveland, TX, Dennis first committed to Texas A&M out of HS but didn't qualify and bounced to 2 JCs before signing with the Broncos. He played linebacker in HS and recorded 100 tackles, 20 for loss as a senior plus he rushed for 750 yards and 8 TDs including an 81-yarder. Dennis Ellis is truly a physical talent with the speed to play on the edge and the size and strength to play inside. Unfortunately, Dennis is not here for spring ball since he was not eligible to transfer at mid-year. This spring he is enrolled in all the classes he needs to complete his AA so expect him to show up in the summer and be a force in the fall. The only thing that might hold him back is how fast he picks up the Bronco schemes.


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