Turning Up the Pressure

It's the last area, the final frontier on the Bronco team, the last piece of the puzzle before Boise State can advance to being one of the top five or ten teams in the nation. Bronco fans have been screaming for more sacks and backfield pressure from the defensive line. Enter Coach Pete Kwiatkowski and his 2006 Broncos...

Year in and year out, we hear how hard it is to land big time talent on the D Line. There are so few high school players are surefire D1 defensive tackles that they get their pick of schools to attend. And we go into most years not knowing what we're going to see or who will step up. We end up with solid defensive line play, always. One year a Bobby Hammer busts out for us, another year we end up with 4 journeymen that do the Broncos proud without much fanfare.

Last year we were blessed with Alex Guerrero's talent and motor to go with Andrew Browning's total package on the inside and that made a tough combo to block. Double team one and the other eats you for lunch. But Alex is gone, and Andrew Browning needs some help or he'll see double teams all year long. Does that help exist in 2006?

New DL Coach: Pete Kwiatkowski

Enter the Bronco DL legend, and Montana State Defensive Coordinator, Coach K. Kwiatkowski's Bobcat teams had tremendous defenses under his leadership. He was recognized as a coach on the rise and one that was destined for larger programs as a DC. However, his love of Boise and Boise State led him to take our defensive line coaching position and we're damn lucky he did.

A new fire and energy exists with the line this year. They are adding a focus of pressuring the QB to their run-stopping focus of year's past. Coach Wilcox's defensive scheme also changes some this year and his tweaks to a very successful defense require the DL to get less assistance from LB's and Safeties. That means tackles that not only hold their position but it means they need to do that and push into the offensive backfield to see what trouble they can cause. It means defensive ends that contain first but have the explosion to get to the QB when the scheme allows. It's clear that coach K is looking for a more explosive athlete in the trenches and it's clear that the team, overall, is really responding to this change.

The 2-Deep Roster:

One thing is for sure, the cupboard is not bare. Sure, we'd love to have Alex back for another year but Boise State's All-WAC DT, Andrew Browning is not alone. Not by a long shot. There are some names we've been waiting a while to see and there are a couple of new names to look out for in their first year on campus.

Left DE

It took three seasons, but Nick Schlekeway has found his home on the line and he's not giving it up. Bouncing between tackle and end for the past two years as the Bronco's key line reserve player, he has uprooted senior Mike Dominguez from the starting left DE position. Mike will now back up Nick, but like last year, both will see significant minutes.

Schlekeway is a terror with a non-stop motor. He's added significant muscle to his 6'4" frame and is now 262 pounds. He may be a straight A student, but he's a complete monster when he puts the helmet on. I really look forward to the next two years watching this standout junior from Eagle High School. Look for some All-WAC recognition for Nick this year.

Mike Dominguez has been a steady leader on the defensive line for the past two seasons under Coach Collins' defense but he does lack the level of explosiveness that Schlekeway possesses. He'll get plenty of minutes because he rarely makes mistakes or is out of position.

Left Tackle

So who will share the front with Browning? There has been a heated battle for that spot and it's three deep; Dennis Ellis, Phillip Edwards, Ian Smart and the winner (so far) is …..

Phillip Edwards. Now go back in time when big Mr. Edwards was signed. He's a John Madden all-airport kind of guy. He's been 6'4", 270 since he got here. Described as a raw talent at the time, you could tell the coaches thought there was a huge upside to Phillip. He's not a big, slow guy either. He was a tight end in high school, starred on the basketball team and was MVP of the track team. Obviously, coach K likes what he sees in Edwards and we all will too.

It is no small feat to come in and get the #1 spot ahead of impressive Ian Smart (6'3", 278) and the much-heralded Dennis Ellis (6'3", 270) but that is just what Phillip Edwards did. So the battle for #2 and the constant challenge to the #1 spot will come from these 2.

It's starting to look like we're deep at DL, isn't it?

Right Tackle

If you're really looking for playing time, you don't want to have to try to take that PT from Andrew Browning, the starting right tackle. He's a workhorse that doesn't like to come out and who doesn't seem to tire. He's got incredible foot speed for a tackle and he regularly takes on two offensive linemen. If there is one thing we can depend on, it is that Andrew Browning will anchor the line and be recognized as an All-WAC talent again in 2006.

However, he does need a breather now and again and the guy that was going to provide that was going to be junior, big Dan Gore (6'5", 300). That all changed when Gore was assigned to the O Line this week. That leaves whoever doesn't get the left tackle position out of: Edwards, Ellis, Smart, Bozikovich, and newcomers Sionne Tevake and Steven Reveles (both 6/1", 270). These last two, both transfers, have really stepped up in fall ball and both could make the roster.

We're all waiting to hear more from Joe Bozikovich who is rumored to possess a non-stop motor, but cannot seem to stay healthy for too long.

Right Defensive End

The Mike Williams show continues in 2006.

One of the real highlights of the defense so far has been athletic Mike T. Williams flying past offensive linemen and into the QB's grill. The talk amongst the fans is that he just has to be the starter this year. I mean, he's not a freshman anymore so he's the starter right?

Not so fast. Mike G. Williams is not giving his spot up and he still sits atop the depth chart as we move towards the first game. Mike G. is recognized as the more complete player at this time. He's got the assignment game down and is a very good run stopper. He's also a good pass rusher who tallied three sacks last season on a defense not designed to get many sacks. He is as good as almost any DE in the WAC …

However, Mike T. has all-world ability and speed off the edge. If there is an All-WAC first teamer amongst our DE's, it may be Mike T. I predict he'll end up the sack leader on this team and will eventually get more than half the playing time at right side DE.

What can we expect?

Expect some explosive line play. Expect that no team on our schedule will overpower the front. And expect that our secondary will have more freedom to play zone coverage in the secondary and disguise those zones well. In short expect to be surprised by the changed look overall on defense.

Expect to see someone to really step up and get recognized that is not a household name in Boise today. The candidate list is pretty long: Ellis, Edwards. Ryan Winterswyk (walk-on DE, 6'4" 230) that needs some bulk but can't be kept out of the offensive backfield in practices and scrimmages, Tevake and Reveles all have shown signs that they can do just that.

We're not hearing much from Tim Volk this summer and that concerns me. He was a lead candidate for playing time this season and really looked good in spring ball. But there's a hush in camp about Tim. No matter how good things look right now, a healthy Tim Volk only makes things that much better. His strength was an upfield push and that would seemingly fit in perfectly. Hopefully he'll bust out soon.

There will be times, with Schlekeway and Mike T. at the ends, and Browning and Ellis or Edwards inside, that we will be watching the most talented DL in Boise State's history. When it's all said and done this year, Browning and one of our DE's will be first team All-WAC. And down the road, more than one of those guys could end up in the NFL. They have the size and speed to get there, now Coach Kwiatkowski just needs to teach ‘em up and let ‘em loose.

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