Quick – how many WAC teams return their
entire starting secondary? Answer: just
one – Boise State. That's right, the Broncos are the only team in
the conference with all four starters back – senior Gerald Alexander (6-0,
204), juniors Marty Tadman (5-11, 182), and Austin Smith (5-9, 173), and sophomore
Orlando Scandrick (5-11, 187). A common
thread among this foursome is that each saw action as a freshman. This group accounts for 56 games started for
the Broncos. That's a significant advantage
in a pass-happy Western Athletic Conference loaded with talented returning quarterbacks.
Additionally, this group includes four
of the defense's top six returning tacklers.
However, there's also a new philosophy engulfing the Boise State secondary. It'll be exciting to see how the returning
experience and new philosophy mesh.
Let's get physical!
Secondary coach Marcel
Yates has been outspoken about his desire to build a more physical Boise State secondary comprised
of heavy hitters to dominate opposing offenses. With this philosophy in mind, Coach Yates has moved
two starters to new positions. Starting
rover Austin Smith and starting corner Gerald Alexander have switched positions.
This move puts a physically bigger
player in Alexander at the rover safety.
Head coach Chris
Peterson sums it this way: "Safeties just have to make so many tackles for us
that we need a bigger presence in there. We already know Gerald (Alexander) can go out
and play the toughest position on the field, corner, so if we can get some
other guys to step up there and man the edges then we can move Gerald inside
and be a little more physical."
The move to
rover teams Alexander with free safety Marty Tadman. Alexander, a two-year starter at corner,
accounted for a team-high 13 pass breakups last year. Reportedly, the transition to rover has been
smooth for Alexander, a more natural position to him than cornerback. Tadman is an All-WAC playmaker that led the Broncos with
five interceptions last year, including one for a TD against Hawai'i.
Tadman also finished with 101 tackles – second only to middle linebacker
Korey Hall's team-leading 106 tackles. Both
Alexander and Tadman are exceptional athletes.
Look for this duo to be the best in the WAC this year.
depth at safety took a hit this spring with the departure of key reserve Ashlei Nyong-Dunham. However, Coach Yates
recently announced plans to slide starting corner Orlando Scandrick into the
nickel safety spot when the Broncos field five defensive backs. Immediate backups to the starters will be
Ellis Powers (5-10, 205) and possibly John Barry Van Hoogen (6-2, 211). Powers is a hard-hitting sophomore that saw
action in all 13 games last year. Powers
was a regular in the Broncos' nickel and dime packages. He'll continue to see major action this
season. Van Hoogen, a sophomore who redshirted last year after transferring from Shasta Junior College, is also a candidate to see action.
The former Borah High School star possesses the size desired at
safety and performed well during his redshirt
year. Similarly, freshman Seth Anderson is
another big (6-2, 193) local player coming off a redshirt
year. At Bishop Kelly HS Anderson was 1st
team all-state twice and conference defensive player-of-the-year as a senior.
Given Boise State's history of playing talented
freshmen, possible active reserves must also include this year's recruits Jason Robinson (6-0, 185) and Jeron Johnson (5-11, 190). Both have impressive backgrounds. Robinson was his high school's starting QB – a
trait shared with Bronco safeties Alexander and Van Hoogen and valued by the
Bronco staff. It's extremely beneficial
for a safety to possess the experience and in-depth understanding of running an
offense. It doesn't hurt that Robinson
was also all-league four straight years and the 2005 3A Los Angeles City Player
of the Year. Johnson in his own right is
a two-time San Gabriel Valley League Defensive MVP as evidenced by two-year
totals of 266 tackles, eight sacks, three interceptions,
nine forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and three defensive touchdowns. These freshmen are talented.
possibilities could even include additional players currently slotted to play
cornerback. Obviously Austin Smith, last
year's starting rover could be considered, as could Kyle Wilson who was
originally planned to play safety for the Broncos.
Scandrick (5-11, 187) came to Boise State last fall as a highly-touted true
freshman. He did not disappoint and ended
up starting 11 games. His play at
cornerback and on special teams was highlighted by TD returns of a blocked punt
and interception, and a game-winning return of a blocked PAT for 2 points. Scandrick also accounted for 11 pass
breakups. Pretty spectacular for his
first year as a Bronco. Clearly Scandrick
has the talent to be one of the best corners to ever play for Boise State and that's saying something. Look for a monster year from Scandrick.
opposite Scandrick looks to be the winner of a three-way battle between Austin
Smith (5-9, 173), senior Quinton Jones (5-9,
177), and freshman Kyle Wilson (5-10, 186). Based on experience, the early leaders would
look to be Smith and Jones. Smith as a
starter at rover has shown a penchant for making plays as evidenced by his
fumble recovery and ensuing TD scamper against Idaho. Smith was also the second leading tackler
among the defensive backs. Although
undersized, he's simply been too good to keep off the field. Jones made the transition to cornerback last
year and saw substantial action – even starting a couple of games. With his first year at cornerback behind him,
look for Jones to be vastly improved. Jones
is also the fastest Bronco, an All-American punt returner and big-play
specialist at tailback. Jones is a
legitimate threat to score anytime he touches the ball, whether he's on
defense, offense, or special teams. Wilson came to Boise State from New Jersey with a reputation as an
electrifying player with major talent. Wilson's play on the scout team while redshirting has done nothing to diminish his reputation. Whoever doesn't start from this group will
undoubtedly see significant action regardless.
reserves at corner include junior Rashaun Scott (5-10, 194), and junior Ia Falo
(5-7, 167). While not considered a
candidate to start, Scott nonetheless has considerable experience over the last
two years as a reserve corner and special teams player. Scott should continue to contribute measurably
in a reserve role. Falo, out of Mountain Home HS, has been a
special teams demon for Boise State, being named special
teams scout player of the year in 2004 and honored with the Denny Erickson
Award this past season. The former
walk-on has been awarded a scholarship for his contributions and should be a
force as a "gunner" on punt coverage.
possibilities at corner include freshmen Tristan Patin (5-9, 166) and Keith McGowen (5-10, 165). Patin an all-CIF
football player and track star from Los Angeles is coming off a red-shirt year. McGowan, a true freshman from the Los Angeles area, is another special teams
wizard that excelled in football and track.
Boise State has a history of walk-ons becoming
not only great Broncos, but NFL pros as well. Recognizing this fact, the off-season addition
of several preferred walk-on defensive backs is noteworthy:
Evan Surratt (6-3, 190) is a two-year starter from Newhall, CA who caught 96 passes
for 1929 yards and 18 TD's as a WR, plus made 7 interceptions playing cornerback
part-time. Surratt was heavily recruited
prior to injuring an ankle his senior year. Surratt is planned to play safety for Boise State.
(5-9, 185) from Anaheim, CA, posted the top SPARQ score in the nation in 2005
scoring 108.26 points. SPARQ (for speed,
power, agility, reaction and quickness) is a nationally-recognized program
consisting of a series of tests to measure overall athletic ability. Henry ran a 4.3 40 yard dash, a 4.0 shuttle,
posted a vertical jump of 41.2", and bench pressed 185 lbs 22 times. Henry is a strong defensive back candidate,
but could play either offense or defense for Boise State.
Darrell Wilson (6-1, 200) is a big WR/DB and track star from Ontario, CA.
J.D. Aylward (6-0, 165) is a triple threat QB/RB/DB from Bellevue, WA who may end up in the Bronco
Coach Yates' plan for a more physical secondary, is the Boise State secondary too small? Well, yes and no. The off-season Alexander/Smith position
switch was clearly designed to enhance the type of play envisioned from the
rover position. In this instance,
increased size provides benefit. However,
one shouldn't necessarily infer from this move that the Boise State secondary is not big enough or good
enough elsewhere. While size is a plus,
the bottom line is ability comprised of the combination of athleticism, smarts,
speed, strength, and quickness. Some of
the best defensive backs in Boise State history – guys named Frank Robinson,
Rashid Gayle, Dempsey Dees, Gabe Franklin and Chris Carr, were all
"undersized". Robinson was, and Carr is,
undersized in the NFL too. With this in
mind, some off-season accomplishments of current Bronco defensive backs are notable. The following have set overall team or
position records in strength and conditioning:
- Austin Smith - 515 lb back
- Rashaun Scott – 345 lb bench
- Gerald Alexander - 41.5"
vertical jump, and 376 lb hang clean
noted earlier, Quinton Jones has established himself as the fastest Bronco on
All of the
Bronco defensive backs should be commended for their continuous hard work and the
incredible effort they bring to the playing field. 2006 looks to be a great season for the Boise State secondary!