A Changed Group

Boise State's secondary looks to be a much-improved unit thanks to new ideas from a fresh coaching staff, especially from Coach Marcel Yates.

They're back!

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."

Safeties

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.

Experienced 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.

Other back-up 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. 

Cornerbacks

Orlando 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.

The starter 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.

Other key 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.

Other 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.

Preferred walk-ons

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.

Shane Henry (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 secondary.

Size matters?

Finally, with 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 squat,
  • Rashaun Scott – 345 lb bench press, and
  • Gerald Alexander - 41.5" vertical jump, and 376 lb hang clean

Also, as noted earlier, Quinton Jones has established himself as the fastest Bronco on the team.

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!

 

 

 


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