Secondary to None

All Boise State fans are aware of Kyle Wilson, who is now starring with the New York Jets of the NFL. But the tradition of the Bronco secondary runs deep.

On the national level, Boise State 's name has become synonymous with high octane offenses, but no unit has delivered more players to Sunday than the secondary. The defensive secondary is the last line of defense – only paydirt and glory stand behind them.  The proliferation of spread and west coast offenses, four and five wide receiver sets, and multiple tight end formations has put more pressure on defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties).  While the average fan might only notice the secondary for the wrong reasons – pass interference penalties and long touchdown throws surrendered - Bronco fans have long noticed this group due to decades of talent nearly impossible to condense into the BroncoCountry 45-day countdown.  

In recent years, Bronco fans have enjoyed following 2010 NY Jets 1st rounder Kyle Wilson lead three regular season undefeated squads.  He started as a freshman against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but many will remembered either the crushing blitz on Andy Dalton in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl or his 71 yard Pick-6 to humble the 2009 Vandals.  Wilson followed a long tradition of Broncos in the secondary making an impact in the return game, averaging 12.6 yards on 63 punt returns, including a 79-yarder for a score against the 2008 Vandals.  He of the dreadlocks was only the most recent installment of spectacular defensive backs to grace The Blue. 

The roots of the return game tradition at Boise State extend at least to "The Riverboat Gambler" himself.  Rick Woods, who patrolled The Blue while it was still green, earned his nickname due to an aversion to fair catches, and went on to play with the Steelers and Buccaneers in the NFL.  Woods' two picks against Jackson State in the 1980 semi-finals set up the epic win against Eastern Kentucky for the I-AA National Championship. 

The ultimate kick returner though was Chris Carr, whose career 19.8 yard punt return and 25.9 yard kickoff return averages are 1st and 2nd respectively all-time in Bronco history.   

The multiple talents of Bronco DB's aren't limited to defense and returns.  In 1991, Frank Robinson stepped in to aid a beleaguered basketball squad.  The 1991 1st team AP All-American and two-time All-Big Sky 1st teamer also showed up on the big stage, with three picks against Northern Iowa in the playoffs.  Robinson finished with 22 career interceptions (2nd) before being a 5th round pick by the Denver Broncos

Further demonstrating the contribution of Bronco defensive backs on special teams, Orlando Scandrick made a career of scoring against Hawaii on kick blocks.  In 2005, Scandrick returned a 3rd quarter Daryn Colledge FG block 69 yards for a TD, giving the Broncos their first lead that day in Honolulu .  Then, with 3:03 to play and the Warriors lining up for a PAT to tie the score at 42, Colledge struck again, and Scandrick scampered the length of the field for 2 points and the 44-41 victory.  It would only be a game, not a career against the Warriors, were it not for Scandrick's scoop of a 2006 muffed PAT snap that he returned en route to 10 career special teams points against the players formerly known as Rainbows.  Scandrick blocked four kicks in 2007 alone.  The true freshman starter concluded his Bronco career after three years by declaring for the 2008 NFL draft, where he was the 5th round selection by the Dallas Cowboys

If some guys made their mark partially in unusual ways, Gerald Alexander certainly made his in spectacular fashion.  His blast on Utah running back Darryl Poston, knocking the Ute's helmet off and mouthpiece out was a precursor to the shutdown defense he rendered on the Oklahoma running game.  Alexander demonstrated typical Bronco versatility by starting at cornerback for a couple years (including 2005 when he lead the team with five interceptions) then moving to safety, the position that made him the 61st pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.    

Secondary glory is often associated with ballhawking, and to find the greatest ballhawk of them all you have to go back to the late ‘60s.  Bronco great Steve Forrey still holds the all-time record for interceptions in a career (24), season (12, 1968) and game (4, Idaho State, 1968).  While glory begins with getting possession of the ball, it's often immortalized with the Pick-6, and none went longer than Tasi Autele's 1993 score at Montana that went 99 yards.  If Autele's was the longest, perhaps the biggest was Marty Tadman's 27-yarder off a Korey Hall tip that extended the 2007 Fiesta Bowl lead to 28-10.  Tadman also registered the 2nd longest Pick-6, a 98 yarder against La Tech in 2006 and his career concluded with a stunning Strip-6 – the 47 yard fumble return to tie the 2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl at 38 with 1:25 to play. 

Of course, the first role of any defender is to stop the ball, and NFL Pro Bowler Quintin Mikell finished 2nd in Bronco history with 401 tackles, including 30 for loss (12th all-time).  Other great tacklers include Kenny Kuehl (332, 8th) and Wes Nurse (294, 14th).     

No discussion of the Secondary can be complete without mention of

·   Rashid Gayle - 1994 2nd team All-American

·   Gabe Franklin - 2004 1st team All-WAC

·   Dempsey Dees - Broncos all-time leader in Rose Bowl interceptions

·   Shaunard Harts - 80 yard Pick-6 in the 34-31 H-Bowl victory over Louisville

·   Quinton Jones - 92 yard punt returns versus Boston College and Hawaii (1st & 1st)

·   Numerous others who valiantly defended Bronco paydirt from the forces of evil

 

The 2010 secondary will surely be a unit to watch.  It features returning starters Brandyn Thompson, who got it all started in Fiesta Bowl2, Winston Venable, who stuffs the run and snuffed the candle against TCU, Jeron Johnson, who didn't earn the nickname Hitman for his friendly demeanor, and George Iloka, who has played in every game since he stepped on campus.  They'll be joined by a wealth of additional talent vying to be immortalized as Bronco bobble heads of the future. 

 


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