Hall and Brooks set standards for the 2010 crew to strive for. With the strength of Boise State's defensive line, that should allow this group's performance to be off the charts.
This Bronco unit is unique in that it is more of a linebacking-by-committee than featuring two distinct starters. In fact, there are seven game-ready linebackers that could be rotated in and out as game situations warrant.
J.C. Percy (6-0, 214, So.) emerged as an incredible freshman with 64 stops (second on the team) and 4.5 tackles for loss. He was voted as BroncoCountry's Freshman of the Year for all sports at Boise State. Percy (6-0, 220) earned several starts and played regularly, mostly on the weakside, although he is big and tough enough to play in the middle. Percy is extremely smart and fast, enabling him to recognize the play and be in position before the play develops.
Weakside linebacker Aaron Tevis (6-3,228, Jr.) was fourth on the team with 54 tackles, including 6.5 for loss with 1.5 sacks. Tevis has the talent to lead the team in tackles. Aaron is quick and agile and goes full-speed ahead on every play, looking to create the turnover or make the tackle. He is solid on coverage; he had an interception against Jeremiah Masoli of Oregon. Tevis has the size, range and power to perform at the next level. Aaron will always follow the play to the end and is usually in on the tackle.
Derrell Acrey (6-1, 235, Sr.) is a tough, spirited leader of the defense. Perhaps he was trying to do too much in his first season but the game slowed down for him last year and Acrey was able to be the force that he was projected to be at Boise State. He had 34 tackles, 5.5 for loss last season. Acrey has great hands and is adept in pass coverage. Derrell has the speed, strength and size to do even more this season.
Hunter White will play on the strongside again this year. White (5-11, 224, Jr.) made 37 tackles with 4.5 for loss and added an interception. White is a former high school wide receiver that uses his speed and athleticism to quickly converge on the ball carrier. White is a tough, big-hitter who, like Acrey and Tevis, has yet to realize his full potential.
Daron Mackey (5-11, 233, Sr.) started eight games last year but was suspended for at least a portion of fall camp. He has great raw athletic ability but needs to convert it to the playing field. A little-known fact: It was Mackey that was right behind Billy Winn for the safety on Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount. Had Winn not made the tackle, Mackey would have. Daron made 191 tackles in two years at Bakersfield College and 271 in two years in high school. Mackey is always around the ball and his presence his needed for the Broncos to be the team that they can be.
Yet another linebacker is converted defensive lineman Byron Hout (6-0, 241, Jr.). Hout has excellent speed and this is probably is natural position. He follows his instincts and gets to the play where he delivers punishing hits. Hout also excels in pass coverage. Tommy Smith (6-1, 218, So.) has already impressed us and should get more playing time this season.
Allen Mooney (5-10, 211, RFr) is from last year's recruiting class and we'll get a chance to see what he can do this season. Expect Mooney to star on special teams and get some action at linebacker as well. Hazen Moss (5-11, 196, So.) and juniors Dave Wilson (6-1, 222) and Matt Wilson (6-1, 212) are also looking to make some noise this fall.
I'll mention the hybrid position as well here. He will play, as the name suggests, both as a semi-linebacker against the run and as a defensive back against the pass. Nickel back Winston Venable (5-11, 223, Sr.) was a huge surprise last season and his play was one of the key reasons Boise State enjoyed a perfect season. Venable's dependable play enabled Doug Martin to move to tailback when injuries decimated that position. Winston made big play after big play for the Broncos. Venable not only had a pick six for the first score of the game against Fresno State but also made a flying, highlight-reel stop of Bulldog quarterback Ryan Colburn and secured the 17-10 Fiesta Bowl win over #3 TCU with an interception in the closing seconds.
There are tons of walk-ons at linebacker, which is puzzling since there are basically only two positions. The players mentioned above should get nearly all of the playing time but I will mention the others on the roster.
Junior Alvarado (6-1,225) is a freshman out of Orange Lutheran High School in Santa Ana, California. David Cushing (6-1, 227, Vallivue High School in Caldwell), Darren Lee (6-2, 203, Lassen High School in Susanville, California), Robbie Lusk (6-1, 200, American Fork High School in Utah), Dustin Kamper (6-0, 209, Nampa Christian High School) and Travis Saxton (6-1, 200 from Eagle High School) are the other freshmen linebackers. Of these, Lee is the only player that was part of the recruiting class of 2010.