Way (WAY) too early Boise State Defensive Depth Chart Projection
This time we look at the Boise State’s defensive unit
Have a look at our projections for the Boise State defensive two-deep
After an 11-3 season with a Mountain West Conference Championship in 2017, the Boise State Broncos find themselves returning a loaded roster on the defensive side of the ball for the 2018 campaign. Despite the loss of Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year, the Broncos defensive unit should be a good one. Here is a way (WAY) too early depth chart and analysis:
|Defensive End||Miles, Durrant SR||Hatada, Chase JR||Rufai, Kayode RS SO|
|Defensive Tackle||Moa, David RS SR||Locher, Matt RS JR||Watson, Jabari RS SO|
|Nose Tackle||Lui, Sonatane JR||Fesili, Emmanuel JR||Igiehon, Scale FR|
|STUD||Weaver, Curtis RS SO||Frazier, Jabril RS SR||Washington, Demitri FR|
|Weak Side Linebacker||Whimpey, Riley SO||Whitney, Sam RS JR||Provenzano, Joe RS SR|
|Middle Linebacker||Maeva, Tyson JR||Wickersham, Benton RS SO||Schramm, DJ FR|
|Nickel||Kaniho, Kekaula SO||Williams, Desmond RS SO||DeRose, Bruno RS SO|
|Cornerback||Horton, Tyler SR||Walker, Jalen RS SO||Mitchell, Chris FR|
|Free Safety||Pierce, DeAndre JR||Happle, Jordan RS SO||LeBeauf, Tyric FR|
|Strong Safety||Nawahine, Kekoa JR||Jones, Tyreque SO||Young, Michael SR|
|Cornerback||Williams, Avery RS SO||Lewis, Robert RS SO||Evans, Marques RS FR|
*Bold Represents 2017 All-Conference Selection
Returning: Weaver (33 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble), Miles (33 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles) Frazier ( 33 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), Moa (21 tackles, 1 sack), Lui (17 tackles), Hatada (12 tackles, 1 sack), Locher (11 tackles, 1 sack), Rufai (6 tackles, 1 sack), Fesili (5 tackles, 1 sack), and Watson (1 tackle)
Departed: Daniel Auelua (11 tackles)
Confidence Rating: A+
Analysis: The Broncos are returning 4 all-conferences selections (Miles was an honorable mention) and losing no key pieces; this is a group to be confident about. Before Leighton Vander Esch exploded it was David Moa that got preseason buzz as a possible early NFL draft entry. While Moa was slowed a bit by some minor off-field issues and injuries, the rest of the group had a tremendous breakout season.
Of note was Curtis Weaver who exploded with 11 sacks as a freshman. While there is some young talent waiting in the wings, it is the starters that the offenses around the Mountain West need to be concerned about. With a healthy Moa and the massive Lui in the middle flanked by Weaver, Miles, and Frazier (all-conference second team); this may be one of the most dominant defensive lines in Boise State history.
Returning: Maeva (84 tackles, 1 sack), Kaniho (30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble), Williams (28 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), Whimpey (17 tackles), Wickersham (16 tackles), Whitney (20 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble), DeRose (7 tackles), and Provenzano (2 tackles)
Departed: Leighton Vander Esch (141 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles) and Gabe Perez (14 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
Confidence Rating: B
Analysis: The numbers that Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year, Leighton Vander Esch, put up were outlandish. The former walk on declared early for the NFL draft after a dominant performance in the MWC Championship Game and Las Vegas Bowl. Vander Esch is considered a potential first round pick. Taking the reins over from Vander Esch will be Maeva (all-conference honorable mention).
The players around Maeva are young but many of them were pressed into action earlier than expected and played well in their roles. Kaniho and Williams in particular were disruptive forces when they busted on to the scene midway through the season. With the void left by Vander Esch and departed senior Gabe Perez; expect 1 or 2 of these youngsters to break out alongside Maeva.
Returning: Nawahine (108 tackles, 3 interceptions), Pierce (83 tackles, 1 interception), Horton (44 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles), Williams (45 tackles, 2 interceptions), Happle (15 tackles, 1 interception), Walker (8 tackles), Young (4 tackles), Jones (1 tackle), and Lewis
Departed: Cameron Hartsfield (12 tackles)
Confidence Rating: A
Analysis: The bad news first. Avery Williams technically made the all-conference team (second team) as a special teams returner and Hartsfield was a solid back up who will be moving on after his senior year. That is the end of the bad news. Amongst the biggest surprises of 2017 was how rapidly the young secondary became a dominant force.
In 2018, there will not be a surprise factor as there happens to be all-conference players across the board in the defensive backfield. Nawahine (2nd team all-conference) and Pierce (all-conference honorable mention) formed a terrific tandem at the safety position. Along with David Moa, Tyler Horton also had some buzz as a possible early NFL draft entry. In Boise State’s incredible comeback victory versus Colorado State, Horton lined up against the NFL bound wide receiver Michael Gallup. While Gallup put up huge numbers in the first half, Horton recalibrated at the half and shut down Gallup almost completely in the second half to greatly assist in the victory. Jalen Walker leads a talented young bunch ready to play behind the starters.
Overall Analysis: It is a strange place to be in; losing the Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year early to the NFL draft yet feel so confident in the defensive unit. The biggest returning name might be defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. After an amazing job in his first two years as defensive coordinator, many feared that the Power 5 may come calling for Avalos. Like head coach Bryan Harsin, Avalos is a Boise State Alum and expect him to lead a fantastic defensive unit in 2018. With talent across the board, Avalos and the defense will be a key factor in what hopes to be a successful 2018 season which sees the Broncos return to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
**All statistics from ESPN and College Football Reference