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Concerns on the back end of the Bronco defense

Concerns on the back end of the Bronco defense

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:32 AM

Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

As much as the Boise State defensive line was in the spotlight during the offseason, it would be easy to say that’s the position of greatest concern for the 2013 season.  After all, the Broncos lost Mike Atkinson, Darren Koontz and Greg Grimes, and—unexpectedly—Sam Ukwuachu.  But under a more keen microscope are Boise State’s cornerbacks, who are charged with filling the shoes of Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins in a quarterback-centric conference.  Truth be told, Bryan Douglas had become the starter at Gavins’ spot until he was lost for the year at Wyoming in late October.  That’s when Donte Deayon entered the picture, and the true freshman got a lot out of his 5-9, 151-pound frame.  Deayon is really, really good.  Douglas is healthy now, but you can’t just play two guys at corner. 

Deon’tae Florence’s role also increased when Douglas went down last fall, and he may be the next man in the rotation.  Now Boise State needs to see what it can get out of its junior college transfers.  Cleshawn Page from L.A. Harbor College made significant strides in spring football, while the highly touted Mercy Maston out of Bakersfield College arrived this summer.  Redshirt freshman Chaz Anderson is waiting in the wings.  Then there are the true freshmen.  One of these guys might play: Dionza Blue, Cameron Hartsfield or Jonathan Moxey.  Lotsa bodies, but lotsa questions.

Boise State is ranked No. 21 in ESPN’s Preseason Power Rankings, unveiled yesterday.  ESPN The Magazine went the unconventional route to demonstrate why the Broncos are where they are.  “The main reason Boise is 84-8 since ’06: Coach Chris Petersen focuses on personnel strengths (not his personal ego),” says the narrative.  Then the magazine has Brock Huard and David Pollack dissect “wing right fake bubble Z double pass.”  Suffice to say the play uses Matt Miller as a decoy and ends with a Joe Southwick throw to a wide-open tight end, using good ol’ Bronco deception.  It’s “what keeps D-coordinators up at night.”

Fall camp has opened at Washington, with the grand re-opening of Husky Stadium now just 25 days away.  There’s this paradox as Boise State and UW prepare to do battle.  The Broncos are in the Top 25, and the Huskies are receiving a smattering of votes—yet Washington is generally favored by a field goal in the opener.  Well, the Huskies lose only five players who started against Boise State in their 28-26 loss to the Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl, and just eight overall who appeared in that game.  It’s a vastly more experienced team (assuming Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams play August 31).  “I’ve said this several times already, that this is the best team we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Steve Sarkisian said at his press conference yesterday.  “I’m excited to get on the field with these guys.”

Another reason the oddsmakers shy away from Boise State is the lack of decorated players on its roster.  Quick—name the only two returning first-team All-Mountain West players for the Broncos.  Well, there’s one on defense, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, and one on offense, center Matt Paradis.  And Paradis wasn’t even named to the watch list for the 2013 Rimington Award that goes to the nation’s best center.  Six of his Mountain West colleagues were.  That’s chip-on the-shouder stuff.  Or, as Paradis’ dad Mike says, “Good thing Matt has those broad farm-kid shoulders.  That chip on his shoulder is, of course, a cow chip.”

What gets heads turning as Idaho fall camp gets underway?  Same thing as anywhere else: a juicy quarterback battle.  One question as Chad Chalich prepares to defend the top spot in the pecking order he earned last spring: Will Taylor Davis remain in the mix?  Josh McCain is generally acknowledged as Chalich’s challenger, but Davis is still plugging away.  The issue for Davis will be, as usual, accuracy.  That has to improve if he wants to keep pace with Chalich and McCain.  Davis completed only 54.3 percent of his passes last year and 45.2 percent in 2011.

The good news is Kyle Wilson is still considered one of the top three cornerbacks on the New York Jets roster.  The interesting news is that the Jets are looking at playing Wilson some at safety in order to have him on the field with first round draft pick Dee Milliner and veteran Antonio Cromartie, according to Rich Cimini of  "It's certainly a consideration," said Jets coach Rex Ryan.  It would hardly be foreign to Wilson.  Maybe Ryan and his staff have watched tape of the 2010 Fiesta Bowl when, in the final game of his college career, Wilson made a cameo at safety in the specially-designed Boise State defense that took down TCU.

There’s a roundabout local tie in the “Faces In The Crowd” feature this week in Sports Illustrated.  It’s Boise Hawks third baseman Kris Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in June’s MLB Draft.  Bryant received notice for winning USA Baseball’s “Golden Spikes Award,” given to the nation’s top amateur player.  It was also mentioned that “Bryant played his first pro game for the Class A Boise Hawks in July.”  He actually played two games for the Cubs’ rookie league team in Arizona before arriving in Boise.  All-Star break update on Bryant: his average has zoomed to .292 during his current 10-game hitting streak.  He’s batted .429 over the past eight games.  Bryant has three home runs and 13 RBI.

Seven Boise Hawks are on the South Division roster for the Northwest League All-Star Game tonight in Everett, with three slated to start: catcher Lance Rymel, first baseman Jacob Rogers and designated hitter Yasiel Balaguert.  Second baseman Danny Lockhart would be, too, but he was called up to Triple-A over the weekend.  Guiding the South tonight will be Hawks manager Gary Van Tol and hitting coach Bill Buckner, a nod to the division title Boise won last year.  This will be the first NWL All-Star Game since 2004.

Condolences to the family of Jim Rabdau, who has passed away at the age of 79.  Rabdau was the founder of what was originally known as the Ore-Ida Women’s Challenge, the international bike race that lasted 19 years in Boise and in the mountains to the east.  The first event set the table for the rest.  It occurred just before the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and drew an impressive field of Olympic racers, including Connie Carpenter and the winner of the first three Ore-Ida championships, Rebecca Twigg.  Rabdau drew on his experience in the service and operated the race like a military operation, with a firm hand and a gentle heart,  I was the finish line announcer for all the stages of that inaugural race, and I saw the “heart” side of Rabdau a lot.  He is worth remembering.

The final Mountain West Factoid of the Day:  We can sum up the conference by saying 2013 is the Year of the Quarterback.  The most ballyhooed are David Fales of San Jose State and Derek Carr of Fresno State.  But Nevada’s Cody Fajardo, Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton, Wyoming’s Brett Smith and Boise State’s Joe Southwick have also garnered preseason accolades.  It’s no surprise to Smith.  “Obviously the talent (at QB) speaks for itself,” he said.  “It’s some of the top talent in the country.”  Southwick says the “quarterback conference” moniker raises the bar.  “It fires you up a little bit that it is very deep, and every conference game there’s going to be a legit quarterback on the other side,” said Southwick.  “I think from a competitive standpoint it’s going to motivate me to elevate my game.”

Fajardo says the hype is warranted.  “I went to the Manning Camp, and I was seeing the top-tiered guys from the SEC, the ACC, and I was competing with those guys,” the Wolf Pack junior said.  “I know these guys in this conference can compete with me.  If you’re first-team QB in the Mountain West, you’re the best of the best.”  A cornerback’s perspective?  “We’ve got some great QBs in there,” said Wyoming’s Marqueston Huff.  “As a defensive back, it just puts a smile on your face because every week you know they’re going to come in there with a challenge.”

This Day In Sports…August 6, 2010:

Boise State lands its highest preseason ranking ever in the USA Today Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 5 behind Alabama, Ohio State, Florida and Texas.  It was also the highest preseason spot in history for a non-BCS school.  The Broncos had finished the previous season with their highest ranking of any kind: No. 4 after going undefeated and beating TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.  Just as significant that day was where the Broncos’ season-opening opponent was ranked—Virginia Tech was No. 6.  But, as any coach will tell you, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”  Boise State finished at No. 7 the following January.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket.  He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)