When Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was hired away last last year by Tennessee, I was among the first to say, "Uh-oh." Then head coach Chris Petersen selected Pete Kwiatkowski, his defensive line coach, as Wilcox's replacement and I breathed a sigh of relief. Kwiatkowski was a proven commodity, a member of the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame, and last year was a top-five finalist for the 2010 Broyles Award, an award given annually to the best assistant coach in the country. Kwiatkowski is now in his 14th overall season on the Boise State coaching staff.
After the jump we will take a look at just what the Bronco defense will probably look like as the Broncos enter their first season in the Mountain West Conference.
Over the past six years Kwiatkowski has helped shape the entire Bronco defense into one the top college defensive programs in the country. His defense finished second in the nation last season. The Broncos allowed an average of just 254.69 yards and 12.77 points per game. The 2010 Broncos also led the nation in sacks, were ranked second in the country in pass efficiency defense and tackles-for-loss, and ranked fourth in the nation in pass defense. They were also ranked seventh in rushing defense. That's pretty impressive whether you are a BSU fan or not.
What is important to note here is that Kwiatkowski's 2010 defense returns largely intact. What is also important is that the Broncos will be facing a much tougher lineup: a new conference with new opponents and stepped up competition.
Opposing teams will find the 2011 Bronco defense a tough nut for an offense to crack. The entire defensive lineup is going to be stubborn and tough. The Broncos have had years to polish their defensive line to the point that it is like looking into a huge fist of knuckles. The D-line itself should again be one of the best in college ball, anchored by All-Americans DT Billy Winn, 6-4, 298 lbs,and DE Shea McClellin. Winn has had a great college career so far with 98 tackles in three years at Boise State, and 28 of those came last season where he also had 4.5 sacks. His 9.5 tackles-for-loss in 2010 ranked third on the team and he will continue to prove to be a great run-stopper on the inside. McClellin is a star as well. He leads the team with 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss and is rated 21 of 218 DE's nationally. Both players have two excellent backups in Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 282 lbs, and Michael Atkinson, 6-0, 332 lbs.
Other Bronco players seeking to punish an offensive lineman are starters DT Chase Baker, 6' 1" 298 lbs, and DE Tyrone Crawford, 6-4, 275 lbs; Crawford is rated 14 of 218 DE's by nfldraftscout.com and is projected as a 5-6 round pick in 2012. Two high calibre, high impact players are LBs Byron Hout, 6-0, 241 lbs, and Aaron Tevis, 6-3, 228 lbs.
Two cornerbacks will be downfield to cover any kind of deep threat: Jamar Taylor, 5-11, 193 lbs, and Jerrell Gavins, 5-9, 170 lbs. All-American safety George Iloka, 6-3, 207 lbs, will be backed up by acked up by Travis Stanaway, 5-11, 203. Iloka will be one of the top players in the secondary for Boise State this season, following a very good junior year. Many think he will be the playmaker this year and I have to agree. Another safety will be Jeremy Ioane, 5-11, 195 lbs, and right now I think Cedric Febis, 6-3, 197 lbs will be the backup.
At nickle will be Hunter White, 5-11, 206 lbs, and he is backed up by Jonathan Brown, 5-10, 220 lbs. Brad Elkin, 6-2, 194 lbs, has claimed the job as punter.
Below is a list of returning and/or Projected Defensive Starters. The official list hasn't been released yet so it is subject to change.
BOISE STATE 2011 PROJECTED DEFENSIVE DEPTH CHART (Subject to change)
DE Tyrone Crawford-Sr (6-4, 276), Jarrell Root-Sr (6-3, 268)
DT Billy Winn-Sr (6-4, 295), Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe-So (6-3, 307)
NT Chase Baker-Sr (6-1, 296), Michael Atkinson-Jr (6-0, 320)
DE Shea McClellin-Sr (6-3, 258), Kharycee Marshall-So (6-1, 216)
MLB Byron Hout-Sr (6-0, 240), Tommy Smith-Jr (6-1, 227)
WLB Aaron Tevis-Sr (6-3, 232), J.C. Percy-Jr (6-0, 222)
CB Jamar Taylor-Jr (5-11, 194), Antwon Murray-Sr (5-11, 176)
CB Jerrell Gavins-Sr (5-9, 175), Bryan Douglas-RFr (5-9, 162)
S Cedric Febis-Sr (6-3, 202) and/or Jeremy Ioane-RFr (5-10, 197)
S George Iloka-Sr (6-3, 216), Travis Stanaway-Sr (5-11, 203)
NB Hunter White-Sr (5-11, 206), Jonathan Brown-So (5-10, 220)
P Brad Elkin-Sr (6-2, 194), Trevor Harman-So (6-2, 203)