New Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates has his hands full this season reshaping the Broncos defense. And nowhere is that more evident than in the Broncos secondary. After dropping to 88th in the nation in pass defense last year under the former Boise State DC, Yates has been busy putting into place a new 4-2-5 defense that includes two cornerbacks and three safeties. Yates knows that if the team intends to return to its former defensive prominence, he needs to tighten up a defense that last year gave up an average of 249.2 yards to the pass per game.
Luckily, he has just the tools in his arsenal to do that. Of his returning defensive starters, two are safeties Darian Thompson, 6-2, 205 lbs, (a junior) and senior Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 192 lbs, an All-Mountain West defensive back. Four-star safety recruit Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 202 lbs, could also start or see significant playing time as a true freshman. Sumner-Gardner is ranked as the number 6 incoming Safety in the nation (ESPN).
Two other returning starters are cornerbacks. One is starting junior and All-Mountain West CB Donte Deayon, 5-9, 152 lbs, while the other starter is likely to be Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 176 lbs. Then there is the question of where senior Cory Bell, 5-11, 208 lbs, could end up. Last season Bell was the second-leading tackler as a linebacker and so far this year is penciled in as nickel/safety.
Up front the defensive line is starting to look solid, but is still is in need of some help. There are a number of question marks remaining from last season, including filling the holes that were created by attrition. In 2013, the Broncos were ranked 64th nationally in rushing defense and gave up an average of 164.2 yards per game. Junior DT Armand Nance, 6-0, 311 lbs, is the returning starter to anchor the line, a line that will consist of senior DE Beau Martin, 6-2, 254lbs, DE Tyler Horn, 6-5, 276 lbs, and sophomore Gabe Perez, 6-4, 235 lbs.
One huge bright spot is that after several years of depth problems relating to injuries and attrition, the Broncos are finally loaded at the linebacker positions. Junior Tyler Grey, 6-4, 224 lbs, is a returning starter, along with experienced players like senior Blake Renaud, 6-2, 247 lbs, and sophomores Ben Weaver, 6-1, 240 lbs, and Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 227 lbs. Six of the nine linebackers are on scholarship. Two junior college transfers, defensive linemen Antoine Turner and Rondell McNair, are both expected to play.
So how ready are the Boise State defensive coaches and the Broncos new defense? It’s hard to say with all the recent changes. Yesterday, for instance, it was announced that the Broncos were adding nine walk-ons to the roster just as practice started. Five of them were defensive players: cornerback Kevin Person (Los Angeles, CA); linebacker Joe Provenzano (Glendora, CA); defensive tackle Paul Semons (Eagle High, Eagle, ID), linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (Salmon River High, Salmon, ID); and cornerback Eric Yates (Capital High, College Station, TX).
That comes with the first game of the season with #19 Ole Miss in Atlanta, Georgia just 26 days away. Whether the Broncos are ready, at least head coach Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates are not willing to leave any unplayed cards on the table.