It has been a very interesting couple of weeks for Boise State football.
First, defensive backs coach Julius Brown parted ways with the program, leaving the door open for Texas State's Ashley Ambrose to take over that position. Ambrose has extensive experience with corners and safeties, and had a successful NFL career, making the Pro Bowl in 1996 with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Then, it was announced that offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz was leaving the Broncos to take the same job with North Carolina State. Drinkwitz made an impact in his two years with Boise State, first as just the quarterbacks coach, and then last year as the offensive coordinator. Under his watch in 2015, the Broncos ranked 17th in points scored, and really helped Brett Rypien establish himself as the best passer in the Mountain West, throwing for 3,353 yards and 20 touchdowns (including bowl games).
Finally, last week, rumors started to swirl that defensive coordinator Marcel Yates was leaving BSU to take the same position with the University of Arizona. As of last weekend, the Boise State DC was still recruiting, and was still pondering whether or not to take the job.
Then Monday, he made his decision.
Yates was leaving the Northwest for the bigger pastures of Pac-12 football. He explained his decision to Jeff Caves of "Idaho Sports Talk" on 93-1 The Ticket in Boise.
"I think every coach has their schools, if they were offered a certain job at those certain schools, they would be interested in them," Yates told Caves. "Arizona was one. With me growing up in L.A. and being in high school and playing during the ‘Desert Swarm’ years … out of high school I actually wanted to go to Arizona. At the time the best teams, I thought, in the Pac-10 on defense were Arizona and Washington State. Those were two schools I wanted to play for back then."
Yates has always been regarded as one of the bright minds on the defensive side of the football. This year, Boise State ranked 12th in college football in total defense and guys like Darian Thompson, Tanner Vallejo, Kamalei Correa, Ben Weaver and Joe Martarano really helped the Broncos in key situations.
Boise State Defense-2015
|Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles|
|Leighton Vander Esch||14||6||20||1||0||1||1||0|
In the Poinsettia Bowl against Northern Illinois, not only was the offense firing on all cylinders, but so was the defense. The Broncos limited the Huskies to just 33 yards of total offense, and the touchdown Northern Illinois did score was a 96 yard touchdown return in the second quarter. It was a dominant performance that sent a message to the rest of college football that Boise State was still a force to be reckoned with.
In the wake of Yates' departure, it opened up an opportunity for another coach on the staff to take the reigns and prove that he can take the defense to the next level.
That coach is Andy Avalos.
A former linebacker for Boise State from 2000-2004, Avalos has certainly transitioned into a fine defensive coach. After leaving Boise State, he went down to Orange County to coach linebackers for Corona High in Corona, California in 2005. He has also served as a graduate assistant at Colorado under his former coach Dan Hawkins from 2006-2008, and has also worked as linebackers coach at Sacramento State in 2011, and as defensive line coach at Nebraska-Kearney.
Under his watch coaching linebackers at Boise State, Avalos' players have had 10 fumble recoveries, eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles. His players have also earned five All-Mountain West awards.
Point is, Avalos is good. Damn good.
Before Avalos was hired, Yates praised his linebackers coach in an interview with Jeff Caves on KTIK-FM in Boise.
"That’s the perfect hire right there. Andy was my right hand man," Yates told Caves. "I am close to Andy. I will always be close to Andy. Andy is smart. He knows the game. He knows the defense. He knows the players. That’s a smooth transition. I’m excited for Andy Avalos if he does get this position."
In my estimation, the best man for this job is the guy who knows this defense the best, and that's Avalos. He's played for Boise State. He's coached here. He's lived here. He knows what is expected, and what the pressures are in a market accustomed to winning Mountain West titles and Fiesta Bowls.
He told the Idaho-Press Tribune's B.J. Rains that he will pretty much stick to the 4-2-5 defense that the Broncos have ran for a couple of years.
"I’ve spent a lot of time in the system we’ve ran the past few years and feel comfortable and like it," Avalos said. "We’re always making tweaks to get better and to make the system comfortable for the guys."
The Broncos will have some holes to fill in terms of their defensive corps. Defensive lineman Kamalei Correa recently made himself eligible for the NFL draft. While not setting the type of numbers he produced in 2014, Correa is still a guy that can be a game changer. In the conference finale against San Jose State, he registered 5 tackles and a sack. In the Poinsettia Bowl, he grabbed 4 tackles and 2 sacks. He will make an impact to any team that decides to draft him.
Others will be missed as well. Darian Thompson, who had 65 tackles and 7 interceptions on the year, is graduating, as is Tyler Gray, who had 53 tackles on the year. Donte Deayon, despite the fact he was hurt for 3 games, made a impact for the Broncos with 4 interceptions this year. These players made this Boise State defense better, and it will be hard filling their shoes.
If anybody can do just that, it's Avalos and Bryan Harsin. These are smart guys who know how to fill holes year after year. They know how to accentuate player's positives to where you cannot see their deficiencies. If anything, Boise State will keep chugging along.
It's just what they do.