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Boise State Spring Preview: Defensive Line

The strongest unit on the team should be a force in 2019

NCAA Football: Boise State at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations will be high for this unit. The Broncos will get David Moa back after missing the majority of the season with a foot injury, and they will bring back their leader in sacks with Curtis Weaver. Boise State led the Mountain West in sacks in 2018, and the expectation will be the same in 2019. Boise State is now officially running a 3-4 defensive, but the STUD’s will lineup as ends sometimes. Let’s preview the unit and who is expected to start.

David Moa

Moa is back! After being granted a medical redshirt, Moa is expected to be a game changer on the defensive line. It will be interesting to see if he can return to his sophomore form, when he had one of the best seasons in Boise State history. Moa has the potential to be an all-conference player when he is healthy. He likely won’t see many double teams, as teams will be occupied by Weaver and Lui. The biggest question might be where he fits into the rotation. Will he continue at defensive tackle or will he play defensive end? The Broncos run a variety of schemes; I think Moa will play in the middle in pass situations and on the outside in run situations.

Chances of starting: 80%

Jabari Watson

The redshirt junior saw his first significant action this past season. On most teams, Watson would be a star, but the depth of the Broncos has limited his time on the field. Watson showed his ability to get to the quarterback with two sacks in limited action.

Chances of starting: 10%

Chase Hatada

Hatada has been a fixture on the defensive line the past three seasons, but has been limited by nagging injuries over the course of his career. Hatada will be an active part of a very deep rotation, but will have a hard time securing a starting spot. Side note: I wonder if the Bronco coaches will consider redshirting Hatada this season.

Chances of starting: 10%

Aisa Kelemete

Kelemete did not see this past season because of an injury. If he is recovered, I think he will be a factor on special teams and should be able to rotate in on defense. Kelemete was a highly regarded recruit with offers from USC and Washington State.

Chances of starting: 1%

Kukea Emmsley

Emmsley is probably the future at defensive end. The Hawaii native had a great high school career and signed with the Broncos as a four-star recruit according to 247 Sports. The coaches will have a hard time keeping Emmsley off the field; he will likely be a key contributor on special teams.

Chances of starting: 1%

Sonatane Lui

Lui has one of the coolest stories on the roster; the former walk on surprised coaches in his first fall camp and quickly earned a scholarship. Lui was limited by injuries this past season. He has helped the Broncos become one of the top rush defenses in the country, but he has room for improvement in the passing game. Lui will likely start game one, but will share snaps with Igiehon.

Chances of starting: 80%

Emmanuel Fesili

Fesili has had an interesting career on “The Blue.” He played as a true freshman and was expected to develop into an impact player for the Broncos. It never happened, and he has only been used in spot reserve duties. He was surpassed by Igiehon for backup snaps last year and his role moving forward is unclear.

Chances of starting; 5%

Matt Locher

Locher does not have the traditional build of most tackles, but the senior has proven to be a capable backup for the Broncos. The majority of Locher’s time on the field has been spent filling in for injured players. I don’t expect that to change in 2019.

Chances of starting: 1%

Keeghan Freeborn

Coaches have given Freeborn rave reviews. The Idaho native will look to earn his way onto the field as a freshman, but will have a hard time seeing the field with this loaded group.

Chances of starting: 1%

Scale Igiehon

I have said it since the Broncos recruited him and I will say it again. Scale is the truth, and he proved it late in the season. Igiehon is a future starter for the Broncos, and he will see significant playing time in 2019. Scale had his best game against BYU where he recorded 1.5 sacks. I think he will likely be on the field at least half the time, but the starting title will go to the senior.

Chances of starting: 15%

Curtis Weaver

Demarcus Lawrence, Jabril Frazier, Kamelei Correa. That is quite a list to be on, and Curtis Weaver might be better than all of those guys. Weaver led the team in sacks as a freshman and as a sophomore, and I expect him to do the same as a junior. He showed a lot more diversity in his sophomore season as he improved against the run and was effective when dropping into coverage. This will probably be Weaver’s last year with the Broncos; he seems destined to be the next early entree and has been projected as a high pick in early 2020 mock drafts.

Chances of starting: 100%

Sam Whitney

Whitney is another Bronco that has had to deal with injuries over the course of his career. He has earned a reputation as a workout warrior, as coaches frequently recognize him for his work in the weight room. Whitney was listed as a starter headed into the 2017 season, but was limited by injuries. He did not see the field that much in 2018 and was used mainly in run-stopping situations. I can’t see that changing in 2019.

Chances of starting: 1%

Demitri Washington

I have heard nothing but rave reviews on Washington; he is expected to be a huge contributor in the coming season. It would not shock me if Washington is a break out star on defense like Weaver was as a freshman. I expect to see Weaver and Washington on the field together, especially in third and long situations. Washington has a bright future in Boise.

Chances of starting: 1%

This should be the best Bronco defensive line since 2012, and they should wreak havoc on Mountain West quarterbacks. This might be the deepest, most talented unit the Broncos have ever had.

Be sure to stay tuned. Next week, I will be previewing the secondary, where I expect some young players to make an immediate impact.