clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Boise State Spring Preview: Secondary

Can the secondary bounce back?

NCAA Football: San Diego State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

There are some uncertainties in the secondary that should be answered this Spring. The Broncos will have to replace a four-year contributor at corner in Tyler Horton. Boise State will also have to address a lack of size at corner, where a few redshirt freshman should be ready to contribute. They need to improve on the seven interceptions they recorded in 2018. Let’s take a look at what to expect in the secondary.

Safety/Nickel

Kekoa Nawahine

Nawahine has plenty to prove in 2019. He had a great sophomore season where he finished with 108 tackles and three interceptions. His junior season was a struggle as he had trouble in pass coverage and finished with only 71 tackles and zero interceptions. Nawahine did have some health issues in 2018; if he’s healthy he should have a big senior season.

Chances of starting: 90%

DeAndre Pierce

The absence of Pierce was noticeable this past season. He is a force in stopping the run and is great at defending hitch and screen passes. The dip in the production of the secondary was noticeable after Pierce went down against Wyoming. His return will help Horton’s replacement, because Pierce can line up as a corner when needed.

Chances of starting : 100%

Evan Tyler

When the 2016 season opened, Evan Tyler seemed destined to be the next great Boise State safety. However, Tyler has been plagued by injuries ever since. The redshirt senior will enter the 2019 season looking to find a spot in the rotation, but he should be a key contributor on special teams.

Chances of starting: 1%

Jordan Happle

Happle has done a great job in a reserve role the past two seasons. His performance against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2017 was phenomenal. However, with the return of Pierce and the emergence of Tyreque Jones, it seems like he appears destined for a reserve role.

Chances of starting: 5%

Kekaula Kaniho

Kaniho has been a pleasant surprise since he stepped foot on campus. He plays the role of the nickel perfectly. He is excellent in pass coverage and improved against the run as a sophomore. He is as close to a lock to start as anyone on the roster.

Chances of starting: 100%

Tyreque Jones

Jones went through his ups and downs as a freshman. He battled injuries over the course of the season and was thrown into a difficult situation when Pierce went down with an injury. Jones played much better the last few games of the season, and that experience should allow him to be the first safety off the bench. It would not shock me if he split time with Nawahine and Pierce.

Chances of starting: 10%

JL Skinner

I’m including the true freshman on the list, because I think he has the size and skill to contribute right away. There is more depth at safety than corner, but I could see the coaches trying to get Skinner some experience with Nawahine and Tyler graduating. I could see the coaches utilizing the four game rule on Skinner.

Chances of starting: 1%

Corner

Avery Williams

Williams became an instant fan favorite when his first punt return was brought back for a touchdown in 2017. He unexpectedly became a starter as a freshman and has not looked back since. Williams will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders in 2019, and it may impact how much he is used on special teams. Williams will need to be better in red zone situations this year. Like much of the secondary, he was limited by an injury in 2018.

Chances of starting: 90%

Jalen Walker

Walker played extensively in 2018; he was really the only corner that saw any substantial playing time off the bench. He was used frequently in red zone situations and is probably the favorite to replace Horton.

Chances of starting: 50%

Robert Lewis

Lewis is a redshirt junior who has seen limited action for the Broncos. This is probably his last chance to get significant playing time, and he will have to hold off some talented freshmen.

Chances of starting: 5%

Marques Evans

Evans did not see the field much as a redshirt freshman; his only action was in the drubbing of Connecticut. This does not give me much confidence for his chances of playing. Evans may need to carve out a role on special teams to earn some playing time.

Chances of starting: 1%

Chris Mitchell

The redshirt freshman will enter Spring ball with high expectations. Mitchell did see limited action last season while still being able to maintain his redshirt in the process. Mitchell has the size, speed, and range to be an elite cornerback. I’m not sure the guys in front of him can say the same thing. He may not start game one, but it would not shock me if he is starting by the middle of the season.

Chances of starting: 50%

Tyric LeBeauf

LeBeauf has many of the same skills and features as Mitchell, but his future is more uncertain, as he is coming off of a major injury. If LeBeauf is healthy and ready to go, he will challenge Walker and Williams for playing time. I think he eventually will, but it will likely take some time.

Chances of starting: 10%

Markel Reed

Another true freshman worth noting. Reed has made it clear that he plans to come in and compete for playing time right away. Reed continues to follow the trend that the coaches are looking for bigger, more physical corners.

Chances of starting: 1%

The Broncos should have one of the strongest safety units in the Mountain West, as there are five or six players that are capable of contributing next year. However, there are some major questions at cornerback where there is not a lot of experience on the roster. I expect Mitchell and LeBeauf to get some significant playing time this year. Mitchell reminds me a lot of Tyler Horton, but with more size. It should be an exciting group to keep an eye on.

Stay tuned. Next week I will be previewing the special teams units.