They're young, and according to Boise State coaches, they're good - the only problem with the Broncos' linebackers is that most of them haven't played yet.
After the graduations of J.C. Percy, Tommy Smith and nickel Dextrell Simmons, linebackers/nickels coach Bob Gregory has some big shoes to fill. Those three combined for 34 starts and 215 tackles last season, but the future has Gregory excited.
"They've got a huge amount of potential - we're going to be pretty good at linebacker for a while," he said. "They're coming along, but it's still a bunch of inexperienced guys."
Junior Blake Renaud is the most experienced linebacker, with 23 games under his belt, but he's been on campus less than two years. Fellow junior Corey Bell has started four games at nickel and is the front-runner to start.
Boise State added four players to the group in the same class last year - Tyler Gray, who played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, along with linebackers Ben Weaver and Andrew Pint and nickel Chris Santini. All four could factor in this season, with Gray a likely starting candidate.
"They're doing a nice job," coach Chris Petersen said. "We have some talent there. That's really, really important because we basically lost the core of our defense."
Gregory and Petersen are quick to praise Weaver, a 6-foot, 226-pounder from Klein, Texas, who turned down offers from Louisville, California and Texas A&M before redshirting last season. He was named the team's defensive scout team player of the year in December. Petersen said "once he really figures our defense out, he'll do some good things."
"Ben Weaver's jumping out a little bit. he's kind of a natural football player, and you need that especially at linebacker where you've got so much to do," Gregory said.
Though Gregory said it's far too early to establish how many players he'll rotate, he often uses four or five linebackers regularly, which likely means an opening or two for the group that redshirted last season.
"They're all coming in hungry, they want playing time and don't want to sit on the bench, waste their (redshirt) freshman year," Renaud said. "I like them all. They're learning, getting the plays down and hustling."
Renaud said the playing field has been leveled a bit, as the defense has incorporated more new plays than usual and altered its lingo a bit this spring as part of the team-wide push to streamline and simplify concepts.
"We've got new plays coming in, so everyone's kind of on the same page right now," he said.
Knowing the losses he would face after this past season, Gregory and the Boise State staff went out in 2011 to seek out as many talented linebackers and nickels as they could.
Progress has been made, but the true results won't be seen at least until this fall, when they finally get on the field.
"Young and raw," Gregory said. "We've been blessed these last few years to have a ton of game experience. We don't have as much of that.
"It's new, a little bit different, but it's a good group."
Dave Southorn: 377-6420 Twitter: @IDS_southorn