One full-time starter returns at defensive tackle, another likely starter is still getting acclimated and those behind them are raw - yet Boise State feels pretty optimistic about what it has on the inside of its defensive line.
Senior Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe anchors the interior, which lost stalwart Mike Atkinson and two others who started at the position last year. Converted defensive end Tyler Horn, a junior, can play inside or out, giving the Broncos some interesting options.
"I like what we've got - Ricky's going to take up a lot of attention," said Horn, a junior. "That's going to make the rotations better, and I think we have a lot of versatility, not just me, but pretty much everyone."
Horn moved to tackle in November mostly out of necessity with Atkinson's torn ACL forcing some shuffling. He had two sacks in his first game there, and at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, he can take some of the rigors of playing inside.
The Mountain View High grad said he feels "more and more comfortable every day" working with the tackles.
"He can play three spots for us, and that's a big deal," Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. "That's exciting for us."
Also exciting for Boise State is the development of some of the tackles behind Tjong-A-Tjoe and Horn. Sophomore Armand Nance played as a true freshman last season (2.5 tackles for loss), while redshirt freshman Eliot Hoyte has "been growing quickly," coach Chris Petersen said about the native of England.
An enticing prospect has been junior college transfer Deuce Mataele.
Kwiatkowski praised his pass-rushing skills, while Petersen was quick to point out his performance this spring.
"He's going to be a nice addition in there," Petersen said.
Just as Atkinson did a year ago, the Broncos are hopeful Tjong-A-Tjoe can take a big step now that he is the most experienced man on the inside, with 31 games of experience and 14 tackles for loss.
The Amsterdam native has missed at least one game the last two seasons because of suspension, and he feels he's ready to take the leadership mantle.
"It's a little strange, but I like it," Tjong-A-Tjoe said. "It's fun, it's a long time coming, especially with everything that's gone on."
While there are still some unknowns behind the veterans, and the wild cards still out there with new additions Justin Taimatuia and Nick Terry coming this summer, Kwiatkowski noted the group has the right mindset to succeed.
"The way they show up the work ethic out here, they understand the process, they show up and get their stuff done with good energy, that's what is standing out - if they can keep doing that, we'll be where we need to be," Kwiatkowski said.
For the Broncos' defensive tackles, it will be another chance for new faces to seize playing time, and the group has ultimate faith in the guy calling the shots.
"Coach K will get everyone right - ever since I've been here, we've been able to take guys who haven't played much and turn them into guys that we can trust to get in there and play well," Tjong-A-Tjoe said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn