Boise — The Boise State football team's defense absorbed a major hit Tuesday with the dismissal of Sam Ukwuachu, announced by the school.
The redshirt sophomore started the last 12 games last season and was named to the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team. He finished 12th on the team with 35 tackles, third with 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, and tied for first with three fumble recoveries.
Ukwuachu was not on the sideline for the Spring Game, but coach Chris Petersen indicated then that Ukwuachu was dealing with "personal things" and would remain with the team. The Pearland, Texas, product participated in the team's spring timing day Friday.
Boise State also announced that redshirt sophomore quarterback Jimmy Laughrea has left the team. He likely would have been the No. 4 quarterback in the fall. Laughrea was suspended for the opener last season and was not in uniform for several other games for non-disciplinary reasons that weren't disclosed.
DEFENSIVE LINE EFFECTS
The Broncos' line already was thin. Now it features just six players with game experience - three ends, two tackles and one tackle/end (junior Tyler Horn).
The three experienced ends are All-Mountain West junior Demarcus Lawrence, a standout who was suspended twice last season; senior Kharyee Marshall, who has been held back by injuries throughout his career; and junior walk-on Beau Martin, who started the season opener last year before Ukwuachu emerged. Redshirt freshman Sam McCaskill was one of the top young players in spring ball, and coaches are intrigued by incoming recruit Gabe Perez, who is in Ukwuachu's mold at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.
The three experienced tackles are senior starter Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Horn and true sophomore Armand Nance. The Broncos are counting heavily upon junior college transfers Deuce Mataele, a spring standout, and Justin Taimatuia, a fall enrollee. They could slide Horn back to end, but that would leave the tackle group even more inexperienced.
The defense now has four returning starters - Tjong-A-Tjoe, Lawrence and safeties Darian Thompson and Jeremy Ioane.
QB QUESTIONS, TOO
The Broncos have carried four quarterbacks before, as they likely will this season. The question becomes how soon they will fill Laughrea's spot. They could add a second quarterback to the 2014 class (Jalen Greene of Los Angeles already committed) - as they did in 2009 with Joe Southwick and Mike Tamburo - but it's difficult to get two good quarterbacks to sign. Or they could wait until 2016, when Laughrea's spot would have opened.
HIT-OR-MISS 2011 RECRUITING CLASS
Eight of the 19 members of that class - including Ukwuachu and Laughrea - already have left the Boise State football program without completing their eligibility. They were on campus for less than two years.
The other departures were defensive back Eric Agbaroji (left team), defensive back Lee Hightower (suspended from school; won't return to team), tight end Hayden Plinke (suspended from school; transferred to Portland State), kicker Jake Van Ginkel (dismissed), defensive tackle Jeff Worthy (dismissed) and offensive lineman Adam Sheffield (left team).
On the flip side, as many as six players from that class could start this fall: tailback Jay Ajayi, nickel Corey Bell, right guard Marcus Henry, right tackle Rees Odhiambo, middle linebacker Blake Renaud and safety Darian Thompson. Safeties Dillon Lukehart and Taylor Loffler are expected to play significant roles, too.
BROWNS BRING IN SMITH
Former Boise State linebacker Tommy Smith has accepted a tryout at the Cleveland Browns' rookie mini-camp this week, he said Tuesday. He was Boise State's third-leading tackler last season with 61.