Boise State linebacker Ben Weaver’s dedication and strong play earn him a starting role

ccripe@idahostatesman.comOctober 10, 2013 

Boise State redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Weaver has been one of the breakout players for the Broncos this season. “We felt great about him in spring ball,” coach Chris Petersen said. “We watched him progress to see if he continued to develop and grow at a good rate. And he’s kind of done those things.”

COURTESY OF BOISE STATE

You can trace Boise State redshirt freshman linebacker Ben Weaver’s immediate success in college football to his junior year of high school.

That’s when he became a varsity starter at Klein (Texas) High.

“People were playing video games and I was watching film,” he said. “Once you do it one time and you see how much it helps you in the game, you just want to do it more and more.”

Weaver, who began the season as a backup at weak-side linebacker and since has been promoted to starter, is the Broncos’ surprising leader in tackles through five games. He has accumulated 37 tackles — 50 percent more than anyone else on the team.

He has 27 solo tackles, which is more than anyone else’s combined number of solo and assisted tackles.

“He’s smart. He’s picked up the defense really quick,” linebacker Corey Bell said. “He really moves well in the box, just a natural linebacker. … He really has bought into what (linebackers coach Bob Gregory) is teaching.”

Weaver (6-foot, 233 pounds) joined the Broncos last year. He committed to Boise State in the summer of 2011, before his senior year of high school, and held firm despite a late offer from Texas A&M of the SEC.

He got off to a slow start in fall camp last year and redshirted, but he used his time on the scout team to hone his skills. He was named the Scout Defensive Player of the Year.

“He’s really progressed,” Gregory said. “I feel really good about where he’s at and he’s got a lot of room to grow also.”

Weaver is one of seven new starters on the Broncos’ defense but the only freshman. He battled for the starting job with sophomore Tyler Gray in fall camp.

Gray started the first three games and split time with Weaver. Weaver took over Sept. 20 at Fresno State and has received the majority of the playing time since, even taking some snaps at middle linebacker to give junior starter Blake Renaud a break.

“Wherever the coaches put us is where you deserve to play,” Weaver said. “You have to say, ‘Is this where I want to be?’ You can either fight for the starting spot or be OK with where you’re at.”

For Weaver, a key backup role wasn’t enough.

“It was definitely a goal of mine to become that (starter),” he said. “I don’t think now that I’ve become a starter it’s anything really too much different. You can’t think that way. You have to set higher and higher goals. … Now I have to reach the next one and the next one and go on from there.”

His next goal?

He hasn’t decided yet.

“I want to have one more for the defense,” he said. “… I hope that we can get better as a defense as a whole and keep getting better game by game and become one of the elite defenses in our conference and in the nation. That’s definitely something we should strive to do.”

The Broncos, who usually dominate defensive stats in their league, are second in the Mountain West this year at 405.8 yards allowed per game.

It’s not lost on Weaver that they’ll share the field Saturday with No. 1: Utah State, at 335.8 yards per game.

“We can go out there and prove ourselves as a defense, too, if we show up,” he said.

He’s eager for the matchup with Utah State’s offense, which rushes for 200.3 yards per game and ranks fourth in the Mountain West with 475.5 total yards per game.

The Aggies operate a physical rushing attack — the kind linebackers enjoy — and a multiple offense that will put all that film study to good use.

“All these teams are coming up with new stuff every single game,” Weaver said. “You’re never going to know everything they’re going to do. The more you are prepared for things that are going to come up, it will lead to you being able to control the other situations. If you’re ever in a situation where you don’t know what’s going on, you go right back to your fundamentals and you should be able to get through it at least.”

That mature approach, combined with Weaver’s love for the game that he has played since he was in third grade, have neutralized his inexperience.

He figures to play the largest role by a freshman linebacker since J.C. Percy in 2009. Percy, also a weak-side linebacker, led the Broncos in tackles last year and, through his game tape, still serves as a role model for Weaver.

“(Weaver) is one of those guys who might not run the fastest (40-yard dash),” Gregory said, “but he’s very quick on the football field. He plays with a ton of energy, he loves playing and he’s always fired up.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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