Junior Jonathan Moxey says a season as a young starter on the Broncos’ defense taught him that “confidence and preparation” are the keys to success.
He’s building one (confidence) thanks to the other (preparation).
Moxey, who started 12 games in 2014 despite competing for his job on a weekly basis, hopes to parlay his experience into better execution. He’s still considered a bit of a question mark in the secondary, mostly because he plays opposite All-Mountain West second-team cornerback Donte Deayon.
“Playing in some of those big games and being a key contributor, there’s confidence,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “And especially at that position – you’re getting shots taken at you all the time – you’ve got to have that confidence. I see that out at practice. He’s prepared. I’ve sat in meetings with (defensive backs coach Julius Brown).
“I’ve watched (Moxey) get on the board,” Harsin continued, pretending to scribble quickly on a board, “and he’s done and it’s right and it’s detailed. So he understands what he’s supposed to do. It’s shown up on the field and he’s been working hard.”
Moxey appeared in 13 games, starting one, as a true freshman in 2013 – usually a sign of good things to come for defensive backs.
He battled then-senior Cleshawn Page for the starting job in fall camp last season. Page won but Moxey started the second game in place of the injured Deayon and the third game in place of the injured Page. When Page returned, the two split time but Moxey was the starter.
Moxey finished with 33 tackles, a forced fumble, seven pass breakups (tied for second on the team) and a critical interception against Connecticut, the only pick of his career.
“I thought he started off kind of slow,” said defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, a longtime defensive backs coach. “As he played more, he became better. There were a few games where teams were going at him a lot, and he played well.”
Still, Yates wasn’t satisfied with the performance of the secondary and didn’t like the depth at cornerback.
He recruited one immediate reinforcement – junior college cornerback Raymond Ford, who is on the team now – and expects at least one of the six defensive backs who arrive in August to play this season.
With Deayon’s spot secure, that puts the target on Moxey.
“If there’s any position where a guy can play young, it’s at the corner position,” Yates said.
When Moxey looks back at last season, the highlight is easy – that interception against Connecticut, a play that allowed the Broncos to close out the victory and came shortly after he was beaten for a touchdown.
“Man, I could have had a lot more,” Moxey said. “I dropped a few. But that first one, that was the best for me. That was a great feeling.”
The lowlight is less obvious, but more telling.
“It’s not a distinct moment – just little plays last season that I know I’m better than the guy lined up across from me and I just made a mental mistake,” he said. “Because mental mistakes are those that you know you can eliminate.”
They’re also the mistakes of inexperience – the type of plays that someone with Moxey’s history should be able to correct. And the ones those who would like to unseat him from the lineup likely will make.
Moxey’s attitude off the field helps him. His impressive prep work includes the weight room and sets him up for a leadership role in 2016, after Deayon and senior safety Darian Thompson complete their careers.
“(Moxey’s) experience and what he knows that he’s going to get in this next season is driving him and pushing him,” Harsin said.