Boise State redshirt freshman linebacker Joe Martarano performed well enough in his surprise start against Nevada to earn regular playing time.
Martarano, the former Fruitland High three-sport star, tied for second on the team with six tackles Oct. 4 at Nevada. He started in place of Blake Renaud, whose excellent senior season was disrupted by an injury.
Even if Renaud returns for Friday’s game against Fresno State (6 p.m., ESPN), Martarano likely will play.
“He did a good job,” linebackers coach Andy Avalos said. “In his first game getting a lot of action, he did some really good things that we can build off of. We’ve got a certain standard we want to play at and when guys get to that standard and can communicate and can execute at that standard, we’ll find a way to get them on the field.”
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Martarano played more than half of the 73 defensive snaps at middle linebacker. Senior Travis Saxton, who missed nearly all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, also played there.
“It was cool,” Martarano said. “I’ve been just preparing hard for that moment. It was cool to get that opportunity. I watch Blake all the time. That’s a good experience for me to watch him.”
Martarano barely had played on defense before the Nevada game. He starts on punt and punt return but went into the game with just one tackle.
He was stuck behind four of the Broncos’ best defensive players — Renaud, junior Tyler Gray, sophomore Tanner Vallejo and sophomore Ben Weaver — at linebacker. Injuries forced the Broncos to move Vallejo from middle linebacker to nickel and opened a crack for Martarano. Renaud’s injury forced him into the lineup.
“You just have to stay positive and prepare hard and watch the older guys in front of you so when you get your chance you do well,” Martarano said.
While Martarano hadn’t played much defense on game day, he had been getting quality time in practice.
“We’d been working on getting him ready behind the scenes,” Avalos said. “He’s been getting reps at that position. We do a lot of stuff on defense — the (middle) linebacker has to control a lot of that. For that guy, at that position, it’s a lot to learn for anybody, let alone a freshman. And I think Joey has come a long, long way and he’s continuing to get better each and every day. That’s our goal for him.”
Martarano said he hasn’t spoken to the Chicago Cubs about next summer. He was a bit disappointed that the club won’t have a team in Boise anymore, but he likes the stadium in Eugene, Ore.
“I’ve just been staying focused on football,” he said.
Martarano spent part of last summer with the Cubs’ team in Mesa, Ariz.
The Oct. 24 Boise State-BYU game has been slated for ESPN. It was originally listed as ESPN or ESPN2. The game begins at 7 p.m.
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