Six months ago, Tyler Horn was supposed to anchor and lead the Boise State football team’s defensive line.
That lasted less than one game. He sustained a fractured tibia (leg bone) against Ole Miss that ended his senior season just as it began.
Now he gets another chance at his senior year, on a line that matured in his absence.
Horn was able to redshirt last season because he hadn’t redshirted previously and didn’t appear in more than 30 percent of the team’s games.
“It’s hard to say it was exciting because I’m out for the season, but it was kind of encouraging at the time knowing that I could come back and play,” Horn said Monday after his first practice since the injury.
Horn gave some thought to whether he wanted to stay in college for another year but said returning was “an easy choice.”
He’ll be part of a defensive line that is loaded with seven seniors in addition to two juniors who are returning starters.
“He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s ready to go out there and compete,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “I’m excited for him. We’ll see what happens through this spring. He’s definitely a guy who we felt last year was going to be a big contributor. We feel the same way this year.”
Horn’s role, though, may change.
The Mountain View High graduate arrived at Boise State as a grayshirt in January 2011 expecting to play defensive end. He was a contributor at end as a true freshman in 2011 but moved to tackle in November 2012, when the Broncos were shorthanded. The position switch stuck and Horn has grown to 6-foot-5, 272 pounds.
But this year, the Broncos have more depth at tackle than end. So for this spring at least, Horn is playing the end spot vacated by the graduation of Beau Martin. Junior Sam McCaskill (6-3, 255), another former end who replaced Horn as a starting tackle last year, also is playing that end spot.
“What I’ve told them is they’ve got to be able to do both,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said. “Those two guys have played a lot of football here. Sam started every game after Tyler got hurt. The more positions they can play, the better off we’re going to be. That way, if we get in a situation like we did last year with a bunch of guys getting banged up or hurt, then those guys can go right back inside.”
Horn, as he has throughout his career, says he doesn’t care where he plays. He has 17.5 tackles for loss in his career, including 8.5 in 2012, and has started nine games.
He recorded four tackles, including a sack, before his injury against Ole Miss.
“It was tough,” he said of his season on the sideline. “A season-ending injury is never fun. I decided to come back. It was kind of an easy choice. I just got in the weight room, did a lot of stuff in the weight room during practice. I did everything I could to get back as soon as possible.”
There was no way he could have played last season even if he hadn’t redshirted, Horn said, but he’s back at full strength for spring ball.
He’ll graduate in May. He could have completed his degree in December, Caldwell said.
“He could be out in the real world right now, but this game is so important to him and he wants a chance hopefully to have an opportunity to play at the next level,” Caldwell said. “He’s out there running around like a wild man right now. He’s been caged up for a year. He’s giving you everything he’s got every snap.”
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