Last year, Boise State defensive line coach Steve Caldwell liked to point out the deficiencies in star end Kamalei Correa’s game.
This year, Correa is doing that work himself.
Correa this week said he hasn’t “played up to my expectations about how I should play.”
“I feel like I can do a lot more for this team and I feel like I haven’t been playing where I need to be playing at,” he said.
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Correa, who led the Mountain West in sacks last year, has recorded 12 tackles, a team-best four tackles for loss and a team-best two sacks this season.
His critique of his own play is a little harsh, Caldwell said.
“He’s been more consistent,” Caldwell said. “I know he’s wanting to make more plays than he is and obviously people are doing a lot of things to keep him from that because they know he’s the one guy that can make plays for us up front. People are sliding protection to him or they chip him a lot, trying to put two people on him. We’ve tried to do a couple different things ... to move him around a little bit to try to free him up.
“He’s playing well. I expect a lot more out of him even this week. He’s having a good week’s practice.”
One challenge for Correa is to learn how to help the defense when blocked by more than one player.
“You’ve just got to man up and take it and get to where you can whip two of them now,” Caldwell said.
Correa said he needs to improve his fundamentals, such as pad leverage, and hustle to the ball more. He isn’t worried about stats but wants to increase his overall impact.
“I need to be more explosive and I need to be more of a team player instead of worrying about myself,” he said. “A lot of people nowadays are focused on stats. ‘Hey, this guy has sacks or a lot of tackles.’ In my opinion, I can see a guy who has not as many sacks or not as many tackles but is an all-around great player and he does his job to help the team — and that is what I’m trying to do.”
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Other defensive line notes:
— The Broncos have needed to rely on freshmen much more than expected because of injuries to ends Gabe Perez (redshirting) and Rondell McNair (out about a month) and an academic eligibility issue for tackle Antoine Turner.
Jabril Frazier (three tackles) has become the primary backup to Correa. Returning missionary Durrant Miles, a true freshman who made his debut last week, is behind Frazier.
“The more they play, the better they get and the more confidence I get in them,” Caldwell said. “They’re probably playing better than I give them credit for. I’ve got to get confidence in putting them in at any time. I’m that way with Jabril and it won’t take long to get that way with Durrant, I believe.”
Miles arrived in Boise early in the summer program, about 10 days after returning from a mission to Bolivia, Caldwell said.
Miles was expected to redshirt.
“Durrant is one of those kids who has really caught on quickly,” Caldwell said. “... The biggest problem has been his strength. As far as being able to run, he came in in unbelievable shape. I guess he ran quite a bit while he was in Bolivia. And he still lacks a little strength but he can make up a little more of that because he’s a very smart player.”
At nose tackle, Dereck Boles (one tackle for loss) has joined the rotation.
“He’s coming on,” Caldwell said. “I thought last week was his best game. (Starting nose tackle Armand Nance) played better. We’ve been playing high at that position. They both played better.”
— Senior tackle Tutulupeatau Mataele (two tackles) still is working back physically. He was injured during fall camp, missed the season opener and has played a limited role so far. He was expected to start before the injury.
“He’s getting better and better,” Caldwell said. “I’m still waiting for him to be full speed. I don’t think he’s quite there yet. ... He’ll probably even get more reps this week.”
— Mataele’s injury opened the door for senior Justin Taimatuia to move from backup nose tackle to starting three-technique tackle. Taimatuia has seven tackles. “I think he’s been one of our most consistent players,” Caldwell said.
— The Broncos have seven sacks, which isn’t enough for Caldwell. “We’re doing some good things with the run game,” he said. “We’ve got to create some pass rush though. We’re not where we need to be yet.”