Boise State junior defensive end Kamalei Correa doesn’t consider his breakout 2014 season a peak.
“That’s just a level ground right there,” he said. “That’s something to build off of. ... I’m not going to live off the past.”
He also isn’t going to live in the future.
Correa’s sudden success last year, when he led the Mountain West with 12 sacks and the Broncos with 19 tackles for loss, has fueled speculation that he will follow tailback Jay Ajayi’s early-entry path to the NFL.
Correa is younger than Ajayi — he hasn’t redshirted, so he’s only two years removed from high school — but he possesses one of the most demanded skills in the NFL: He can pressure the quarterback.
CBSSports.com ranks Correa as the No. 8 outside linebacker prospect for the 2016 draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. lists Correa as the No. 5 defensive end among underclassmen.
Correa said his focus is on each day’s practice and not his pro future.
“We can focus on that question a little later,” he said. “... It’s hard to grasp. It’s always been a dream of mine, an aspiration, but I kind of just like to take it day by day. I’m just trying to focus on this next practice we have in a few hours. The NFL is not really right here, in my mind, right now.”
The 6-foot-3, 248-pound Hawaiian got stronger and faster during the summer, he said. He is on a quest to find the consistency he lacked last year, though he still finished fifth on the team in tackles with 59.
He also has tried to provide leadership. He plays stud end alongside junior Gabe Perez. The other two studs are redshirt freshmen Jabril Frazier and Kaleb Hill.
“This year is just an improvement year,” Correa said.
Said defensive line coach Steve Caldwell: “Any time you’re having success, that helps you. The thing we’ve got to make sure is he grows on that and doesn’t stay the same.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• The Broncos held their first practice in full pads Monday. They have a two-a-day Tuesday, and portions of both practices will be open to the media.
• The latest addition to the banner crew that will be honored on the east exterior of Albertsons Stadium: wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes with the word “conviction.” He joins safety Darian Thompson (“discipline”) and center Marcus Henry (“toughness”). The fourth player will be named Tuesday, when work begins to hang the banners.
Henry, who is 6-foot-3 and 293 pounds, got some grief from teammates.
“That banner is so big it makes him look a little skinny maybe,” junior offensive lineman Steven Baggett said. “... To be up there, to be on a banner on the side of the stadium, that’s awesome, and he definitely deserves it.”
Boise State sophomore tight end Jake Roh earned a victory in his ongoing battle to gain weight, and the power that comes with it, this past summer.
Roh added 10 pounds and entered fall camp at 6-3, 229.
“In the spring, I was down (in weight),” Roh said. “That was big, gaining that weight back. ... I needed to take really big steps and I think with the strength and gaining the weight that helps.”
Roh finished fourth on the team with 35 receptions last season for 408 yards and two touchdowns. He’s part of a deep rotation at tight end that showed major improvement in 2014.
“We hope to keep that bar raising,” Roh said. “We’re just going to try to contribute more this year and be a solid group that this team can count on.”
BRONCOS IN THE NFL:GEORGE ILOKA
Safety George Iloka quietly has generated attention as one of the best safeties in the NFL. He’s making a little extra noise during the Cincinnati Bengals’ training camp this year.
“George is out there hitting everybody,” one Bengal said to another at practice, according to FoxSports.com.
“George is an intense player and very smart player,” secondary coach Vance Joseph told the website. “He’s a big safety, so he wants to be a contact player. He’s having a helluva camp.”
Iloka is going into the final year of his rookie contract with the Bengals. Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 12 safety in pass coverage in the NFL last year and called him the team’s “secret superstar.”
Iloka grabbed three interceptions last season and wants more this year.
“From my first and second to my third year, I made more plays,” Iloka told the website. “I don’t want to put a number on it, but I want more picks. A little more tackles. Last year, if I made the plays I needed to, I probably would’ve had six picks. So it’s just about making every play you’re supposed to make count.”