The only person who will find it difficult to move Boise State senior defensive end Sam McCaskill is an opposing offensive lineman.
A versatile presence for the Broncos his first three seasons, McCaskill played defensive tackle as a sophomore, but moved back to his more natural end position last season. He’s the most experienced member of a line that has lost 51-of-52 combined starts made in 2015.
He may also be the strongest.
McCaskill was narrowly edged out by center Mason Hampton as the Broncos’ offseason testing champion. He posted a 422-pound hang clean and a 606-pound back squat.
“It was a productive winter,” McCaskill said.
Next up is a productive spring, which began with Monday’s first of 15 practices over the next month.
With 38 games under his belt, the 6-foot-3, 257-pound McCaskill has been a key member of the line rotation, making 13 starts when injuries prompted his move inside two years ago. He is penciled atop the depth chart at end, opposite the Broncos’ STUD position.
“Sam McCaskill, he’s my lead man,” defensive line coach Steve Caldwell said. “Sam’s unbelievable. ... He’s played inside and out. Sam’s going to be one of those guys I’m going to depend on to help me get this group ready. I know I can put him wherever I need to to make us be the best defensive line we can be.”
The Broncos have only two defensive tackles who have appeared in a game (senior Elliot Hoyte and sophomore David Moa), so McCaskill is prepared to play inside a little this spring, too. Whether it is his willingness to be flexible, his work in the weight room or his three Mountain West academic honors, McCaskill is more than happy to take on a leadership role.
“That falls on me to step it up there, knowing the defense like I do, and I’ve been trying to help the guys as much as I can whenever the coaches aren’t there,” said McCaskill, who has 50 career tackles and four sacks. “I feel I have a great understanding of the defensive line, but I’ve really started to look at the concepts as a whole, know the linebackers and defensive backs’ roles, too.”
Should he maintain the starting job, the season opener Sept. 3 at Louisiana would be McCaskill’s first start at defensive end. He moved inside when Tyler Horn was hurt in the 2014 opener against Ole Miss, and moved back to defensive end last year, but so did Horn.
“He’s a guy that whatever we’ve asked him to do, he’s done it without hesitation,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “To us, that’s what it’s all about, and you look at those testing numbers, that says a lot about how awesome he’s been so far this year.”
Though the line is loaded with fresh faces (and will only get younger in the fall), that’s the way McCaskill likes it. He said being a part of the Broncos’ biggest unknown, and one that few expect to produce like last year, is a motivating factor.
“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder, and that’s the way we came in, so we’re happy being under the radar, ready to let it show on the field,” McCaskill said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420