Boise State’s defensive backfield will be missing a key member the first month of the season.
The Broncos announced Tuesday that redshirt sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner will serve a four-game suspension “as a result of failing to meet NCAA football academic eligibility requirements.” Sumner-Gardner started the first four games in 2015 before a season-ending ankle injury at Virginia.
“I think that’s real simple. You’ve got to take care of business, certainly disappointed in that situation there,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “My 10-year-old son plays football now too, and he understands that you’ve got to take care of your schoolwork, you’ve got to do things in order to play.”
One of the top recruits to sign with the Broncos in recent years, Sumner-Gardner decommitted from Texas A&M, graduated high school early and enrolled in January 2014, playing in 13 games as a true freshman. He was able to get a redshirt last season because of the injury ending his season early enough in the year. He has 33 career tackles and three passes defensed.
Sumner-Gardner was cited in November for drug paraphernalia use or possession with intent to use, a misdemeanor, after a traffic stop. He pled guilty in February. He did not make the trip with the team to the Poinsettia Bowl in December.
“We’re going to have to have guys step up while he’s out, certainly want to get him back on track as we move forward,” Harsin said.
In his place, the Broncos listed junior Cameron Hartsfield as the starter at boundary safety for Saturday’s opener at Louisiana. Harsin said the two players that “have really stood out to me since last spring” are Hartsfield on defense and sophomore receiver Akilian Butler on offense.
“There’s one guy in particular right there, Cam Hartsfield, who has elevated his role on this team all the way around,” defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said. “That builds confidence for everybody, obviously for us as coaches, firing him in there like ‘let’s go man, let’s go play.’”
The four games Sumner-Gardner is slated to miss are Louisiana, Washington State (Sept. 10), Oregon State (Sept. 24) and Utah State (Oct. 1). He could return for Oct. 7’s game at New Mexico, more than a year since his last game.
DEPTH CHART PROVIDES LITTLE INTRIGUE
Boise State released its first depth chart since late July on Tuesday, and it was nearly identical to the previous one, Sumner-Gardner’s absence withstanding. One true freshman is listed (Sonatane Lui at nose tackle), though a handful are expected to contribute. Junior Blake Whitlock is listed as senior Tanner Vallejo’s backup at SAM linebacker, with junior Kameron Miles behind Hartsfield at boundary safety. Miles had started fall camp at linebacker, but moved to safety in the last two weeks.
The offensive line has held steady, including listing senior Will Adams and junior Archie Lewis as co-starters at left tackle.
“It’s been going good, we’ll make a decision by Thursday,” co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Scott Huff said. “Both guys have played well, and both guys may play.”
Other positions featuring an “or” between possible starters were STUD (junior Gabe Perez and sophomore Jabril Frazier), middle linebacker (junior Joe Martarano and senior Darren Lee), both cornerback spots (senior Jonathan Moxey, senior Raymond Ford, sophomore Tyler Horton and redshirt freshman Ladarryl Blair) and free safety (senior Chanceller James and redshirt freshman Evan Tyler).
ALL QUIET ON THE INJURY FRONT?
Harsin again stated that the Broncos got out of fall camp relatively free of injury, adding that he would comment on players either out for the season or those expected “to miss significant playing time, we’ll mention that.” Thus, he had no specific updates on any who have missed time, though he said Adams, who did not take part in Saturday’s open practice, could have practiced but was nursing a slight back “tweak.”
Junior tight end Jake Roh was seen at the practice with a large brace on his left leg, but Harsin stated recently that game week tends to do wonders for players who may be questionable.
“We expect everybody to contribute as far as injuries go,” Harsin said. “We’ll know a lot more by the end of the week when it comes to how these guys are looking on the field. Certainly expecting guys to be out there prepared to go.”
Boise State at Louisiana
When: 10 a.m. MT Saturday
Where: Cajun Field (36,900, synthetic turf), Lafayette, La.
Watch: ESPN3 (espn.com/watchespn; must have subscription with affiliated service provider)
Radio: KBOI (670 AM)/KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Chris Lewis
Series: Boise State leads 1-0 (Won 34-9 in 2014 in Boise)
Vegas line: Boise State by 20