Bronco Beat

Boise State football's defense tries to draw inspiration from Seahawks

The Boise State football team’s new defensive coaching staff wants the players to find inspiration from a neighbor in a different league.

Coaches told the players to watch video of the Seattle Seahawks, who rode a nasty defense to the Super Bowl championship earlier this year.

The Broncos can watch Seahawks plays within the team’s video system.

“We spent a lot of time watching Seattle, the Seahawks’ defense, this offseason,” senior nickel Corey Bell said, “watching how they fly to the ball and play with an aggressive mentality.”

Coaches said many times last year that the defense needed to improve the way it rallied to the football. The Broncos finished 75th in the nation in total defense at 413.4 yards per game and tied for 50th in scoring defense at 24.8 points per game.

Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said he wanted the players to see how fast the Seahawks play. The Seahawks led the NFL in total defense at 273.6 yards per game (27.7 yards better than anyone else) and scoring defense at 14.4 points per game.

“When you look at those teams that play great defense, they all run to the ball and the Seahawks run to the ball like no other,” Yates said, while also referencing great defenses like the old Steelers “Steel Curtain,” the Bears of the 1980s and the Ravens of the 2000s. “So our emphasis is we want guys flying around.”

He also wants to see an “edge” — the combination of physicality and confidence that helped the Broncos defense dominate from 2008 to 2012.

“You have to play with that edge, right?” he said. “The offense is trying to score points on you and they’re trying to score a lot of points. Most people that come to games — 85 percent of people — want to see offense. They want to see points. So right there, you have people coming for one thing. Our deal is we want to be physical but legal — so let me set that straight — but to me if you don’t have that edge, then you’re done.”

Other notes from Yates, who met with the media Saturday for the first time since fall camp started:

— His son, Eric, is a walk-on cornerback. Yates tried to get him a scholarship in the Big Sky at schools like Montana and Montana State. “They were kind of like, ‘Yeah, whatever, your kid can’t play. You’re just trying to get him a scholarship,’ ” Yates said. He told them, “My kid can actually play. I think he’s a I-AA corner.” When that didn’t work, he called former Boise State coach Chris Petersen and got Eric a walk-on spot with the Broncos. Then when Petersen left and Yates returned to Boise State as defensive coordinator, he ended up coaching his own son. “It is cool to see him on the field because he’s growing and he’s growing up,” Yates said. “He’s going through some ups and downs. Some days are tough. He plays a position where you’re out there on an island, corner. And so, if he gets beat, I always get that look from him, ‘Did Dad see me?’ ‘Yeah, I saw you.’ ” Yates is hard on his son, he said, but only because he’s that way with the entire team. “I think he thought it was going to be a lot different,” Yates said. “I think he thought I was going to be on him, I was going to be tough, but the cool thing is I’m not his actual coach, so I let coach (Julius) Brown coach him up. I’ll say a few words to him here and there. I’ll scream at him when he gives up a deep ball. Besides that, I’m kind of hands off a little bit. As he grows and starts to learn a little bit more, he’ll come ask me stuff at home about this coverage or that coverage, but he’s kind of raw right now.”

— He said the defense has been “up and down” in camp. “It’s real hard to really tell because you have the offense one day that’s doing well and then we’ll do well,” he said, “which is good, because you don’t ever want to see one side of the ball always doing well.”

— Tackling is a major emphasis and the thing Yates has been most pleased with so far. “I saw (tackling issues last year) on film,” he said. “But I saw it on film everywhere. With the game now being in space, as a coach you need to harp on tackling. I think the problem is how do you work on tackling. In order for you to become a great tackling team, you have to work at it. The thing with that that’s hard is your good players on offense, you can’t really tackle those guys.”

— He has been impressed with sophomore linebacker Ben Weaver. “He knows the defense, has a chip on his shoulder,” Yates said. “I like him because he will hit you and he’ll hit you hard, too.”

— On Ole Miss, a team he faced in the SEC at Texas A&M: “Get ready for a physical game. They’re well coached. They have some pros on their team. For some reason, everybody thinks that they’re going to overlook us. That’s not happening. They’re ready. They’re probably one of the teams in the SEC that I thought every phase they’re well coached. They’re big, they’re physical and they’re fast.”

— On his playcalling in the scrimmage: “I’m OK. I made some mistakes. As they’re getting better, I’m getting better also, getting a feel for how I want to call plays. They’re in camp and I’m in camp also.”

— Yates will work from the press box. He did the last two years at Texas A&M, too. “It’s a great view. You get to see the game. And if you get booed, right, they can’t see me out there. I can hide out.” The defensive position coaches will be on the sideline.

My profile of Yates runs in Sunday’s newspaper. He avoided the streets of Los Angeles, which eventually claimed his brother’s life, overcame a stutter that he calls his biggest challenge in life, transferred to Boise State when his original school canceled its football program, couldn’t play much as a senior because of knee injuries, drove a cab and worked as a bouncer to make money during the early part of his coaching career and was the second choice for the cornerbacks job that landed him on the Broncos staff in 2003.

“Everybody has a challenge,” he said. “Everybody’s story is their story for a reason. I was always taught by my parents to never feel sorry for yourself and understand that everybody is going to have an opportunity and it’s up to you to take advantage of that.”

We got to watch a little more of practice today than usual. In morning team drills, sophomore defensive end Kamalei Correa — who has been playing well — made a nice hit on tailback Devan Demas in the backfield. Junior safety Dillon Lukehart made a juggling interception on a pass that went off the hands of wide receiver A.J. Richardson.

In the afternoon, the Broncos offense looked sharp in the red zone. Among the highlights were touchdown catches by tight ends Jake Roh and Connor Peters, a nice post throw for a TD by Grant Hedrick to Dallas Burroughs, a Thomas Sperbeck touchdown catch on a ball he ripped out of the hands of Eric Yates and a juggling interception by true freshman safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner. Tailback Jack Fields and wide receiver Chaz Anderson also made some nice plays.

Email me at ccripe@idahostatesman.com.

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