Each day, I’ll post a blog with all the nuts-and-bolts information about a position and many of the quotes I’ve collected. The next morning, we’ll run a feature story on the position in the newspaper.
Today: Defensive backs
Here is the newspaper story.
DEFENSIVE BACKS ROSTER
1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 175, R-Sr.
3 Cleshawn Page, 5-9, 178, Sr.
9 Mercy Maston, 5-11, 197, Sr.
5 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 152, Jr.
30 Jonathan Moxey, 5-10, 187, So.
23 Kevin Person, 6-0, 173, Fr.
47 Eric Yates, 5-9, 161, Fr.
38 Corey Bell, 5-11, 208, Sr.
22 Chanceller James, 6-2, 208, R-So.
37 Cameron Hartsfield, 5-10, 186, R-Fr.
31 Zavior Hoxie, 5-11, 184, Fr.
10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 192, R-Sr.
24 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 219, R-Jr.
4 Darian Thompson, 6-2, 208, R-Jr.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-1, 208, R-Jr.
17 Brandon Brown, 5-11, 194, R-Fr.
29 Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 196, Fr.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Donte Deayon, 5-9, 152, Jr.: All-Mountain West second-teamer last year with six interceptions and nine pass breakups. He made one start as a true freshman in 2012.
Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 175, R-Sr.: Started 10 games last season but lost his job late in the year. He still finished with four interceptions and nine pass breakups.
OR Mercy Maston, 5-11, 197, Sr.: Replaced Douglas late last season. He’s a physical player who also has practiced at nickel.
Jonathan Moxey, 5-10, 187, So.: The latest Bronco defensive back to play as a true freshman started one game last season. He also opened Friday’s scrimmage with a nasty hit.
Cleshawn Page, 5-9, 178, Sr.: Like many junior college transfers, he’s starting to become a playmaker a year after joining the program.
Corey Bell, 5-11, 208, Sr.: Finished second on the team last season with 76 tackles. His role hasn’t changed much under the new coaching staff, but he trains with the defensive backs instead of the linebackers and says that has helped his pass coverage.
Chanceller James, 6-2, 208, R-So.: Talented player was on the cusp of cracking the lineup as a true freshman and missed all of 2013 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has impressed coaches with his ability to compete at safety and nickel, playing as many as 20 straight snaps in practice.
Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 192, R-Sr.: All-Mountain West second-teamer is respected by conference coaches because of his physical nature. He made 59 tackles last season but was more productive as a sophomore (70 tackles, three interceptions).
Dillon Lukehart, 6-1, 208, R-Jr.: Reliable backup and terrific special-teamer finished with 46 tackles last season, when he was needed with the first-team defense several times.
Darian Thompson, 6-2, 208, R-Jr.: Heady safety has shown strong ball skills in his career, with seven interceptions. He started the last six games of 2012 and all 13 games last year.
Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 196, Fr.: Top-100 recruit likely will make his biggest impact on special teams this year. But he’ll provide depth in the secondary — and perhaps push the starters.
Overview: The Broncos have two-deep talent in the secondary this season and — unlike last year — plenty of experience. Of the 65 starts at these five positions last year, only one was made by a player who doesn’t return (Jonathan Brown, season opener, nickel). Eight of the 11 players on the above depth chart have started at least one game at Boise State. Two of the other three are highly regarded recruits who will make their college debuts — James and Sumner-Gardner. Of course, it’s the same group that allowed an un-Boise State-like 249.2 passing yards and 24.8 points per game last season. “If there’s a touchdown or a big play, it usually goes through us,” Thompson said. “And we’ve got to take that stuff personal.”
Key to success: The Broncos allowed too many easy completions and too many big plays last season. They need to get back to the tight coverage and physical tackling that made the defense so stingy from 2008 to 2012. There were signs of that in Friday’s scrimmage.
Reason for concern: The natural assumption in college football is that returning starters make a leap during the offseason. But this is the same crew of defensive backs who didn’t perform well as a whole last year and one of the weaknesses remains — size.
Star player: Deayon is one of the four Broncos whose pictures hang on the outside of Bronco Stadium. He’s got all the qualities you’d want in a face-of-the-program type of player at Boise State — he’s undersized, dedicated, feisty and likable. “Donte will be a leader back there for us,” defensive backs coach Julius Brown said. “He’s a tremendous player. The one thing I really like about Donte is that he really, really studies.”
Breakout performer: James will be all over the field. He was the Special Teams Scout Player of the Year in 2012 as a redshirt, so he’ll contribute in the kicking game. He’s a backup at nickel and safety, so it won’t take much for him to end up in a starting role. And if he plays like he did in Friday’s scrimmage, coaches will carve out a role for him even if everyone is healthy. “He’s just done a tremendous job,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy. He’s going to have himself in the mix.”
Newcomer to watch: Everyone will be watching Sumner-Gardner because of the hype surrounding his decision to back out of a Texas A&M commitment and follow defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to Boise State. He will play, probably on special teams at first, and extend the longstanding tradition of true freshman defensive backs getting on the field.
— Brown on Ioane and Thompson: “They’ve played a lot of football, been in a lot of battles. They’ve seen a lot of different scenarios, so they’re able to understand formations and see splits and things like that, kind of have a good idea the type of plays the offense is going to run. It’s a pleasure to have them back there.”
— Brown on Sumner-Gardner: “He’s going to play on special teams, going to help us a bunch. He’s going to play defense — for us and him, it’s figuring out the role to put him in so he can have the most success.”
— Brown on his expectations: “We want them to play with an edge. I want them to be very competitive. When they’re out there, I want them to go and take a chance, go make great plays, because the great ones do that. I don’t want to restrict them by any means.”
— Brown on Yates: “He’s brought an edge to our defense. Marcel, he’s an attacking, physical guy by nature. We want them to play fast, play physical. We don’t want them to back down, slow down or lay down.”
— Deayon on his game: “I’ve got pretty good ball skills when the ball is in the air. I’ve got to be more physical with the receivers and just make sure I stay glued to them. Coming out of my breaks, I’m on the receiver every time and not just floating around.”
— Deayon on the tradition of DBs to the NFL: “It’s just good to see that these coaches were here when those players were here as well, so you know it’s all on you to perfect it.”
— Deayon on the competition at the other cornerback spot: “It’s a battle. It’s always good to see people compete. I feel like we’re getting the best out of each and every one of them every day because they know at any given moment they can’t just relax and be like, ‘OK, I’ve got the spot.’ Neither can I.”
— Thompson on how to fix what went wrong last year: “Watching the film from last year and making the corrections on the mistakes we made. A lot of us come back, so that’s experience that’s under our belt to help us prevent making those mistakes again.”
— Harsin on what impresses him about Bell: “Just how tough the guy is. He’s athletic, he moves, he runs, he’s strong — he’s a symbol for us.”
— Yates wants Thompson and Ioane to lead: “In today’s athlete, guys are afraid to say something to guys if they’re doing wrong or it’s not the standard. Everybody wants to be everybody’s friends nowadays and not hurt anybody’s feelings and for me, I think that it can’t just come from us coaches. Once you see your peers getting on you, now I think the team is going to change. So once we start getting our players within the team getting on other players, it will be where we need it to be.”
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