Through the spring, I’ll preview each position on the Boise State football team.
Today: Defensive backs
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THOMPSON, DEAYON CHASE INTERCEPTION TITLE
Boise State senior cornerback Donte Deayon has 13 career interceptions – an impressive total that ranks tied for third among active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
And second in his own meeting room.
Boise State senior Darian Thompson has 14 career interceptions, one shy of the national lead.
Thompson edged Deayon 7-6 last year, although Deayon returned more for touchdowns (2-1).
“It’s definitely a competition,” Deayon said. “He’s one up on me, so I’ve got to get like five more than him this year.”
Said Thompson: “He’s a playmaker. He’s always ending up with the ball, just like I do. It’s an all-season battle. We have fun with it – even at practice, we’re battling against each other. It’s a good competition. He got me the year before (6-4). I got him last year. So I think it’s tied 1-1.”
The two defensive backs are tight off the field. They push each other on the field and are trying to rally the players around them.
Thompson was an All-Mountain West first-teamer last season and Deayon was a second-teamer.
“We’re both striving for more,” Deayon said. “We want to take our level to the next and bring the secondary with us as a whole. We can’t do it by ourselves. There’s going to be five DBs on the field. We can’t just do it with me and him. We need everybody else to step their game up.”
PERSONNEL AT A GLANCE
5 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 150, Sr.
25 Raymond Ford, 5-10, 171, R-Jr.
30 Jonathan Moxey, 5-10, 187, Jr.
47 Eric Yates, 5-9, 167, R-Fr.
23 Isaiah Johnson, 5-8, 168, R-Fr.
Ladarryl Blair, 5-11, 180, Fr.
Donzale Roddie, 5-11, 175, Fr.
Tyler Horton, 6-1, 175, Fr.
9 Mercy Maston, 5-11, 203, R-Sr.
24 Kam Miles, 6-1, 208, R-So.
37 Cameron Hartsfield, 5-10, 186, R-So.
4 Darian Thompson, 6-2, 210, R-Sr.
22 Chanceller James, 6-2, 214, R-Jr.
17 Brandon Brown, 5-11, 199, R-So.
29 Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 193, So.
31 Skyler Seibold, 6-1, 193, R-Fr.
Evan Tyler, 6-2, 180, Fr.
Damion Wright, 6-1, 185, Fr.
Darreon Jackson, 6-1, 185, Fr.
Kekoa Nawahine, 6-3, 190, Fr.
Returning starters (3 of 4): Moxey, who started 12 games as a true sophomore at cornerback, joins Thompson (32 career starts) and Deayon (26 starts) as returning starters. Coach Bryan Harsin singled out Moxey after the third of four weeks of spring practice for the progress he has made. “Moxey’s really taken a step in terms of growing up,” defensive backs coach Julius Brown said. “He has to really continue to develop, which he has.”
Key losses: Corey Bell started 11 games last year and 26 games in his career. He played safety most of last season and made a couple of key plays late in the Fiesta Bowl. He was sixth on the team with 55 tackles.
Other key returners: Sumner-Gardner, a true sophomore who was a top-100 recruit, and James, a redshirt junior coming off his second torn ACL, will battle in fall camp for the starting safety spot opposite Thompson. Sumner-Gardner, who made 19 tackles in 13 games last season, assumed the spot for spring ball and took advantage. “He’s starting to get a feel really for what we’re asking him to do and I think the game is starting to slow down for him a little bit,” Brown said. James, who missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, came back strong in 2014 and moved into the starting lineup in November. In his second start, he re-tore the ACL. He finished with 36 tackles in 10 games. Brown expects him back on the field in fall camp. “Chance is a guy last year that kind of took over a starting position and he was coming into his own when he got hurt,” Brown said. “... His rehab is ahead of schedule. The trainers are very happy with where he is. I’m looking forward to him to come out in fall camp and go compete and try to win his job back.”
Other players to watch: Maston could be the key to the Broncos’ defense this season. The former cornerback who redshirted last season because of injury is the starting nickel in spring ball, replacing the defensive MVP of the Mountain West championship game and Fiesta Bowl (Tanner Vallejo). Vallejo moved back to middle linebacker so coaches could use their preferred personnel group with five defensive backs. “It means a lot to me to contribute,” Maston said. “I want to leave a mark here as a Boise State football player.” Maston started four games at cornerback as a junior college transfer in 2013. He has added some weight – he’s 5-foot-11 and about 205 pounds – to handle the physicality of nickel, which requires a combination of linebacker, safety and cornerback skills. Sophomores Kam Miles and Cameron Hartsfield are the backups. “We can be so multiple,” Brown said of the five-DB approach. “Talking with our offense, I think it’s tough on them because we’re not switching personnel and we’re doing a lot of different things.” Maston missed last season with compartment syndrome in his left fibula (leg), which is caused by a buildup of blood or fluid. He was injured during fall camp and got healthy in time to play a few games late in the regular season but decided, in consultation with the coaches, to redshirt. Initially, he wanted to play. “I did the right thing,” he said. “I’m blessed to come back.”
Projected starters: CB Deayon, CB Moxey, N Maston, S Thompson, S Sumner-Gardner/James
Out for spring: James
Incoming signees: The Broncos loaded up on defensive backs in the 2015 recruiting class, and for good reason. Only seven scholarship defensive backs return from last year’s team. They’re supplemented by eight new recruits, including January arrivals Miles and Ford (cornerback). Miles, Ford and likely one or two summer arrivals will need to provide depth on defense and help on special teams this season. The Broncos only have three cornerbacks and three safeties on scholarship this spring. “Those kids know they’re going to be given an opportunity to come in and compete,” Brown said. “They’re working hard back at home. They send us videos of them training. I’m excited to get those kids here. It’s a great group of kids and I look forward to them coming into fall camp and possibly earning some playing time if they’re ready to go.”
– Deayon on the defense: “We want to be the best defense in our conference. That’s where we want to start at. Last year, we weren’t. This year, we’ve definitely got something to prove.”
– Here are the Boise State career interceptions leaders: Steve Forrey 24, Frank Robinson 22, Gabe Franklin 18, Darrin Lyle 15, Joe Larkin 15, Darian Thompson 14, Marty Tadman 14, Ken Johnson 14, Donte Deayon 13, Brandyn Thompson 13, Dempsy Dees 13. The players in bold have played during the FBS era.
– Brown on his spring emphasis: “We have to eliminate giving up as many explosive plays as we gave up last year. And we have to get better in our man-to-man technique. I think we’ve done that this spring.”
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SPRING BALL COVERAGE