Defense may very well be the name of the game for the Boise State Broncos in 2019, at least to help stabilize things in the early going.
Breaking in a new starting quarterback and new starting running back on offense will be much of the focus, meaning the depth and experience of the defense could face extra pressure. Notably on August 31 when they take on the Florida State Seminoles.
It’s a good thing anchor and possible future, first-round NFL draft pick Curtis Weaver is there to lead the way.
Weaver, a redshirt junior, has been nothing short of a wrecking ball in his first two seasons in a Boise State uniform. As a sophomore, Weaver posted 43 tackles, including a spectacular 15 tackles-for-loss. This also included 9.5 sacks and a knack for making the big play.
This comes after a freshman season in which he had 11 sacks, now standing at 20.5 for his career and tied for sixth all-time at Boise State.
Being the talent that he is, Weaver will certainly draw a lot of attention in 2019. Lucky for the Broncos, they have a nice group up front to play alongside Weaver, including the return of David Moa.
Due to injuries, Moa only appeared in one game in 2018. Now healthy, it is hoped he will return to form that led to all-conference selections in 2016 and ’17.
The defensive line, even with the loss of Jabril Frazier, has plenty of talent to go around. Sonatane Liu, Matt Locher, Chase Hatada, and Emmanuel Fesili all bring experience to the table. All will contribute to a team that hopes to improve on the 122.9 rushing yards allowed per game in 2018.
Aided by plenty of key players returning, plus the return from injuries by DeAndre Pierce and Riley Whimpey, the defense will be something to pay close attention to in 2019.
Pierce was well on his way to another outstanding season last year before a suffering a season-ending injury in the fifth game. He was the Broncos leading tackler at that point, with 23, and brings a strong sensibility to the secondary.
He is just one of many in a secondary that rivals the defensive line in terms of experience.
Though Boise State held opponents to just over 233 passing yards per game, the team only had seven interceptions. Nearly half of those belonged to Safety/Nickel Kakual Kaniho, who finished the season with three. He’ll be joined at the safety position by leading tackler Kekoa Nawahine, who had 71 tackles, Evan Tyler and Jordan Happle, all who have played plenty the past three seasons.
The corner position has a bit of a question mark around it, with all-Mountain West star Tyler Horton graduated. Avery Williams, who had two picks in 2018, will man one side while Jalen Walker will likely start opposite of him. Walker made some starts in 2018 and saw plenty of game action.
All told, this group should provide more than a few highlights in 2019. Big things were expected from the duo of Pierce and Nawahine last season. While we got just a taste — and even if Pierce comes along slowly — the two are anchors of a Boise State Broncos secondary that will face plenty of stiff tests through the air.
And will also hopefully provide stout run support for a linebacker unit that might be a little green.
Questions at linebacker
A strength of the Broncos over the last 20 years, this year’s crop of linebackers brings plenty of game-action, little stats, and one key player returning from injury.
Even with the questions surrounding this unit, they could very well make waves.
Whimpey was in a groove when he went down with a season-ending injury after the BYU game. Whimpey had a four-game stretch in which he had 36 tackles, including 13 against Air Force, as he finished the season with 61 tackles in nine games.
In his absence, Ezekiel Noa stepped in with good results. Noa had played sparingly before Whimpey’s injury, collecting seven sacks. After? Well, he fit the role of leading tackler well, collecting 29 tackles over the season’s last four games.
Benton Wickersham and Bruno De Rose, along with possibly Nick Provenzano, should also factor into playing time. Wickersham had 19 tackles in 2018.
Throw redshirt freshman Phillip Mills into the mix and we could see a nice rotation of 7-8 linebackers. The unit certainly doesn’t lack talent. While there might be growing pains early, will be a game-changing crew by season’s end.
Offense has usually been the name of the game when it comes to the Boise State Broncos. Often forgotten over the years has been the play of the defense, though plenty of defensive alumni are in the NFL. Play from Weaver and the others in 2019 won’t make-or-break the Broncos, but their experience is certainly going to win the team a game or two.
Let’s hope it starts right off the bat, on August 31.
*Stats from Broncosports.com
UPDATE: Depth chart, released after article written.
It’s game week!! Here’s the #BoiseState depth chart for this week against Florida State…
No OR for QB or RB spot… pic.twitter.com/vRdlhG3ZKM
— Will Hall (@WillHallKTVB) August 26, 2019