The Boise State Broncos defense has taken hit after hit to the depth chart in 2018. Starters — and projected starters — acquired injuries dating back to week 1 when starting cornerback Avery Williams was injured.
Lucky for us, and for the Broncos, defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has rallied the unit and the players have leaned on each other to continue to produce good results.
Williams did not end up missing any time as he played with a brace on his elbow and ended up as an all-conference Mountain West honorable mention selection. Williams is tied for fourth on the team with 44 tackles, has 2 interceptions, and leads Boise State with 8 pass breakups.
Injuries were not so kind to DeAndre Pierce and David Moa. Mainstays in the program the last few seasons, Pierce (23 tackles) and Moa combined to play in only 8 games this season.
Linebacker Riley Whimpey had settled in at linebacker and was only gaining momentum when a knee injury befell him towards the end of the BYU game. Whimpey had 55 tackles in 2018.
The line also saw its share of injuries, with Chase Hatada and Sonatane Lui missing time.
Safety Kekoa Nawahine joined the list last week as well. Nawahine, Boise State’s leading tackler with 67 tackles, missed the victory over Utah State.
How a team handles and overcomes adversity can be indicative of how successful the team is. The Boise State Broncos? Well, they’ve put together a seven-game winning streak and will be looking for their eighth straight on Saturday in the Mountain West Championship Game.
The defense may have taken their hits in 2018. But as a testament to the breadth of talent on that side of the ball, still garnered three all-conference, first-team selections in the Mountain West
Defense: Rise up
Senior Jabril Frazier has 44 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2018. Frazier, when he wasn’t in the backfield pressuring the quarterback, was tracking down ball carrier or receivers. It would probably take more than two hands to count the number of times Frazier caught an opposing player from behind on a long run or reception.
Senior Tyler Horton has helped lock down the secondary and continues to have a knack for finding the end zone on defense. Horton has four fumble recoveries in 2018 and has also forced one fumble.
And sophomore Curtis Weaver continues to live in the opponents’ backfield, totaling 9.5 sacks and 14. 5 tackles-for-loss.
Across the board, players have stepped up. Kekaula Kaniho leads the team with three interceptions and Desmond Williams has played well.
Evan Tyler, Tyreque Jones, and Jordan Happle have all filled in at the secondary positions. All have made tackles and broken up passes in key situations.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Zeke Noa has made the most of extended playing time, collecting 7 tackles in three straight games.
These names are just a few of many contributing on defense in 2018. Three weeks ago against Fresno State, the Broncos held the Bulldogs to 17 points. Boise State held Fresno State scoreless after the Bulldogs took a 17-3 lead early in the third quarter.
This happened a week after several goal line and red zone stands against BYU. Last week, with Nawahine, Hatada, Moa, and Pierce all out, the Broncos held Utah State 25 points under their season average.
It’s going to take another solid effort from the defense this week. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s to not underestimate the talent the Boise State defense has in place, even with all of the injuries.
*Stats from Broncosports.com