The hard-hitting, touchdown-scoring, and field-roaming Boise State Broncos secondary is poised to accomplish big things in 2018.
In the pass happy world of college football, a strong pass rush and a talented secondary can be a lethal combination for an offense to worry about. The Boise State Broncos have exactly that, with members of the secondary acting as much more than simple pass defenders.
The unit has depth and brings years worth of college game experience. And this is with only one senior starter among the bunch.
Boise State has a long history of developing cornerbacks and safeties and this year’s crew is just as talented. Not only are they strong in pass coverage, but this unit is a force on run defense. Let’s not forget, of course, the newly acquired claim to the Turnover Throne this unit made in last Saturday’s victory over Troy.
They collected three fumble recoveries, two of which belonged to senior Tyler Horton. Jalen Walker had the third, with Horton scoring touchdowns on both of his. Horton also deflected the pass that led to Tony Lashley’s interception, while Kekoa Nawahine and redshirt freshman Tyreque Jones each forced a fumble.
Nawahine had seven tackles in the game, but it was his safety counterpart DeAndre Pierce who collected the most. Pierce, a junior, had 12 tackles, building on a 2017 campaign in which he had 83 tackles.
In fact, 10 of the top 11 tacklers return from last season, with six of those being members of the secondary (or nickel/linebacker hybrid position).
In Horton and Avery Williams, the Broncos have two starters who are among the best in the Mountain West Conference.
Horton has been an impact player for nearly his entire career at Boise State. His two defensive touchdowns earned him the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week and is well on his way to etching his name among the greats at Boise State.
Williams is only a redshirt sophomore and stepping into a starting role in the middle of the 2017 season. He’s been an impact player on special teams and had four tackles and two pass breakups against Troy.
An injury cut short Williams day last Saturday and might be limited against UConn, if he plays at all. If that’s the case, Walker should fit in just fine.
Also a redshirt sophomore, Walker earned the start in last season’s Las Vegas Bowl while Horton was out with an injury. He helped shut down Oregon’s vaunted passing game and had three tackles against Troy.
Behind Walker, the Broncos are relatively green at the position. Redshirt freshman Jermani Brown could see extended playing time, depending on the availability of Williams.
Last season, the returning members of the secondary combined for ten interceptions. Six of these ten came from the safety position, with three belonging to Nawahine.
Nawahine made 108 tackles last season and has a knack for being around the ball one way or another on every snap he’s on the field.
Pierce has proven to be just as active as he and Nawahine provide quite the 1-2 punch.
The safety position might be one of the deepest on the field, with Jones, sophomore Jordan Happle and redshirt junior Evan Tyler all capable of holding down the fort. Tyler is working his way back from a couple of injuries, but was a starter in the early days of his career at Boise State.
The Nickel/SLB hybrid
Two players have a grip on this position, each one impact players in their own right.
Desmond Williams, now a redshirt sophomore, began 2017 with a bang in the game against Troy with a game-changing play.
In the 2018 game, Williams delivered again, especially in the first quarter. Twice he made plays on third-down; once getting a tackle-for-loss and later picking up a sack. He ended the game with six tackles, including two for loss (plus his sack).
He’d see the field more if it weren’t for the sophomore he alternates playing time with, Kekaula Kaniho. Kaniho had 32 tackles as a freshman in 2017, with one very exciting interception against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
One of the best parts of having so much depth and experience in the secondary is that, through healthy in-team competition, these players make each other better. This allows the defense to stay fresh — which is the case at many positions — and not have a huge drop-off as starters are allowed a breather.
Looking at this list is more than enough to give opposing offenses pause. And for the Broncos sake, the more times opponents pause, the more Horton and company will see green (and blue) ahead of them.