By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski expects much more out of his players in next week’s Spring Game than they showed in the first scrimmage two weeks ago. The offense dominated that scrimmage, with Kellen Moore leading the first-team offense on a couple of long drives.
Moore burned the defense for a touchdown drive in Wednesday’s practice, too. He hit Chris Potter for a 30-yard touchdown. The drive was started on a fourth-and-13 completion from Moore to wide receiver Kirby Moore, a pass coach Chris Petersen said might have been Moore's best of the spring.
The Spring Game is Saturday, April 16.
“We’ve got to play a lot better — and give the offense credit, Kellen’s a really good quarterback,” Kwiatkowski said. “But I don’t care. We need to step up, make plays and it starts with our attitude, our passion, our intensity. We’ve got to get lined up and all that, but still it comes down to guys winning one-on-one matchups and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
That starts with the renowned defensive line, Kwiatkowski said.
“We can do better as far as consistency,” he said. “When you’re a senior and you’ve been through I don’t know how many spring balls — I’ve been there. They’ve got to push through it, they’ve got to grind, they’ve got to lead the young guys by example. I’m not saying it’s terrible or horrible, but we can be better.”
The offensive line has made a big push during the offseason to try to compete with the outstanding defensive line, even in the weight room and conditioning drills. That has paid off, Kwiatkowski said.
“I’m going to give the O-line some props because they’re doing a good job of competing and staying after it," he said. "They’re battling. They’re bringing it. So we’ve got to step up our game.”
Petersen gives the defense a bit of a break because several key players are out this spring — most notably linebackers Byron Hout and Aaron Tevis and safety Cedric Febis — but doesn't like some of the big plays the group has allowed.
"We've got to learn on defense that that's OK — they can make plays," he said. "We can bend, but we can't break, we can't fold our tent. And sometimes when you're playing against a guy like Kellen, that's easier said than done."
Petersen met with the media this afternoon. Here are the highlights:
— Senior offensive lineman Garett Pendergast will retire for medical reasons and serve as a student coach this season. Pendergast never fully recovered from the broken ankle he sustained in December 2009.
— Senior safety Travis Stanaway, who spent the first three weeks as the starting strong safety, is out until sometime this summer with a wrist injury. He was injured in the first scrimmage. Stanaway, freshman Jeremy Ioane and senior Cedric Febis are competing to replace Jeron Johnson. Febis is out for the entire spring and Ioane missed several practices with a hand injury.
— Marcel Yates' designation of pass game coordinator (see news below) is in recognition of the role he already performs, working with Kwiatkowski on the game plan.
— Keith Bhonapha's designation as recruiting coordinator gives the staff a point person for all of the calls they get about interested players who live outside the Broncos' recruiting territory. It's the first time the Broncos have had a position coach with the recruiting coordinator title since Viliami Tuivai was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator, from 2006 to 2008.
— The Spring Game will be offense vs. defense with a points system. The Broncos don't have enough healthy players to draft teams.
— Petersen expects to run the Beat Coach Pete 5k race in about 30 minutes. He ran Wednesday for the first time in two weeks. He donates $5 to the Boise State scholarship fund for every racer who beats him. He hates to lose, but not as much in this case. "I'm conflicted a little bit," he said. "Part of it is a lot of people should and need to beat me and that's not necessarily how we like to do it around here. ... I really enjoy it. I love seeing the younger kids that show up that want a piece of me."
This week, I’m finishing up breakdowns of the Boise State football team by position.
Previous posts: Tailbacks, tight ends/fullbacks, quarterbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs, offensive line and nickels.
Today: Defensive line.
Returning starters (3 of 4): Seniors Shea McClellin (end), Billy Winn (tackle) and Chase Baker (tackle) return. McClellin was an All-WAC first-teamer last year and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate with 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and an interception. He’s a rising NFL prospect because of his ability to play outside linebacker in three-man fronts. Winn was an All-WAC second-teamer but opposing coaches often cited him as the catalyst of the defensive line. Winn had 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. And Baker often is overlooked but Boise State coach Chris Petersen points out that he’s every bit as good as the better-known linemen. He had 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Key losses: Three-time All-WAC first-team defensive end Ryan Winterswyk is headed to the NFL. Winterswyk’s stats were down last year as he dealt with a knee injury and double teams, but his consistency and leadership will be missed.
Projected starters: McClellin, Winn and Baker will be joined by senior Tyrone Crawford, the junior college transfer who amassed 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks last year as Winterswyk’s backup. Crawford and McClellin could have monster seasons because opposing offenses can’t afford to focus their blocking in any one direction.
Other key returners: The Broncos have tremendous depth on the defensive line with sophomore tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks), senior tackle J.P. Nisby (4.5, 3.0), senior end Jarrell Root (4.5, 3.0), sophomore end Kharyee Marshall (2.0, 1.0) and junior tackle Mike Atkinson (2.5, 1.0 in four games) returning. The Broncos rotate a full second-team defensive line into games. That line likely will feature Atkinson, Tjong-A-Tjoe and Root. The fourth end spot is wide open. Right now, partly because of injuries, it would be grayshirt freshman Tyler Horn.
Also in the mix: Tackle Greg Grimes, end Nick Alexander, end/tackle Justin Jungblut and end/tackle Darren Koontz.
Also on the roster: End Austin Baker, tackle David Cushing.
Not practicing: Nisby has been out all spring and several linemen have been in and out with injuries.
Joining in August: End Sam Ukwuachu and tackles Robert Ash and Jeff Worthy might have been the biggest strength in the Broncos’ recruiting class.
Boise State defensive backs coach Marcel Yates will serve as the defensive pass game coordinator this season, a new title that underlines his importance to the Broncos' staff. Yates is entering his ninth season on the Boise State coaching staff. He has turned down several overtures from Pac-10 schools over the years.
Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha will be the recruiting coordinator. He's entering his third year as the running backs coach. He also was the director of football operations for three years.
Both titles are in addition to their current positions.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen has a press conference at 3 p.m. today. I'll post more details about these expanded roles after talking to him.