By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
I’m running a series of blog posts breaking down each position on the Boise State football team. I’ll try to hit a new position after each practice.
Returning starters (1 of 3): Boise State counts senior weak-side linebacker J.C. Percy as a returning starter because he split that job with Aaron Tevis over the past three seasons. Tevis, though, was the primary starter. Percy has 177 career tackles, finishing second, second and tied for fifth on the team the past three seasons.
Key losses: Tevis (46 tackles, seven passes defended) and middle linebacker Byron Hout (team-high 69 tackles, six pass breakups) are gone. So, too, are defensive end Shea McClellin, who spent much of the season at the nickel spot, and nickel Hunter White.
Other key returners: Senior Tommy Smith made 18 tackles last season as the backup to Hout and has extensive game experience. He likely will start at middle linebacker, but he will get competition from sophomore Blake Renaud, who made 10 tackles as a true freshman. At nickel, three players who contributed return — junior Jonathan Brown (19 tackles), senior Dextrell Simmons (16) and sophomore Corey Bell (nine).
Other players to watch: True freshman Tyler Gray (6-3, 215 pounds) has the frame of Tevis and is a terrific athlete. As he gets comfortable in the defense, he could be a factor on the depth chart.
Projected starters: WLB Percy, MLB Smith, N Bell
Position chart (in no particular order):
Weak-side linebacker — Percy, Dustin Kamper (junior), Gray, Mitchell McCarthy (redshirt freshman)
Middle linebacker — Smith, Renaud, Travis Saxton (sophomore), McCarthy
Nickel — Brown, Bell, Simmons, Hilton Richardson (redshirt freshman)
Joining in August: Andrew Pint of Highlands Ranch, Colo., and Ben Weaver of Klein, Texas.
— The Broncos remain thin at the two inside linebacker spots. Only four of those seven players are on scholarship, and two of those guys (Renaud and Gray) have been on campus for less than a year. That puts pressure on Percy and Smith to deliver. “Sometimes seniors don’t necessarily take that jump,” linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “We want all those seniors to take the jump, to take the next step, and they know that. They’ve been working hard.”
— Renaud and Bell, who played as true freshmen last season, have looked good in spring ball. “I’m excited to see what Corey can do. He’s playing really well right now,” Gregory said. “… It’s so much better for (Renaud this spring) because he knows what’s going on now. He had a great practice today. He’s going to be a good player for us.”
The first-team offense drove for a touchdown during a game-like drive during Monday’s practice, the fifth workout of spring ball. Redshirt freshman tight end Holden Huff, who looks like he could be a factor this year, made the touchdown catch. Wide receiver Kirby Moore made a long catch on the drive and is having a nice spring.
Gregory is taking a group of Broncos to the Dominican Republic for spring break for the second straight year. It's a service trip to an orphanage/school. This year's participants are offensive tackle Faraji Wright, Bell, safety Dillon Lukehart and cornerback Ebo Makinde. Makinde was supposed to go last year but he got mono.
Last year, Brown and wide receiver Chris Potter made the trip. Here is the story I wrote last year on that journey.
Emmitt Smith apparently is a big fan of Doug Martin, according to this post on CBSSports.com.