By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
No need to remind the Boise State defensive linemen who they’re trying to replace this season. Senior defensive end Darren Koontz thinks about it every day.
The Broncos lost their top five linemen, including three who likely will be drafted and at least one more who will be in an NFL camp.
“The pressure is definitely there,” he said. “Our whole starting D-line you’re going to be watching on Sunday now. You’re going in behind that. You do good at practice and you still feel like you did bad because you’re comparing yourself to the guys who were there before you. We were all lucky to have them in front of us to show us how to do it. We’re trying to fill that void. I definitely feel we have the ability and the skill to do it.”
Koontz has bounced between end and tackle during his career. He also has battled the injury bug, including three broken feet in 2010 — his left foot twice and his right foot once.
He’s playing the end spot that Ryan Winterswyk and Tyrone Crawford held in recent years.
Like many of the Broncos’ seniors, this season represents Koontz’s chance to shine.
“Everybody is ready to take advantage of whatever opportunity they get, to play their role, to get out there and kind of lead the team in our way,” he said. “We’ve watched everybody do it before us. Now it’s kind of our turn to do it. It feels kind of weird sometimes. You’re looking to someone else to lead you and you realize you’re the oldest guy here.”
The Broncos held a closed scrimmage Friday morning at Bronco Stadium. No stats were released.
Koontz, on which side was better: “I’ve gotta go with defense, always, no matter what. We’d like to start faster but we got into ’em.”
Senior tight end Chandler Koch: “It was pretty even. There were good things on both sides of the ball. It was a good, hard scrimmage and it was nice to finally go live out there, to play some good football. Everybody got better. It was a good building block.”
Koch has yet to play an entire season. He missed two games with a knee injury last year and never was fully healthy all season.
“I’ve gotten hurt twice in fall camp,” he said. “It’s always like the last week of fall camp, a freak accident.”
He’s part of what could be a very productive group of tight ends. Senior fullback Dan Paul and junior tight end Gabe Linehan headline a group that also has some intriguing young talent.
“The talent’s there,” Koch said. “Everyone brings their own things to the table.”
Redshirt freshman Holden Huff, who grayshirted out of high school and joined the team in January 2011, has looked good as a receiving threat in spring ball. He’s up to 220 pounds and has reached 226 — strong growth for a guy who weighed 199 at the end of his senior season of high school.
He says he’s blocking and running routes with confidence this spring, which is much different than last spring. He spent most of his time in high school split out as a receiver.
“I can’t even explain to you — 10 times, 20 times better,” he said of his comfort level. “… I was really unsure at first. I came in the spring (last year) not knowing anything. It was really different for me. Now I’ve come to love (tight end). You get a good block, it’s just like making a great catch. It’s the same energy.”
In Sunday’s paper, I’ll have a story on the Broncos’ senior class — a star-crossed collection of guys who have endured much adversity, from walking on to injuries to a lack of playing time.
“A band of misfits,” Koch said.
The Broncos begin spring break Saturday. They don't practice again until April 3.