Boise State football preview: Defensive line

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2012 Idaho Statesman

My annual position-by-position preview of the Boise State football team begins in Saturday’s newspaper with the defensive line. In addition to that series — a feature story and depth chart — I will be providing a personnel breakdown for each position in my blog. The blog posts for each position will publish the day before that position’s story runs in the paper.

TODAY: DEFENSIVE LINE

Personnel:

ENDS
41 Kharyee Marshall, 6-2, 240, R-Jr.
53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 250, R-So.
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 265, So.
8 Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 242, So.
82 Sam Ukwuachu, 6-4, 222, R-Fr.
49 Darien Barrett, 6-3, 222, Fr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 236, Fr.
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 273, Fr.

TACKLES
99 Michael Atkinson, 6-0, 306, R-Sr.
91 Greg Grimes, 6-0, 293, R-Sr.
95 Darren Koontz, 6-3, 274, R-Sr.
68 David Cushing, 6-1, 272, Sr.
43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 296, R-Jr.
58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 283, R-Fr.
98 Jeff Worthy, 6-3, 285, R-Fr.
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 275, Fr.

Storyline: The top five linemen from last year’s team are in NFL training camps, including three who were drafted. Returning linemen contributed just four sacks last season.

Key to success: The ends are a raw, talented bunch who have to play smart. They’re all capable of making some big plays but Boise State has had success in recent years with ends who, first and foremost, took care of their assignment.

Reason for concern: The tackle depth is limited and the drop-off from the starters to the backups is larger than it has been in recent years.

Star player: Atkinson, who could get a look from the NFL and already has been drafted by the CFL, is an athletic space-eater on the line. He’s at the lightest weight of his career and has made a bunch of plays in the backfield, particularly against the run, during fall camp. He’ll get starter’s snaps for the first time this year and should put up big numbers.

Breakout performer: Ukwuachu and Martin should be fun to watch at the stud end spot. Martin might make more tackles, but Ukwuachu likely will be flashier — he uses his 6-foot-4 frame to disrupt the screen passing game. He has picked off several passes in practice this year.

Newcomer to watch: Lawrence likely will play about half the game at the traditional end spot. He has an impressive combination of speed and power and has done what few junior college transfers can — fit in quickly with the Broncos.

Quotes/notes:

— Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski on Atkinson: “He’s done a good job of getting himself in the best shape he’s been in. He’s under 310, working hard and leading by example.”

— Redshirt freshman Jeff Worthy has emerged as the fifth tackle to this point.

— Kwiatkowski on Martin and Ukwuachu: “They’re both playing their tail off. They’re both being physical. It comes down to who’s going to make plays, who’s going to produce, and they’re both doing that right now.”

Projected depth chart:

Stud end: Martin OR Ukwuachu, Marshall
Tackle: Atkinson, Grimes
Tackle: Tjong-A-Tjoe, Koontz
End: Lawrence, Horn
(No returning starters)

In Saturday’s paper: There was a time when it looked like Atkinson might never reach his senior year. Now he’s universally considered a leader.

•••

The Boise State defense stopped the first- and second-team offenses during the “clutch” drill Friday, where the offense gets 1 minute, 15 seconds and a timeout to drive for a field goal. Junior wide receiver Kirby Moore made a 30-yard catch on second-and-20 for the first-teamers, but the group ran out of time to score. The second-teamers were done in by the pass rush.

Senior wide receiver Mitch Burroughs made the play of the day, catching a pass on an out route while sprawled on his back.

•••

The fall scrimmage is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bronco Stadium. Admission is free. It is the only practice open to the public and the last practice open to the media.

•••

Michigan State has released 1,200 tickets for the Boise State game that were returned by the Broncos. Boise State sold 3,150 of its 5,000 tickets. Tickets ($80 each) are available through msuspartans.com.

•••

The Associated Press Top 25 will be released at 8 a.m. Saturday. I’ll post a few minutes later.

•••

Camper of the day update (chosen by coach Chris Petersen for Broncosports.com):

Day 1: N Corey Bell. “Corey had a great summer and came into camp in good shape,” Petersen said. “Mentally, he is really on top of things right now.”

Day 2: TE Holden Huff. “Holden is making plays for us out there, and we like playmakers,” Petersen said.

Day 3: DL Darren Koontz. “Darren had a really nice day,” Petersen said. “He was playing physical and much faster, and he was nice and disruptive today.”

Day 4: LT Faraji Wright. “Faraji showed up to this camp ready to compete,” Petersen said. “He has been playing at a high level from day one, and he has been extremely focused.”

Day 5: LB Tommy Smith. “Tommy has been extremely focused thus far in camp,” Petersen said. “He has been working extremely hard and is playing very physical football right now.”

Day 6: RB D.J. Harper. “D.J. is running hard and making sharp cuts,” Petersen said. “He has been extremely precise in what he’s doing out here.”

Day 7: No practice.

Day 8: CB Deon’tae Florence. “Deon’tae had a really good practice,” Petersen said. “He made some big plays, and hauled in a couple of interceptions.”

Day 9: No practice.

Day 10: LB J.C. Percy. “J.C. is doing a great job inside,” Petersen said. “He knows this defense inside and out, and he plays as hard as anyone we have on the roster.”

Day 11: WR Chris Potter. “Chris is working real hard out here,” Petersen said. “He is precise in his routes and extremely tough to cover, and he is doing a great job in our return game.”

Day 12: WR Kirby Moore. “Kirby has done a nice job out here,” Petersen said. “He is faster and more precise, and is an extremely sharp player. He is having a great camp.”

Day 13: No practice.

Day 14: DE Demarcus Lawrence. “Demarcus is doing a great job, and has certainly taken steps since the spring,” Petersen said. “His effort and focus are really good right now.”

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§ Again, Chadd, nice work.

Atkinson has really hung in there and good for him. Hope he does have that great year.

You don't mention anything about the QBs and which QB(s) of the "second-teamers were done in by the pass rush". Suppose that was a purposeful omission. We'll just have to find out more tomorrow.

QBs

Yes, finally tomorrow I can actually write about what the quarterbacks do. Will be nice.

Chadd

Not a lot mentioned about Ricky "TAT". I've always thought he has a lot of potential to be disruptive and a playmaker from the tackle. How has he looked in camp?

Ricky

He is doing a nice job. Not a lot written about him because we can't talk to him ... but I expect he'll have a really good year.

Chadd,

another A-plus. The D-tackle position is a concern depth-wise, but Koontz and Grimes as the 2's can also get the job done and it's good to hear that Jeff Worthy is progressing into the mix.

Only 8 defensive tackles and FOUR of them are Seniors??

Add that to the fact that so far Boise State has not gotten ANY verbal commitments for defensive tackles for next year and that spells real serious trouble for the 2013 season. They better get their act together and start recruiting some defensive tackles - cause that's just plain scary lack of depth at this point for 2013.

there are several offers

out for DT's that are playing JC ball this year. I'm thinking that if Armond Nance (6', 273 lbs) redshirts this year, he might put on some lbs in the weight room and slide inside to tackle.

I'm not to concerned

about the defensive line. For the last three years BSU has run a two deep rotation and there wasn't much change in productivity between the first unit and the second. While there aren't any starters returning, there are lots of players with game experience and lots of young talent. I'm excited to see the next Ryan Winterswyk or Tyrone Crawford emerge to meet a need. The young guys in waiting are a highly talented bunch that could surprise us.

§ The D line and another great meeting

We'll see about the D line starting tomorrow. Consensus in the discussion tonight is that it will be fine. Lots of talk about that from some folks who have insight.

Fun meeting with everyone again this evening at the Ram. The discussion was lively and productive. Plus, we finally got to meet DF. She was terrific and certainly knows BSU football. Solid addition to the crew.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again tomorrow for the fall scrimmage.

Cheers.

btw - Kellen finished 10-15, 96 yards, no TDs or INTs.

Go Broncos, beat MSU!

It was a great meeting

Its great talking and getting some new thoughts and insight from fellow Broncos. I always feel a connection with everyone who comes and really enjoy everyones perspective and knowledge.

I can't wait for tonight.

Missed Dex and funky.

GO BRONCOS!

§ We will see them

in a couple of weeks.