By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Here is the second installment in my position-by-position preview of the Boise State football team. At the bottom, I’ve posted links to the blog and newspaper preview for other positions.
48 J.C. Percy, 6-0, 227, R-Sr.
33 Tommy Smith, 6-1, 238, R-Sr.
56 Dustin Kamper, 6-1, 217, R-Jr.
45 Travis Saxton, 6-1, 221, R-So.
13 Blake Renaud, 6-2, 239, So.
36 Tyler Gray, 6-4, 227, Fr.
31 Andrew Pint, 6-1, 215, Fr.
51 Ben Weaver, 6-0, 226, Fr.
6 Dextrell Simmons, 5-11, 200, Sr.
32 Jonathan Brown, 5-10, 211, R-Jr.
38 Corey Bell, 5-11, 206, So.
42 Hilton Richardson, 6-2, 217, R-Fr.
25 Chris Santini, 5-11, 220, Fr.
Storyline: Senior starters Percy and Smith have played part-time roles throughout their careers. Now they’re in the spotlight — and both say they’re eager to prove they’re front-line players.
Key to success: The nickel position has been incorporated into the linebacker corps this year. It’s likely that three or four players will be involved, but that combination needs to get the type of production the Broncos received from Winston Venable and Ellis Powers in years past.
Reason for concern: Percy, Smith and Renaud are the only experienced interior linebackers. If injuries become an issue, the depth could be a problem. Plus, the Broncos need a couple other linebackers to step up and take some of the special teams snaps away from Percy and Smith.
Star player: Percy is one of the most underappreciated players in recent Boise State history. He has finished second on the team in tackles twice and been one of the most productive defensive and special teams players on the team throughout his career.
Breakout performer: Teammates were impressed with Smith throughout the offseason conditioning program and expect him to have a monster year at middle linebacker. With tackles Mike Atkinson and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe in front of him, Smith should have some room to maneuver in the middle of the field.
Newcomer to watch: Santini has taken snaps at nickel and inside linebacker. He’s a big guy with good speed who, if nothing else, might provide that much-needed depth on special teams.
— Linebackers coach Bob Gregory: “We have more numbers (this year) but we still don’t have a lot of guys who have played and have got experience, so we have to develop that experience.”
— Nickels Simmons and Bell also have taken snaps at the inside linebacker positions. Smith may be the backup to Percy on the weak side, because Renaud could replace him in the middle.
— In addition to the nickels, defensive ends Beau Martin and Sam Ukwuachu could line up at nickel occasionally like Shea McClellin did last year.
Projected depth chart:
Middle linebacker: Smith, Renaud
Weak-side linebacker: Percy, Smith
Nickel: Bell OR Simmons, Brown
(No returning starters)
In Sunday’s paper: Percy has set his goal high for 2012. He wants to prove he’s one of the best linebackers in school history.
Here is my post on the AP Top 25.