By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Here is the third 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.
TODAY: DEFENSIVE BACKS
19 Josh Borgman, 5-7, 174, R-Sr.
4 Jerrell Gavins, 5-9, 169, R-Sr.
5 Jamar Taylor, 5-11, 196, R-Sr.
37 Ebo Makinde, 5-10, 181, R-Jr.
1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 166, R-So.
16 Deon’tae Florence, 5-9, 168, So.
18 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 175, Fr.
30 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 143, Fr.
21 Trey Corta, 5-10, 182, Fr.
24 Hazen Moss, 6-0, 201, R-Sr.
10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 197, R-So.
29 Lee Hightower, 6-2, 192, So.
23 Eric Agbaroji, 6-1, 203, R-Fr.
34 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 211, R-Fr.
35 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 197, R-Fr.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-0, 199, R-Fr.
22 Chanceller James, 6-1, 194, Fr.
Storyline: The Broncos boast one of the nation’s top tandems at cornerback — Taylor and Gavins — but are otherwise young in the secondary, which is led by new coach Jimmy Lake. The focus of the group: turnovers. “We were probably four to seven turnovers shy of where we’d really like to be (last year),” coach Chris Petersen said. “If we get four to seven more, that’s an elite, elite defense.”
Key to success: The Broncos could play three sophomores in a five-defensive backs look — safeties Hightower and Ioane and cornerback Douglas. That’s a lot of youth on the field at positions where you can’t afford big mistakes (see: TCU game). Those players need to deliver reliable, consistent performances.
Reason for concern: Taylor and Gavins each struggled with leg injuries last season. Coaches have limited Gavins through fall camp to protect him. If either of the stars breaks down, that’s a big dent in the defense.
Star player: Taylor and Gavins are both all-conference talents who could sneak into the All-America conversation if they finish with a bushel of picks. Opponents attacked Gavins early last season because Taylor was more established, and he made them pay with three picks in three games.
Breakout performer: Hightower, the new free safety, started at cornerback late last season and is a versatile player. He has a physical edge to him that should show up at safety and his smarts — he turned down the Ivy League to come to Boise State — should be an asset.
Newcomer to watch: Redshirt freshman safety Darian Thompson made two interceptions and a team-high seven tackles in the scrimmage Saturday. He showed up as a playmaker in camp as a true freshman last year, too.
— Moss surprisingly has made a run at the starting job at strong safety. Ioane remains the favorite there, but Moss has done a nice job in fall camp.
— Petersen: “Some of these young DBs, they have a natural edge to them, a natural chip on their shoulder that they want to compete, so we have to continue to foster that.”
— Lake: “I tell this whole group all the time that we’re going to be defined by how many times we get the ball back for the offense, whether that’s a fumble recovery or an interception.”
— Lake: “The way I’ve always coached, we always have eyes on the quarterback. We say he’s the dealer and he’s dealing the cards. We want to see that ball come out in a lot of coverages. If we can see the ball come out, now we have a better chance for tip interceptions, we have a better chance to react to the football in underneath zone coverages and the guys love it because we’re ultimately getting after that football.”
— Lake on Taylor: “He can play every position in the secondary. He could probably play nickel linebacker. He’s going to be a good professional player because he knows what it takes to be in his playbook, study film and then bring that onto the football field. We want to see him get more turnovers this year. He doesn’t have enough interceptions.”
— Hightower on playing as a true freshman: “It was new. It was something I probably could have been more prepared for if I had a better mindset going into it, but I’m appreciative for it. I like the learning experience I had.”
— Gavins: “Me and Jamar are the cornerstones, not just for the secondary, but for the whole defense. When they’re down, we’ve got to motivate them, bring everybody up. We’ve got a little more wisdom than everyone else.”
— Gavins, on the pairing with Taylor: “We plan on being the best, and that’s what we’re going to be — the best in the Mountain West, the best in college football. It is what it is. Anybody got a problem with it, any receiver, just come see us.”
Projected depth chart:
Cornerback: Gavins*, Douglas
Cornerback: Taylor*, Makinde
Free safety: Hightower, Thompson
Strong safety: Ioane, Moss
(* indicates returning starters)
In Monday’s paper: Lake says his defensive backs will be defined by one stat: turnovers.