By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team expects to use five defensive ends in the season opener Friday night at Michigan State.
Their combined stats at Boise State: 18 games played, 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks.
That makes the group one of the Broncos’ biggest unknowns going into the season — and one of the biggest keys to the team’s success.
The ends replace NFL first-round pick Shea McClellin, third-round pick Tyrone Crawford and free agent signee Jarrell Root.
“We’ve got a lot of talent, I’d say,” said sophomore Tyler Horn, who made seven tackles and 1.5 sacks in eight games as a true freshman. “We all bring something a little different to the table, but overall I think we’re pretty talented and we’re pretty hungry to get out there and play and just prove people wrong about our young D-line.”
Horn and sophomore transfer Demarcus Lawrence are expected to rotate at the traditional end spot. Sophomore transfer Beau Martin, redshirt freshman Sam Ukwuachu and junior Kharyee Marshall (10 tackles in 10 games in his career) are expected to play the stud spot, the end who plays a combination of defensive line and outside linebacker.
Lawrence, Martin and Ukwuachu will make their major college football debuts.
“I know they’re going to be excited,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “You get them to where they know their stuff and they can just go play fast and play hard. And if they get lined up and know what they’re doing, if they’re playing fast, we’ve got a chance at anything, whether you’re new or experienced. But until they go out and do it, you don’t know.”
Kwiatkowski, though, is confident the ends will produce.
“Those guys practice hard, they’re passionate about it, they’re going to be ready to go,” he said. “Everybody needs that opportunity. They’re going to go out and play great.”
Horn expects the same — partly, he says, because of the way the linemen are coached. Kwiatkowski and new defensive line coach Andy Avalos have shaped the group.
“I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff,” Horn said. “They do a great job and they’re honest all the time. They’re extremely hard on us, but I feel pretty excited about this D-line.”
The key, Horn said: “Be disciplined. Do our job. And just compete.”
He tells the less experienced linemen that he was nervous last year.
“But once I got in there it was just like practice, it was like any game I ever played in,” he said. “Once you’re in there, you just want to keep playing.”
The ends will face an offensive line that returns four starters, including both tackles. Senior right tackle Fou Fonoti (6-foot-4, 296 pounds) didn’t allow a sack last year in 659 regular-season snaps. Junior left tackle Dan France (6-6, 315 pounds) is a former defensive tackle.
“They’re big — they’re really big — and they’re aggressive,” Horn said. “We just want to match that physical style of play.”
Said Boise State coach Chris Petersen: “That’s going to be an interesting matchup because you’ve got some salty old veterans at Michigan State against some new kids on the block.”
We’ll have our live chat at 11 a.m. today. You can find a link to it at IdahoStatesman.com.
Petersen has gotten to know Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio over the years.
“He’s one of those guys who is very meticulous in what he does and knows exactly what he wants,” Petersen said. “A really good person. Just a good guy to be around. He’s really a guy I’ve always rooted for until this week. I have a lot of respect for him, for what he’s done there. … You can tell their team is very fundamentally based. They believe in great defense and running the ball. A lot of those things that we believe in strongly as well. The styles might look slightly different, but I think at the root of everything we’re very similar.”
Here is the Detroit Free Press’ story on Boise State’s offense. Most interesting: the idea that the Broncos’ constant shifting results in defense’s playing slower than normal.