By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Boise State sophomore defensive end Tyler Horn of Mountain View High has come on strong in recent weeks.
He started for the first time last week with Demarcus Lawrence suspended. Horn made a sack, his second this year, and was part of a defensive line that pressured UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry all day.
“Every game I feel more comfortable and more confident,” said Horn, who played as a true freshman last season. “I just feel good out there. Experience is everything. Just trying to improve every day is what my mindset is right now.”
Horn plays about half the snaps in games even as a backup, but he said he was “fired up” to start last week.
“Playing next to (defensive tackle Mike Atkinson) was kind of nice,” he said. “He takes up a lot of attention.”
Horn has 12 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery this season. He made seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks last season.
“He has taken a step, and it’s good to see,” coach Chris Petersen said. “That freshman year, especially in that D-line, things can be kind of tough. He’s starting to take the next step in terms of details and actually getting off of blocks and chasing the quarterback. He’s a guy who is very conscientious. He cares a lot. He practices hard. It’s starting to show up on Saturdays.”
Horn is part of a young group of ends who have made a big impact this season. Lawrence, a sophomore transfer, leads the team with 5.5 sacks. Sam Ukwuachu, a redshirt freshman, is tied for the national lead with three fumble recoveries. And junior Kharyee Marshall, who didn’t play much the past two seasons, is coming on strong.
Horn predicted as much the week of the season opener, telling me: “We’ve got a lot of talent, I’d say. 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.”
Asked now why he was so confident, Horn said: “I just saw a bunch of guys who wanted to get better. We compete all the time.”
Defensive line coach Andy Avalos also likes the work habits he’s seen from the group.
“They’ve just been really working hard and really putting the time in to learn these techniques and study film,” Avalos said. “They’ve really been good students of the game. They’ve been very receptive to (defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski) and myself in the things we’re trying to get done with them. The biggest thing is they just go out there and have fun and want to learn and play fast.”
Avalos credited the veteran linemen like Atkinson, tackle/end Darren Koontz, tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and tackle Greg Grimes for helping the young ends develop.
“When we came into fall camp, there was a noticeable difference with the fundamentals and the techniques and we just tried to build off that,” Avalos said.
Here is a video of ESPN’s BCS guru, Brad Edwards, talking about Boise State’s BCS hopes this year.
A couple highlights:
— “I think I’m in the majority by saying Boise State was robbed last year. … They should have been in the Sugar Bowl.”
— “In some respects, there would be a little bit of justice in Boise State maybe getting in a BCS game this year when they don’t deserve it.”
— “In a way, I’m kind of rooting for Boise State to get there because I’d like to see them get what they didn’t get a year ago. … I think Boise State has a decent chance to get there.”
True freshman defensive tackle Armand Nance got some extra playing time last week because of Lawrence’s absence. Avalos expects to use him more going forward.
“He’s getting better every practice,” Avalos said. “He’s just got to continue to build and learn the defense, learn the scheme and the fundamentals like he has been, and we’ll keep throwing him out there more and more. … One thing about Armand — he’s going to play hard. And he’s very explosive. He’s physical. He’s got some great natural things going on for himself.”
ESPN reported Wednesday that negotiations to create a seventh big-money bowl as part of the new playoff format have hit a snag. The game was supposed to provide guaranteed access for the highest-ranked champion from the five conferences without contracted spots in the new bowl system — the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American.
Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said Saturday in Boise that he expected the game to become a reality and that the Big East should have a team in the game nearly every year.
He also said the game was critical for the Big East.
“This is a really important breakthrough for the Big East,” Aresco said. “The Big East deserves this. … If you don't have that, then the perception of you might be different.”
It’s unclear what kind of access the Big East would have to the system without the seventh bowl. A Big East team would qualify automatically for the semifinals if it finished among the top four teams in the country, but many of the other eight spots are spoken for by the five contracted conferences — the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and SEC.
Todd Christensen is the color commentator for Saturday’s CBS Sports Network broadcast. Boise State originally listed Aaron Taylor.