Boise State football coaches detail pursuit of this year’s defensive recruits

Above: Mat Boesen highlights

By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman

Yesterday, I provided details on the 11 offensive players and one kicker in the Boise State football program’s recruiting class. Today, I hit the 16 defensive players.

A couple reminders: You can view the recruits’ highlight videos here and a photo gallery of recruits here.

CB Dionza Blue, 5-11, 180, Bishop Amat HS (La Puente, Calif.)
Named first-team Tribune All-Area and first-team All-Serra League at defensive back following his senior season. Led the Lancers in tackles (68.5) and interceptions (four). Also a standout running back.
Recruited by: Jimmy Lake
The skinny: Blue committed to Fresno State while waiting for a Boise State offer, which didn’t come until after the season ended. He and Cameron Hartsfield were in the same situation — they didn’t catch recruiters’ attention as juniors but were terrific as seniors. “I know for sure if Dionza and Cameron had their senior seasons as juniors, if they flipped it … they become national recruits and all of a sudden there’s 30-40 schools on them,” defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said.

N Mat Boesen, 6-4, 220, West HS (Torrance, Calif.)
Named CIF Northern Division Defensive Player of the Year, Daily Breeze All-Area and MaxPreps California Division II All-State second team. Had more than 50 receptions and 800 yards receiving. Also recorded more than 100 tackles and broke West’s single-season sack record.
Recruited by: Jimmy Lake, Bob Gregory
The skinny: Boesen represents a shift in the Broncos’ thinking about the nickel position. They want taller, longer players who will have an edge blitzing and covering the tight ends that gave the team fits last season. None of the Broncos’ other scholarship nickels are 6-foot. “What (Boesen) gives us on the outside is a long guy, which we don’t have,” linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “He’s a longer guy with longer arms. He can rush the passer better. He can get his hands on the tight end. He really gives us a different type of dimension out there that we might not have right now. … The guys we have right now and the guy we had — Dextrell Simmons, Jonathan Brown, Corey Bell — are all good players but they’re all about 5-10.” Boesen played tight end (he usually lined up in the slot, so he was more of a wide receiver) and defensive end in high school.

DE Kamalei Correa, 6-2, 230, Saint Louis School (Honolulu):
Named first-team All-Interscholastic League of Hawaii (I/II) on the defensive line following his senior season. Also lettered twice in basketball.
Recruited by: Keith Bhonapha, Andy Avalos
The skinny: Correa’s personality was a hit with the Broncos’ coaching staff. That might help him conquer the homesickness that often confronts Hawaiians who come to Boise State. “He is a guy that you just warm up to right away,” coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s got that personality. You’re on the phone with him and you’re like, ‘I like this kid.’ You feel this really good connection. I’m hoping (safety Jeremy Ioane) and his past experience can really help his adjustment.” Correa will play the field end position — the traditional end — but has the athleticism to play multiple spots, defensive line coach Andy Avalos said. “Their defense is somewhat similar to ours,” Avalos said. “They have him play some different positions.”

CB Cameron Hartsfield, 5-10, 185, Allen (Texas) HS
Recorded 100 tackles and six punt blocks in his final prep campaign, helping lead Allen to the 5A Division I state championship. Defensive MVP in the title game after recording nine tackles and a 56-yard fumble return.
Recruited by: Bob Gregory, Jimmy Lake
The skinny: The Broncos didn’t talk to Hartsfield until mid-January and didn’t offer him a scholarship until after he had committed to Nevada. But the evaluation was not rushed. “That was a great job by coach Gregory — he had him on his radar,” Lake said. Hartsfield capped a strong senior season with the MVP performance in the title game. “He kept getting better and better as a senior,” Gregory said.

LB Darren Lee, 6-2, 220, Lassen HS (Susanville, Calif.)
Named first-team All-State for Division III following his senior season. Voted Northern Athletic League Defensive MVP.
Recruited by: Not available
The skinny: Lee signed in February 2010 as a surprise addition to the recruiting class. He went on a church mission after high school and enrolled at Boise State last month. He didn’t return from his mission until the first week of January. “He’s such a great kid,” Gregory said. “He’s all frustrated that he’s not in top physical shape right now.” Lee will begin at weak-side linebacker.

LB Joe Martarano, 6-3, 235, Fruitland HS:
Named honorable-mention PARADE All-American following his senior season, just the third Idahoan to make the team. Named Idaho’s Gatorade Player of the Year and All-Idaho 3A Player of the Year. On defense, recorded 147 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions. On offense, threw for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 600 yards and 10 scores.
Recruited by: Jeff Choate (before he left last year), Andy Avalos, Bob Gregory
The skinny: The Broncos locked up Martarano the summer before his junior season. “Just being so gifted athletically, he was just so far ahead of so many other kids,” Gregory said. “We had him here in camp for two years. He’s very natural inside. That’s one of the reasons we want him to play inside linebacker. … We want to start him as (a weak-side linebacker) and go from there. He could be a (middle linebacker), he could be a nickel, he could be a boundary defensive end.” The question surrounding Martarano is whether he will be swayed by money to play pro baseball instead. The draft is in June. “All we know is he’s a heck of a football player, he loves Boise State, he wants to be here and we want him here,” Petersen said. “Who knows what happens down the road, good or bad. We live in the here and now. He’s got an unbelievable option here at Boise State.”

CB Mercy Maston, 5-10, 190, jr., Bakersfield College (Bakersfield, Calif.)
Helped lead Bakersfield to the state championship last season, leading the Renegades in tackles (10) in the title game. He recorded 68 tackles on the season (52 solo) and grabbed two interceptions.
Recruited by: Keith Bhonapha, Jimmy Lake
The skinny: Boise State and some Pac-12 schools recruited Maston out of high school, but he signed with San Jose State amid academic concerns. His SAT score wasn’t high enough and he was forced to go the junior college route. Boise State coaches stayed in touch with him and were able to land him this time. He’ll join the team in the summer. “He’s a guy who (former defensive backs coach Marcel Yates) and (defensive coordinator Pete) Kwiatkowski were high on coming out of high school,” Lake said. “He was a big-time recruit. He liked Boise State. … He’s a big guy. He’s in the Jamar Taylor mode — 5-11, 190, physical. A boundary corner.”

DT Tutulupeatau “Deuce” Mataele, 6-3, 285, jr., Mt. San Antonio College (West Valley, Utah)
Registered team highs with 42 tackles (23 solo) and 14.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Also forced three fumbles and broke up a pass. Recorded 39 tackles (19 solo) as a freshman, including 10 for loss and four sacks. Also had four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Recruited by: Keith Bhonapha, Andy Avalos
The skinny: The Broncos found Mataele late in the process and were surprised he wasn’t receiving more attention. “Some other things went astray and we happened to pop on Deuce’s film and we were in the area — we were very impressed with what we saw,” defensive line coach Andy Avalos said. “We were very fortunate that it was a good fit for him.”

DE Durrant Miles, 6-4, 220, Bingham HS (South Jordan, Utah)
Registered 51 tackles, a sack, 10 hurries and five pass breakups as a junior. Recorded 64 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior en route to first-team all-state honors from the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.
Recruited by: Not available
The skinny: Miles plans to go on a mission and join the team in 2016. Coaches hope to get him to about 250 pounds and use him in the stud end position, which is the end/linebacker hybrid. “In order for us to be really multiple in our defense, those are the type of guys we want to get,” Avalos said.

CB Jonathan Moxey, 5-10, 180, Dwyer HS (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Earned all-state honorable mention honors (7A) following his senior season.
Recruited by: Jimmy Lake
The skinny: Moxey didn’t commit until January, but he was not a late addition to the recruiting class. Lake found him in the spring and offered him a scholarship midseason. Moxey wanted to commit, Lake said, but coaches insisted that he visit Boise first. That didn’t happen until January because Moxey’s team played in the state playoffs.

CB Cleshawn Page, 5-10, 190, jr., Harbor College (Los Angeles)
As a sophomore registered 44 tackles (28 solo), including 2.5 for loss. Also forced a fumble, recovered another and broke up four passes.
Recruited by: Jimmy Lake
The skinny: Page will be a player to watch in spring ball. Of the five new cornerbacks, he’s the only one already on campus. “That’s a huge leg up,” Lake said. Page plays with a physical style but also has elite speed. “If you can make the track team and be on the 4×100 relay at Dorsey High (in Los Angeles), then you’re legit fast,” Lake said.

DE Gabe Perez, 6-5, 220, Valencia HS (Placentia, Calif.)
Named first-team All-Empire League following his sophomore and junior seasons. Set the school’s shot put record as a junior (57 feet, 3 inches).
Recruited by: Pete Kwiatkowski
The skinny: It’s hard to imagine a talented player falling through the recruiting cracks in Southern California these days, but that’s what happened with Perez. “I was really shocked when I saw him on video,” Kwiatkowski said. “I was thinking maybe grades. He played running back. He played defensive end. I saw his athleticism. I went to his school and his grades were great and was thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ As a coach, you start self-doubting. But it’s sort of one of those tucked-away schools in Orange County that doesn’t have a lot of guys coming out of there. No one stays hidden for long. A few schools found him.” Boise State offered him last spring and got him to Boise on an unofficial visit in the summer. That gave the Broncos an early edge. Perez projects at the stud end position.

DT Justin Taimatuia, 5-11, 295, jr., Fort Scott CC (American Samoa)
Named All-Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference honorable mention following his sophomore season. Registered 29 tackles (21 solo), including 4.5 for loss and two sacks.
Recruited by: Keith Bhonapha, Pete Kwiatkowski
The skinny: Taimatuia is built like Mike Atkinson, last year’s standout nose tackle. The Broncos need another space-eater like that. “J.T. was a sawed-off, wide-bodied guy who’s quick and athletic,” Kwiatkowski said. “He plays with a motor and is tough, physical. That’s what you want. … He’s full of energy.”

S Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 185, Jesuit HS (Carmichael, Calif.)
Named MaxPreps All-Sac-Joaquin Section first team as an athlete after leading the team in passing, rushing, tackles and scoring. Also named Sacramento Bee All-Metro first team on offense and was Sac-Joaquin Section Delta River All-Purpose Player of the Year.
Recruited by: Chris Strausser, Jimmy Lake
The skinny: Sperbeck’s dad, Marshall, is the head coach at Sacramento State. He coached with Boise State offensive line coach Chris Strausser for three years and asked his friend to take a closer look at his son. “I’ve known Thomas since he was just a little grinder,” Strausser said. “I’ve had a good relationship with him for a long time. And actually we didn’t recruit him until late in the process and Marshall — like any dad, he was pretty humble — but finally he said, ‘You need to look at his film a little bit closer.’ We did, and it paid off. He’s a good player.” Sperbeck played quarterback and safety in high school. He was recruited as an option quarterback, a wide receiver and a safety by various schools. “A big offensive background, which I love — that just heightens their football instincts,” Lake said. “Him playing quarterback, being so athletic, will make him a very, very smart safety and also an athletic safety. That will be a hotly contested area back there at safety. I’m really excited about our depth.” Petersen left the door open for Sperbeck to eventually try receiver.

DT Nick Terry, 6-3, 275, Pleasant Grove HS (Elk Grove, Calif.)
Registered 55 tackles (26 solo) as a senior en route to All-Delta River League first-team honors. Recorded 77 tackles (36 solo) en route to first-team all-league honors as a junior.
Recruited by: Robert Prince, Pete Kwiatkowski
The skinny: The Broncos have a long history of recruiting the Elk Grove area and Terry was one of several players on his team who attracted the attention of offensive coordinator Robert Prince, who recruits the area. He invited Terry to summer camp but he wasn’t able to make it. That delayed his commitment until November. “We wanted to see a little bit of his senior year,” Prince said. “He made tremendous strides from his junior year to his senior year.”

LB Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 230, Nevada Union HS (Grass Valley, Calif.)
Sophomore year recorded 132 tackles, two sacks, five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Junior year recorded 158 tackles, two sacks, an interception, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Senior year earned a second straight Sierra Foothill League defensive MVP honor. Was also second-team all-state, first-team All-Sac-Joaquin Section and all-metro. Registered 129 tackles, two sacks, an interception, three forces fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Recruited by: Robert Prince, Bob Gregory
The skinny: Prince located Vallejo, too. “When I showed him to coach Gregory, he fell in love with him right away,” Prince said. Said Gregory: “There’s a guy who’s a football player. I’m really excited about Tanner. He’s like your true inside linebacker. He reminds me a little bit of Blake Renaud. We’ll start him off playing (middle linebacker).” Vallejo committed last summer after an unofficial visit. Some schools with new coaches tried to recruit him in the past month, Gregory said. “He was solid as can be,” Gregory said. “He said, ‘Don’t waste your time. I’m a Bronco.’ ”


Boise State’s Texas pipeline hit a snag in the 2013 recruiting class with the loss of the primary Texas recruiters — Jeff Choate, Brent Pease and Marcel Yates. The Broncos signed two high school players from the state this year and did not get anyone out of the Houston area, which has been a hotbed.

Petersen said the Broncos didn’t focus on Texas as much, but they assigned two coaches to the area — Avalos and Gregory.

“Sometimes it takes a minute to get your feet on the ground,” Petersen said.

Avalos said part of the issue was that the Broncos took junior college players at the positions they were recruiting in Texas. But he said it took a while to get set up there.

“We are way further ahead going into the next class, so that’s exciting,” Avalos said. “The coaches down there do truly like the Boise State brand.”

Added Gregory, who had been recruiting the Northwest and never had recruited Texas regularly: “It really does take you a while. I think the good thing is we have a great reputation in Texas. We have several kids on our roster from Texas, so that helps, but still, I’m a new guy walking in there. You have to get a feel for yourself of the area, of the coaches, of the better schools to go to, all that. That takes a little while to get used to.”

Gregory recruits the Dallas area, Avalos recruits the Houston area and starting with the 2014 class Scott Huff will add San Antonio to his Arizona duties. The Broncos grabbed offensive lineman Andrew Tercek from San Antonio this year.


Avalos, who grew up in Southern California, witnessed his first high-speed police chase while recruiting in Houston.

“I was actually driving through Pearland, where Sam Ukwuachu is from,” he said. “I’m talking to Sammy U. on the phone, catching up with him. I look in the rear-view mirror and there’s a white car with a bunch of cop cars coming up fast on me and so I’m trying to get out of the way. I move over to the side of the freeway. … Next thing I know there are 15 police cars chasing this car down the highway.”


The Broncos’ new football facility, which opens in July, was an asset in recruiting for the 2013 class but should be a big factor in 2014, Petersen said.

“It had an influence,” he said. “It definitely influenced this class and for this next class, when this thing gets done in the summer, it’s going to be spectacular. It’s going to be phenomenal. … It will be exactly what we need and it will be as nice as anything out there.”

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Chadd Cripe has spent the past 12 years as the Boise State football beat writer. You can follow him on Twitter @IDS_BroncoBeat.

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