By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
Here is my defensive line preview, which is accompanied by a story in tomorrow’s paper:
53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 271, R-Jr.
8 Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 245, R-Jr.
49 Darien Barrett, 6-2, 225, R-Fr.
97 Austin Silsby, 6-3, 219, Fr
48 Kharyee Marshall, 6-2, 240, R-Sr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 240, R-Fr.
33 Gabe Perez, 6-4, 226, Fr.
92 Kamalei Correa, 6-2, 244, Fr.
43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6-3, 300, R-Sr.
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 265, Jr.
55 Tutulupeatau Mataele, 6-3, 280, Jr.
90 Justin Taimatuia, 6-0, 281, Jr.
58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 291, R-So.
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 288, So.
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 275, R-Fr.
50 Nick Terry, 6-3, 271, Fr.
Projected depth chart
End: Lawrence, Martin
Tackle: Horn, Nance
Nose tackle: Tjong-A-Tjoe, Taimatuia
Stud end: Marshall, McCaskill/Correa/Perez
Storyline: The Broncos’ first-team defensive line should be stout with returning standouts Lawrence and Tjong-A-Tjoe and veterans Horn and Marshall. But they rotate the second line into the game frequently and that group is green. It’s possible three true freshmen and two junior college transfers will factor into the rotation. “For us to be successful, we’re going to have to have young guys step up,” Horn said.
Keys to success: Lawrence (Mountain West-leading 9.5 sacks last year) and Tjong-A-Tjoe (4.5 tackles for loss) give the Broncos an enviable pair of building blocks. But they need a couple more playmakers to emerge to play the kind of defense for which they’ve become known.
Reason for concern: The Broncos are particularly thin at the stud end, where senior Kharyee Marshall and redshirt freshman Sam McCaskill were out for the scrimmage. That left true freshmen Kamalei Correa and Gabe Perez to handle most of the snaps. The stud is the position that plays as an end or outside linebacker depending on the call. “That’s experience right there — different situations, different sets, different coverages, different blitz patterns that they may not have gotten,” defensive line coach Andy Avalos said. “… The awesome thing about those two kids is they have experience playing end and standing up in high school — that’s part of the deal in us recruiting those guys. That’s helped.”
Star player: Lawrence made the All-Mountain West first team last year and could be an All-America candidate this year. “He’s been able to expand his game by getting a better understanding of offenses and how he can put himself in better situations,” Avalos said. Lawrence added 13.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a TD to his sack count last year.
Breakout performer: Coaches see potential in Marshall, who has been held back by injuries throughout his career. He is the team’s fastest defensive lineman, which makes him a good fit at stud. “Kharyee can do some things,” Avalos said. “Kharyee is physical. Kharyee will strike some people. He’s got a good burst. It’s going to be his year to step up and be a great leader and have fun out there on the field.”
Newcomer to watch: One of the three freshmen at stud likely will emerge as a playmaker. That position is built for it — and McCaskill, Correa and Perez are all long, athletic players recruited to play that spot. “We have a lot of young guys who are quick and explosive,” Tjong-A-Tjoe said. “That’s what we need.”
— It looks like Correa and Perez will play as true freshmen and tackle Nick Terry could. “We’re going to have some guys in there who are going to be playing for the first time,” Avalos said. “Any season, that’s going to be the way it is. It’s those guys around them who will take care of them and get them rolling and we feel good about our two-deep right now.”
— Horn will play end and tackle but tackle is his primary spot right now. He played both last year.
— Avalos on Terry: “He’s doing a nice job. Physically, for his age, he’s pretty strong and pretty active.”
— Avalos on Taimatuia: “He’s doing a good job. He’s trying to soak everything up. It’s one day at a time. I’ve gotta keep reminding him of that — he’s in the fast lane right now, but he’s got some ability. We just keep chipping away at it.”
— Avalos on Martin, who has played well: “He’s a go-hard guy, an energy guy.”
— Avalos on Perez, who is undersized for now at 226 pounds: “Over time obviously he’s going to develop a lot more. He’s a big, long kid. … He’s got some long levers and he’s got a willingness to strike people and get after it. More times than not, it’s more of a mental battle — having a desire, having a want to be relentless in what you’re doing. That will overcome a lack of strength or size.”
— Martin: “I see my role as being someone who needs to make an impact whenever I’m out there. I want to come out every day and have the coaches trust that I can do my job.”
— Martin on depth: “We sub a lot on the defensive line. We’ve got some new guys we’ll mix in, but they’re talented. We’ve got some great coaches who will have them ready.”
— The defensive linemen have dyed their facial hair blond. “We’re a brotherhood,” Nance said. “We just came together, do a little something together to set us aside from the rest of the team. I plan on keeping it. I’m getting good (reviews) from different people, telling me they like it.”
— Tjong-A-Tjoe on whether this defensive line can set the tone like lines in the past: “We have to. We don’t have a choice. The guys before us showed us how to do it. If we just keep that in mind and keep working hard, we’re going to do what we need to do.”
Lawrence vs. Charles Leno Jr.
Lawrence talking to the media