By Chadd Cripe
© 2014 Idaho Statesman
Through the spring, I’ll preview each position.
Today: Defensive line.
Perez, Correa step into key roles
True sophomores Gabe Perez, at stud end, and Kamalei Correa, at end, have been taking first-team reps this spring and will be counted on for heavy contributions this fall.
“They work really hard. Both want to be good,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “They’ve hit the weight room with a purpose. They’re trying to catch up from missing that (training) as they played and really in their minds take advantage of spring practice and go as hard as they can. But they’re going to be better off from their experience.
“Physically, both those guys look really good and they’re going to get better.”
I wrote about the duo for Friday’s newspaper. Here is the full story.
PERSONNEL AT A GLANCE
53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 254, R-Sr.
94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 249, R-So.
92 Kamalei Correa, 6-3, 247, So.
Rondell McNair, 6-4, 250, R-Jr.
33 Gabe Perez, 6-4, 235, So.
54 Mat Boesen, 6-4, 229, R-Fr.
97 Austin Silsby, 6-3, 227, R-Fr.
Jabril Frazier, 6-4, 225, Fr.
Kaleb Hill, 6-1, 215, Fr.
Durrant Miles, 6-4, 220, Fr.
69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 276, Sr.
90 Justin Taimatuia, 6-0, 294, Sr. (nose tackle)
58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 282, R-Jr. (nose tackle)
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 311, Jr. (nose tackle)
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 276, R-So.
50 Nick Terry, 6-3, 276, R-Fr.
55 Tutulupeatau Mataele, 6-3, 290, R-Jr. (ineligible this year)
Antoine Turner, 6-3, 280, R-Jr.
Dereck Boles, 6-2, 275, Fr.
David Moa, 6-3, 235, Fr.
Returning starters (1 of 4): Nance started seven games and Horn started six, so they’re returning co-starters. Nance finished tied for eighth on the team with 51 tackles. He also made four tackles for loss and two sacks. Horn tied for 11th with 44 tackles. He had 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
Key losses: All-Mountain West end Demarcus Lawrence (10.5 sacks, 20.5 TFLs) left early for the NFL. Stud Kharyee Marshall (32 tackles, 6.5 TFLs) and tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (52 tackles, four TFLs) completed their careers.
Other key returners: Martin (seven TFLs, four sacks), Perez (seven TFLs, 2.5 sacks), Correa (12 tackles) and Taimatuia (29 tackles) will step into larger roles this season.
Projected starters: DE Correa/Martin, DT Horn, NT Nance, STUD Perez.
Other players to watch: The Broncos lack depth behind Horn at tackle. Sophomore Elliot Hoyte and redshirt freshman Nick Terry need to step up. There is immediate help on the way with incoming recruits Antoine Turner and Dereck Boles. JC transfer Rondell McNair, an end, also could play inside if needed. Meanwhile, Boesen was recruited to play the old nickel linebacker spot because of his combination of length and athleticism. That fits at stud, too, and that’s the spot he has played this spring.
Out for spring: None, but Taimatuia has missed some time recently.
Incoming signees: Turner and McNair are considered instant impact guys out of junior colleges. Both are versatile and likely will slide into whatever holes the team has. Boles and stud Frazier seem like the best bets to play among the true freshmen.
— Defensive line coach Steve Caldwell likes what he sees from ends Martin, McCaskill, Correa, Perez and Boesen. “You’ve got five pretty good guys there on the edge,” he said. “That’s really exciting to me.”
— Caldwell also is pleased with the nose tackle depth, particularly Nance and Taimatuia. He’s concerned at the tackle spot. “Tyler (Horn) is doing well,” he said, “and I love the way he works. He tries to do what you say. The two young guys, Nick (Terry) and Elliot (Hoyte), they’ve just got to get better. … I’ve just got to get someone behind (Horn) that I really know we can trust right now and we don’t have that yet and our kids know that and they’re pushing themselves to get better.”
— Caldwell expects to play about 10 linemen per game.
— Caldwell on Nance: “He’s doing well. He’s focused. I’m teaching things just a little different than what they were taught. The most exciting thing for me about this group of guys is they’re all buying into it. They don’t question a lot of things. I probably coach them a little different than they’ve been coached — not just technique-wise. I’ve still got some of that old coaching blood in me that tries to get after them a little bit. He’s doing a good job in trying to be a leader.”
— Perez on playing last year: “I told my parents, ‘I’m probably going to redshirt.’ The chance of me playing was slim. It blew my mind when we had 1-on-1 meetings with our position coaches and he told me I was going to suit up. I was so happy then.”
— Correa on playing last year: “That was a big jump for me. I had to suck it up and go.”
— Correa on Caldwell: “He’s looking for us to be playmakers. And don’t think and don’t hesitate. Attack as D-linemen and make plays and cause havoc.”
— Former defensive line coach Andy Avalos on Perez: “Even for guys redshirting, you generally see a big jump in the way guys are playing at the end of October. That’s when Gabe kind of took off as well. When he got healthy and he felt more comfortable with what he was doing, that’s when you saw him take off.”
The Broncos are off through the end of spring break, which is next week. We all get our first full look at the team at 5 p.m. April 5 with an open scrimmage.