Cornerback competition begins for Boise State football team

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2013 Idaho Statesman

The Broncos don’t practice today. Above is Chris Petersen’s press conference from Tuesday. Below is my report on the defensive backs. In tomorrow’s paper, I’ll have a story on returning defensive starters Demarcus Lawrence, Sam Ukwuachu and Darian Thompson — all of whom excelled last season as major college football rookies.

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POSITION REPORT: DEFENSIVE BACKS

Returning starters (2 of 4): Junior Jeremy Ioane was second on the team with 70 tackles and tied for second with three interceptions last season, his first year as a starter. Sophomore Darian Thompson started the last six games after the suspension to Lee Hightower and finished eighth on the team with 43 tackles and also made three interceptions. Thompson’s breakout season was a surprise under the circumstances, but not to his coaches. “We knew going into training camp of 2012 that he had a chance because he knew all the positions and was making plays in practice,” defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “And sure enough, when his opportunity came, he cashed in and made a lot of big plays on game day. And we’re expecting that from him again.”

Starters lost: CB Jamar Taylor, CB Jerrell Gavins

Returning contributors: Junior Bryan Douglas was so impressive last season that he stole some playing time from Gavins, including the starting assignment in the first three games. But Douglas tore an anterior cruciate ligament Oct. 27 at Wyoming. He’s out for spring ball — with an expected return to full strength in August. Sophomore Donte Deayon dropped his redshirt after the injury to Douglas and was the No. 3 corner when the season ended, gaining valuable experience. Sophomore safety Dillon Lukehart played a ton on special teams and a bit on defense and senior Ebo Makinde shifted from corner to safety to provide depth. He’ll stay there.

Other players to watch: Junior Deon’tae Florence is a playmaker who should benefit greatly from his first spring ball. He already has at least three interceptions this spring. Redshirt freshman safety Chanceller James was one of the top redshirts last fall.

Way-too-early projected starters: CB Douglas, CB Deayon/Florence, SS Ioane, FS Thompson

Roster:
Cornerback
1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 170, R-Jr.
16 Deon’tae Florence, 5-9, 171, R-Jr.
39 Cleshawn Page, 5-8, 173, Jr.
17 Promise Amadi, 5-9, 180, R-So.
30 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 151, So.
18 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 183, R-Fr.

Safety
37 Ebo Makinde, 5-10, 179, R-Sr.
10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 189, R-Jr.
34 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 212, R-So.
35 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 201, R-So.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-0, 202, R-So.
22 Chanceller James, 6-1, 202, R-Fr.

Incoming recruits: CB Dionza Blue, CB Jonathan Moxey, CB Cameron Hartsfield, CB Mercy Maston, S Thomas Sperbeck

Notes/quotes:

— The cornerback recruiting class of 2013 will prove influential in Boise State’s success the next few years. Of the five signees, the Broncos likely will play at least two this season by necessity and could play more depending on how they perform. Cleshawn Page (video below) is here this spring; the other four arrive in the summer. “They call us all the time,” Lake said of the four summer additions. “They want to know what defense we’re running. I have no doubt they’re going to come in here prepared and ready to battle for a starting position.”

— The Broncos have five cornerbacks in spring ball, including walk-on Promise Amadi, who is ineligible this season because of NCAA transfer rules. “It’s a great opportunity for those guys right now,” Lake said. “They’re going to get a lot of reps. And now’s the time for them to learn this defense and try to make plays. When we go into fall, there’s going to be four more corners and they’re all going to be fighting for playing time, so they have a little advantage now of learning the defense and getting 15 practices under their belt. They’re an excited group right now. They’re flying around.”

— Thompson finished last season with three interceptions and a fumble recovery for a total of 30 return yards. “We talked trash to him pretty good in meetings,” Lake said. “He can catch the ball really well. We want to see him return one for a touchdown this year.”

— Redshirt sophomore safety Taylor Loffler finally is healthy. He tore an ACL in high school and joined the Broncos in summer 2011 knowing he wouldn’t be able to practice. One day into spring ball in 2012, he sustained another torn ACL. His combination of size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and athleticism had coaches excited about him when he signed — and Lake, who wasn’t here then, is intrigued, too. “To his credit, the rest of spring football (last year) he was in every single meeting and all fall he was in every single meeting, taking notes,” Lake said. “That’s what those guys have to do, not get lost in the shuffle. Taylor did a good job of keeping his head in football. You can tell, he’s bright-eyed every day coming in because now he gets to actually put the cleats on and run around and make plays.”

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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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