By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
This has been an important spring for Boise State sophomore safety Dillon Lukehart, a graduate of Eagle High.
Lukehart spent fall camp 2011 as a linebacker. He missed much of spring ball 2012 and all of fall camp 2012 with a broken foot.
So this has been his first real chance to learn the ins and outs of playing safety at the proper pace.
“It’s so important,” he said, “just in the aspect of learning and picking up on a lot of different things. Learning all the aspects of the defense is helping me make plays and settle down.”
Lukehart got into games late last season as a backup safety and spent most of the season as one of the core special-teamers, starting on all four main units. He finished with 15 tackles.
He’s competing for the third safety spot with senior Ebo Makinde, redshirt freshman Chanceller James and sophomore Taylor Loffler.
Lukehart hopes his time on special teams will help him contribute more on defense this year.
“To be a good special teams player, you have to be aggressive and fly around and want to make plays,” he said. “It’s just physical football. Playing on special teams and knowing what it feels like to play at that level gives you confidence to carry over to the defensive side and play the same way.”
Said defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski: “You know Dillon’s always going to bring it. He’s got a great attitude, an extremely hard worker. He’s picking it up and he’s going to be good.”
Here is a replay of the live chat I did this afternoon.
POSITION REPORT: LINEBACKERS
Returning starters (0 of 3): None
Starters lost: Leading tackler J.C. Percy (118 tackles), third-leading tackler Tommy Smith (61) and 11th-leading tackler Dextrell Simmons (36) were the starters last year. “We basically lost the core of our defense,” coach Chris Petersen said.
Returning contributors: Junior middle linebacker Blake Renaud split time with Smith and finished sixth with 46 tackles. Junior nickel Corey Bell did the same with Simmons and made 45 tackles. Sophomore Tyler Gray played less but finished with 27 tackles as the backup weak-side linebacker. Senior Jonathan Brown (10 tackles last year) has some starting experience but has been held back by injuries and illness during his career.
Other players to watch: Gray played as a true freshman. The three other linebackers in his recruiting class should factor into the rotation this year: Andrew Pint, Ben Weaver and Chris Santini. Weaver was the 2012 Defensive Scout Player of the Year. Santini was recruited as a nickel but also could play the weak side. Weaver has had the strongest spring, linebackers coach Bob Gregory said. “They’ve got a huge amount of potential,” he said. “We’re going to be pretty good at linebacker for a while. They’ve been coming along, but it’s still a bunch of inexperienced guys. They’re tough guys, they want to learn, they’re smart, but they don’t have a lot of experience.”
Way-too-early projected starters: MLB Renaud, WLB Gray, N Bell
56 Dustin Kamper, 6-1, 232, R-Sr.
45 Travis Saxton, 6-1, 220, R-Jr.
13 Blake Renaud, 6-2, 249, Jr.
36 Tyler Gray, 6-4, 223, So.
31 Andrew Pint, 6-1, 217, R-Fr.
51 Ben Weaver, 6-0, 233, R-Fr.
44 Darren Lee, 6-1, 210, Fr.
Incoming recruits: Joe Martarano, 6-3, 235, Fr. (video below), Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 230, Fr.
32 Jonathan Brown, 5-10, 215, R-Sr.
38 Corey Bell, 5-11, 208, Jr.
25 Chris Santini, 5-11, 222, R-Fr.
Incoming recruits: Mat Boesen, 6-4, 220, Fr. (video below)
— The Broncos recruited Boesen as they shift the prototype for the nickel position to taller, rangier players. “What (Boesen) gives us on the outside is a long guy, which we don’t have,” 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.”
— Gregory on Weaver: “He’s kind of a natural football player. He just kind of ‘does.’ That’s what you’re looking for at any position, especially at linebacker, when you’ve got so much to do.”
— Renaud on his role: “I know I’ve got to be more of a leader this year. Last year, there was Tommy and J.C. I didn’t really have to worry about it. … I’m going to put more pressure on myself, be that leader and try to be one of the top guys on defense. I like knowing I’m going to be on defense more.”
— Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski on the group: “They’re making steady progress. Being young, the linebackers are probably under the most stress. Being involved with the front seven and the pass coverage, they definitely have a steeper learning curve.”
(Thanks to our Dave Southorn, who did the linebacker interviews for me while I was covering the Davis Cup.)
PRACTICE NO. 13
Player spotlight: Tailback Jack Fields gets lost amid the excitement about sophomore Jay Ajayi, the likely No. 1 back, and junior college transfer Derrick Thomas. But coaches have really liked Fields since he signed with the team and played him last year as a true freshman. He’s likely to play a big role this year.
Play of the day: True freshman linebacker Darren Lee grabbed a tip-drill interception on a pass that was deflected by at least two players before it reached him.
Notes: It was jersey-switch day, with offensive players wearing defensive jerseys and vice versa, so it was difficult to really tell what was happening. The team didn’t do much 11-on-11 work anyway as it prepares for Saturday’s Spring Game. … Grant Hedrick led the first-team offense on what has become a staple of spring, a nice drive that stalls around the 20-yard line. Oftentimes, including today, the stall has been triggered by an offensive penalty. Tyler Rausa hit the field goal, though.
Next practice: Saturday