BOISE — Tyler Horn can beat a tight end around the edge, match up against 300-pound interior linemen or drop back into coverage.
The Boise State defensive lineman doesn’t really care where he lines up on a football field.
“I just, honestly, want to play,” he said.
Playing time shouldn’t be an issue for the Broncos’ utility player, especially after what he showed he could do last season.
When then-senior defensive tackle Michael Atkinson tore an ACL Nov. 3 against San Diego State, it was the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Horn who was called upon to fill the void. Horn had only played defensive end in his two seasons at Boise State, but his impact on the inside was instant. He registered two sacks and forced a fumble in Boise State’s next game, a 49-14 win at Hawaii.
“I think it was a nice surprise,” Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.
“The light sort of clicked on that game, and he was doing what he was supposed to do and getting off blocks and making the plays he was supposed to.”
Horn had two tackles for a loss, recovered two fumbles and registered one sack at defensive tackle the final four games.
Overall, Horn ranked second on the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks in 2012. Only defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (13.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks) had more.
“He got better at striking and using his leverage — he’s a tall, long guy,” Kwiatkowski said of Horn. “And when he started playing lower, and with good technique and good hand placement, he was able to do that in there and be productive.”
Horn is back at defensive tackle this spring, looking much like he did in 2012. He remains at 265 pounds to play a position where bigger is often better. By comparison, fellow defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe is 6-foot-3 and weighs 303 pounds.
“I like that weight for myself, because I feel fast,” Horn said. “I don’t want to get too big playing inside, I like to utilize some of my quickness and speed inside.”
Horn was able to use that speed when he made the transition to tackle last season, even with less space to work against interior offensive linemen than he had on the outside.
Kwiatkowski said there’s more than Horn’s size, speed and ability to play multiple positions that make him a valuable member of the Broncos’ defense.
“We have the luxury with him, he can play three positions on the D-line,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s a credit to him, because he’s been in the system, learned the terminology and he’s able to now move positions and transfer. It doesn’t take him that long to pick up what he needs to pick up and he’s off and running.”
Horn definitely learned new skills on the run last season, something he said he may have not been able to grasp as a freshman in 2011.
“My first year here, there’s no way I could of, I barely knew my own position,” said Horn, who sat out the 2010 season as a greyshirt. “Every year, I’ve gotten more comfortable to the point (that) if they needed me to play STUD, I could do it, if they needed me to play end, I could.”
And if Horn is asked to remain at tackle, he’s proven he can handle that.