BOISE — All it took was one look at Armand Nance when he arrived on campus last summer for Boise State coach Chris Petersen to realize that he may not have been suited for the offensive side of the ball.
Recruited to be a fullback and tight end, the Broncos instead moved the 6-foot, 245-pound Nance to defensive tackle — where he played in eight games as a true freshman despite having very little knowledge or coaching of the position.
“He weighed 250-something when he got here, and you’re saying, ‘OK, he’s going to be stopping at the old cookie bin a few times and he’s going to be at that 300-pound mark or pretty close,’” Petersen said. “And I don’t see too many fullbacks and tight ends lined up at 300 pounds.
“So it just kind of worked out, and we’re pleased. He’s playing good.”
Nance earned honorable mention all-district as a center during his sophomore season at DeKaney High in Houston, Texas. He moved to tight end as a junior and was named second-team all-district despite catching three passes for 20 yards.
He stayed at tight end as a senior in high school but also began playing defensive end for the first time. He was named to the all-state first team, a big accomplishment in football-rich Texas, and helped DeKaney to the 2011 5A Division 2 State Championship.
Nance arrived at Boise State last summer expecting to compete for playing time at tight end and fullback, but he was moved to the defensive side of the ball early during fall camp.
“We really recruited him to play on the offensive side of the ball, and then when we got him here. Those D-lineman are always so hard to find, so we said let’s give him a shot on that side,” Petersen said. “We played him as a true freshman, and he’s just starting to gravitate towards the position. And he’s getting the fundamentals down, and he’s really gained confidence now that he’s figuring things out.”
Nance played in eight games as a freshman but didn’t have much of an impact. He had nine total tackles (four solo) for the season, including four in his collegiate debut against Miami (Ohio). He had 2.5 tackles-for-loss, including 1.5 vs. Miami, and recorded his first career sack against Wyoming.
But a crash-course during the season followed by an offseason dedicated to learning his new position has done wonders for Nance, who is now listed at 288 pounds and has been one of the biggest contributors to the defense this season.
The sophomore had a career-high 10 tackles against Utah State, the most by a Bronco defensive tackle since Mike Atkinson had 10 on Aug. 31, 2012 at Michigan State. Nance has started two of Boise State’s six games and is the team’s second-leading tackler with 33 tackles.
“The offseason had a big part to do with it,” Nance said. “The off-seasons before I was working on routes and coming out of the back field and getting off blocks, and now it’s totally different. I’m working on defending blocks, and I feel like I’ve had more time and Ricky (Tjong-A-Tjoe) has helped me out a lot. I have his coaching away from (defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s) coaching, and just the whole process got me to where I am now as a D-lineman.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot from last season, but I still have a lot to work on so I can be on the level I want to be.”
But has he fully embraced his new position?
“For sure,” Nance said. “I’m all defense now.”