BOISE — J.C. Percy has finished in the top five in tackles each of his three seasons with Boise State, yet he’s made only six starts.

After sharing duties with Aaron Tevis, Percy now has the Broncos’ weakside linebacker position to himself, and as the Broncos’ top returning tackler, is also going to be one of the key leaders on the roster this season.

“I don’t have next year ahead of me to go out and try to be better — this is it,” Percy said. “I’ve got to make sure I make the most of my senior year and leave this place in good hands.”

Percy, a former walk-on, has made 177 tackles thus far, is soon to obtain his second degree in the winter and was once called “the smartest man in Boise” by coach Chris Petersen for his intelligence as the personal protector on the punt team.

That’s certainly enough to make a leader and someone poised for some overdue recognition.

“He may not have been a headliner around here the last couple years, but he’s so important to everything that we’ve done here,” Petersen said.

Alongside Percy is fellow senior Tommy Smith, who is in a very similar position — he’s made 67 tackles and was a key special teamer, but has never started at the middle linebacker spot.

“Not being starters, that’s probably the biggest motivating force for all of us, me and Tommy specifically, we want to go out there and prove we’re the players we were recruited to be,” Percy said.

Percy and Smith’s contributions may now be paid a bit more attention, but the Broncos’ coaches expect a smooth transition into starting roles, based on the leadership and hard work they’ve provided in all their years on the team.

“The spotlight was shared with other guys, but they’ve been doing those sorts of things all along,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.

Behind Smith is sophomore Blake Renaud, who has improved as an all-around talent this year. After that, the Broncos have no one with significant experience. Percy said junior Dustin Kamper, a Nampa Christian grad, is his pick for most improved player, while freshmen Tyler Gray (6-foot-4, 227 pounds) and Andrew Pint (6-1, 215) have impressed early.

Smith has worked at the weakside spot and could move there at times to relieve Percy or team up with Renaud in situations.

“We have more numbers but we still don’t have a lot of guys who have played and have got experience, so we have to develop that experience,” linebackers/nickels coach Bob Gregory said.

Gregory’s other group also has some numbers, but a bit more experience. Sophomore Corey Bell played last season as a true freshman, while senior Dextrell Simmons played in all 13 games, and junior Jonathan Brown got four starts.

Bell has been called the group’s most athletic player by Gregory, while Simmons is a physical presence alongside the versatile Brown, a former safety.

“I wish it was like that at every position — those guys are all good players and they’ve got a good, healthy relationship where they push each other,” Petersen said. “I think they’ll all play. If a guy gets dinged, we’re not going to panic.”

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