BOISE — A new number is on his jersey, and with it, Bryan Douglas is a different player.
Wearing No. 1 after former Boise State standouts Titus Young and Kyle Wilson were the last to do so, the sophomore cornerback has an injection of confidence, but it mainly has to do with what he’s done to get himself in that number.
After spending his redshirt season and 2011 as No. 46, Douglas started one game last season, but Boise State coach Chris Petersen challenged him to step up in academics, conditioning and on the practice field at a group that has needed depth recently.
“I’ve been proud of him this last year, really in all three phases,” Petersen said. “Probably my biggest pet peeve was academics. I thought he was underachieving of what he was capable of.”
In high school in Los Angeles, Douglas was given a student-athlete award for maintaining a GPA better than 3.0. That wasn’t quite where he was at until after last season.
“Coach Pete says guys that are doing well in academics are the best guys on the field — Jamar Taylor, Jerrell Gavins, Joe Southwick — all are on the 3.0 board and I want to be one of those guys,” Douglas said. “I’ve taken a big step. I’m taking school much more seriously now.”
Douglas is still anything but a hulking beast at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, but has added a few pounds since last season. His improvement was noticeable Aug. 31 in the season opener when he made a career-high five tackles and forced a fumble after a long Michigan State gain into the Broncos’ red zone.
“The coaches are more confident in my tackling now,” Douglas said. “... They say ‘if you’re not big, play big,’ and I think I’ve been playing pretty big.”
Douglas said his group has focused on tackling during the bye week, as has most of the defense, after yielding 461 yards of offense. However, Douglas’ group was one of the Broncos’ best performers in the loss, creating four turnovers — two interceptions by cornerbacks, one by a safety, and Douglas’ forced fumble, recovered by safety Darian Thompson. Michigan State completed 22-of-38 passes in the game.
“I was very happy with the coverage,” defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said.
When fall camp started, Petersen said a player “has to do something special” to earn the No. 1 jersey. No player wore it last season after Young was drafted by the Detroit Lions. After a strong fall camp which included all the work he put in off the field, Douglas feels good in his new number — he said No. 46 was the biggest number he’s ever worn.
“When (Petersen) told me I was getting No. 1, my heart dropped, actually,” Douglas said. “I looked around like ‘you sure you’re talking to me?’ It was a great feeling. It’s an honor to wear that number.”
With standout seniors in Taylor and Gavins in front of him (Douglas calls himself “their little brother”), Douglas said he is soaking up as much as he can before they depart after this season. Until then, he’s trying to make the most of what he is putting in during the week.
“Hard work pays off,” Douglas said. “That’s a true quote I will stand by.”