Boise State Practice

Boise State defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson conducts a drill at practice on March 20, 2018.

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The Idaho Press is counting down the top 20 questions facing the Boise State football team during the 2020 season. Today is question No. 4: Can the defensive line overcome losing all four starters?

Defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson joked earlier this summer that the thought of having to replace all four starters along the defensive line was “absolutely terrifying.”

He appeared to be joking, but there may have been some truth to it.

Boise State loses defensive end Chase Hatada, tackles David Moa and Sonatane Lui and STUD Curtis Weaver from the 2019 defensive line. The group combined for 25 sacks and 44 tackles-for-loss.

Those expected to contribute in 2020 have combined for just 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles-for-loss.

Only two return with much experience along the defensive line. STUD Demitri Washington had 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss and tackle Scale Igiehon had 38 tackles and three tackles-for-loss while factoring in heavily to the rotation inside. Two of the four spots should be in good shape.

But the other inside spot and defensive end both have a ton of questions. The three returning players expected to compete for time there — Scott Matlock, Keegan Freeborn and Aisa Kelemete — combined to have a total of three tackles last season.

Needing more experience, the Broncos went out and added a pair of transfers from Long Beach City College in Shane Irwin (DE/STUD) and Divine Ovichere (tackle). Utah transfer Jackson Cravens, who sat out last season, also could factor into the rotation, and true freshman Herbert Gums picked the Broncos over a number of offers and could be ready to make an immediate impact.

One positive is that Boise State has five capable linebackers, two returning starters at corner and four safeties with at least 20 games played to try and help pick up the slack.

The old football saying ‘it all starts up front’ will be tested by the Broncos this fall. Boise State’s defense relies on the defensive line getting into the backfield and applying pressure on the quarterback. If the Broncos are unable to do that consistently this fall it would make things tougher for the rest of the defense.

The defensive line is one of the biggest questions and potential issues facing the Broncos in 2020. Can the group replace one of the better defensive lines in recent memory without any kind of drop off? Probably not. How big of a step back the Broncos will take is the question.

If Boise State’s young group can hold its own up front and improve as the year goes on, the defense should be in good shape. But if they can’t? Danielson and the Broncos don’t want to have to find out.

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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