The Idaho Press is counting down the top 20 questions facing the Boise State football team heading into the 2019 season. The next entry in our series is question No. 9: What will the defense look like under new defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding?
Andy Avalos spoke to the media in early February and talked about Boise State switching to a 3-4 defense. Barely a month later he then left to become the defensive coordinator at Oregon.
The Broncos plan to stick with basing the defense out of a 3-4 look — three defensive linemen and four linebackers — but how exactly it looks under new defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding remains to be seen.
Schmedding left his post as defensive coordinator at Eastern Washington to join Boise State as outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator in January. But when Avalos left for Oregon, he was promoted to defensive coordinator. He’ll still coach the outside linebackers, but no longer will handle special teams.
That’s quite the promotion in a span of two months without coaching a game for his current team to take over a Boise State defense that has had a lot of success in recent years.
Boise State’s STUD position — stand-up defensive end — has always been a hybrid position combining an outside linebacker and a defensive end. The position is for pass rushers like Curtis Weaver, who has 20.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
The STUDs are basically an outside linebacker that play up near the line of scrimmage, but sometimes will put their hand in the ground like a defensive end. How they are used under Schmedding will be worth watching. The Broncos would sometimes get Jabril Frazier and Weaver on the field at the same time in passing situations, but Frazier has moved on to the NFL.
The other outside linebacker position across from the STUDs has been used for a nickel such as Kekaula Kaniho in passing situations and a more traditional outside linebacker like Desmond Williams or Will Heffner in rushing situations. Kaniho is now listed as a safety on the roster, and the Broncos don’t list any nickels. Does the switch to a 3-4 mean more playing time for traditional outside linebackers (ironically Williams and Heffner both transferred)?
Kaniho would figure to need to be on the field as much as possible, which makes the 3-4 switch kind of confusing because it doesn’t sound all that different than what they did before. Schmedding said he’d evaluate what he saw this spring as he formulated how he would run the defense and would play to the strengths of the personnel. He said they’d have multiple looks but said there would be a 3-4 look.
Again, what that means remains to be seen. The media only got to talk to Schmedding once after he took over as defensive coordinator, and that was in a short session on the blue turf following the spring game. He hasn’t had a ton of chances to talk about what his defense will look like.
Will the defense look similar to last year, or will Schmedding put his own touch on things and make noticeable changes? How much they blitz, how much they drop back into coverage, how much they use the 3-4 look — all of it will be fascinating to watch early in the season.
Countdown to Camp Questions
No. 20: Can Boise State’s injured players return to form?
No. 19: Do the linebackers have enough talent and depth to produce?
No. 18: Will Boise State’s wide receivers be a strength?
No. 17: How will playing time shake out in the secondary?
No. 16: Which true freshmen could make immediate impacts?
No. 15: What are the toughest games on Boise State’s schedule?
No. 14: Who will take over at kicker and punter for the Broncos?
No. 13: What should be expected from the defensive line?
No. 12: Which stats do the Broncos need to improve the most?
No. 11: Will the tight ends get back involved more with the offense?
No. 10: Do the Broncos have a chance at getting to the Cotton Bowl?
No. 9: What will the defense look like under new DC Jeff Schmedding?