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BOISE — Nobody is going to mistake Alexander Teubner for JL Skinner on a football field.

Skinner is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and built like an NFL safety, while the former walk-on Teubner checks in at 5-foot-11, 194 pounds.

“Yeah, he’s a lot differently shaped than myself for sure,” Teubner admits with a laugh. “That doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Neither has Teubner’s recent play on the field. The redshirt sophomore is the backup to Skinner at strong safety, which means he’s had significant playing time of late due to Skinner being ejected twice in the first half for targeting against BYU and Colorado State.

Teubner had eight tackles against Colorado State after taking over in the second quarter when Skinner was disqualified for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Two games prior at BYU Teubner had four tackles after Skinner was forced to leave the game to help the Broncos upset the 10th-ranked Cougars.

“Obviously JL is a phenomenal player but you have to believe and stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” Teubner said. “You never know when things happen in the game, injuries or in his case targeting calls but I’ve been working my tail off to stay ready so when an opportunity does present itself I’m not in scramble mode.

“It’s been good. I’ve prepared a long time and you’re waiting for that one opportunity to get in there and show what you can do and be there for the team.”

Skinner leads the team in tackles with 61 and also has two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four pass break-ups and 3.5 tackles-for-loss. He’s one of the most physical players on Boise State’s defense and could have a shot as early as this offseason to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.

It would be big shoes for anybody to fill — which makes what the undersized Teubner has done that much more remarkable. He’s done it so smoothly that many haven’t even noticed a difference on Boise State’s defense.

“It speaks volumes to who he is as a person,” defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson said. “He’s what you want in a Boise State football player. He comes to work every day and he doesn’t know if he’s going to play a snap or 50 snaps depending on how game goes, but he’s ready. He obviously had to show up big in the BYU game and obviously this past weekend against Colorado State. It just shows how he has prepped to this point.

“It’s been cool to see him do that and be ready to go when he gets in the game. His helmet is ready to go, he’s buckled up and he’s out there and we’re rolling and we don’t change anything. It’s been cool to see him be in these roles. He’s a great kid to be around, always has a smile on his face, works his tail off at practice and is a great special teams player. We love having him here.”

Special teams is where the former walk-on made his mark. Teubner is on several units including kickoff, kickoff return and punt return, and his work ethic and effort level there is what helped earn him a scholarship prior to the start of the season and a chance to move up the depth chart at safety.

“That’s how ‘Tubes’ gained the respect of the team,” head coach Andy Avalos said. “He’s very diligent in everything he does, whether that’s school, off the field — he’s earned the right to have the position on defense he does because of what he did on special teams. He owned his role and got better at it.

“Anything that needs to be done, the guy handles it. That’s what you call dependable depth — when it’s a guys turn to step up and he’s ready and that just shows what type of person he is.”

Teuber, who hails from Seaside, Oregon, had a prolific high school career at Seaside High School. He was named Cowapa Conference Offensive Player of the Year as both a junior and senior after rushing for more than 4,000 career yards as a running back. He also was a three-time All-Cowapa Conference First Team selection as a defensive back.

But he was undersized, and that meant he didn’t get much interest from college programs.

“In my situation I didn’t have a lot of opportunities at this level,” Teubner said. “But fortunately my coach was kind of from the area and set up a cool opportunity to get me in the door here and it kind of just worked out. Gods plan I guess.”

Once Boise State gave Teubner a shot, he took care of the rest. After playing in two games but still preserving his redshirt in 2019, Teubner saw action in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2020 mostly on special teams. He was also an Academic All-Mountain West pick last fall and twice has been named a Mountain West Scholar-Athlete.

His first dose of significant playing time didn’t come until the BYU game, when he was unexpectedly thrust into action when Skinner was ejected shortly before halftime. The same thing happened again last week against Colorado State — and both times there didn’t appear to be much of a drop-off.

“All the guys on the sidelines and everybody in the locker room see the way he prepared throughout the week, in meetings, individual drills, team sessions — they know and understand he’s going to do his job and we don’t skip a beat and that’s the way it should be,” safeties coach Kane Ioane said. “He enjoys football, loves being around it and he’s a hardworking guy that’s very reliable and accountable in everything he does.

“When you see guys that you know are going to do their job, most of the time that correlates to the classroom as well, and you look at his GPA and what he does there and it’s the same thing. He’s a very self-accountable and a very self-disciplined guy.”

Teubner knows he’s nothing like Skinner but admitted, “We’re all competitors on the field so every time I step out there I want to feel like I’m the best player on the field too.”

Some players knowing they won’t play much with an NFL-caliber safety ahead of them would mail it in at practice or in meetings and be unprepared or disinterested on the bench. Teubner is not one of those players.

“My love for the game,” Teubner said when asked what drives him to stay ready for an opportunity he doesn’t know will come. “How bad do you want it? In my position I’ve always understood I might not get very many opportunities when I came here, so I’ve kept that same mindset. I know when the opportunity presents itself I want to be ready and take advantage of it.”

Starting safety Tyreque Jones may have summed it up best.

“He’s got heart,” Jones said. “He’s going to come in and hit somebody. He brings that physical size and he’s hungry. Being a young guy he understands his opportunities are limited but his number could get called at any point and he does a good job prepping throughout the week.”

Teubner and the Broncos (4-4, 2-2 MW) will face a big test Saturday at No. 23 Fresno State at 5 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Most Boise State fans would prefer Skinner to be out there, but Teubner has proven he’ll be ready when needed.

Given the past few weeks it’s fair to expect Teubner to get more playing time at some point down the stretch. His teammates and coaches would welcome it.

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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