Football Talk: The Boise State Defense

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Last week we discussed how Boise State’s offensive philosophies aren’t all
that different from Virginia Tech’s. Today we’ll switch sides to the Bronco
defense. Yet again, we’ll see that the two schools are very similar.

Last season, Boise State finished 14th nationally in total defense, 14th in
scoring defense, 28th in rushing defense, 21st in pass defense and 13th in pass
efficiency defense. Though this defense wasn’t dominant in 2009, they did
dominate in Boise State’s two highest profile games of the year, against Oregon
in the season opener and TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Broncos lost defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to Tennessee in the
offseason. Wilcox, who is only 33, has been replaced by Pete Kwiatkowski, a 1990
graduate of Boise State. Kwiatkowski has served as the Broncos’ defensive line
coach since 2006. Head coach Chris Peterson decided to promote from within the
program and go with “a Boise State guy”, as Frank Beamer would put it.

The Bronco program is run in the same way as the Virginia Tech program. There
are Boise State grads on the coaching staff, and the people in charge like to
promote from within. Even Chris Peterson was the offensive coordinator before
taking the head position in 2006.

The Broncos also run their defense similarly to Virginia Tech. They demand
physical play in the trenches, and they also scheme in such a way that it makes
it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to read the defense. Boise State picked
off 24 passes last year, and also recovered 11 fumbles. Their turnover margin
was +21, which ranked third in the country. They win games exactly like Virginia
Tech: they force turnovers and protect the football.

Their regular scheme features four down linemen, two linebackers, four
regular defensive backs and one nickelback. The nickelback is similar to the
whip linebacker in Virginia Tech’s system. He must be good enough against the
run to come up and play an outside linebacker position, but he must be athletic
enough to line up over slot receivers in spread formations.

Because of the versatility of the whip linebacker, and the overall talent
level of the Boise State defense, the Broncos are able to employ a lot of
different coverage schemes. That helps create a lot of