The Broncos will undoubtedly platoon their linebackers against the Hokies on Labor Day, but if you were the one doing the picking, which ones would you peg to start?
That is the question that Drew and I asked ourselves, leading to quite the spirited debate on the merits of Derrell Acrey, Byron Hout, Aaron Tevis, and more. After the jump, find out what we decided and then share your thoughts on the linebacker position in the comments.
In case you haven't heard, Boise State is going to win a national championship this year. OBNUG's season previews are here to explain why. Today's topic: Linebackers.
Boise State's linebacker depth chart
Some other time
Roundtable: Which two linebackers would you start against Virginia Tech?
With linebacker being one of the last remaining open positions on the depth chart, Drew and I share our two cents on which players we would start come Labor Day night. You're welcome, Bronco coaching staff who I assume reads this blog regularly.
Kevan starts things off:
Boise State has had some very likable characters at its linebacker position over the years, and this season is no exception. I love all of them, and were they McDonald's collector's cups, I would collect them all and take turns drinking 7up out of them on a daily rotating basis. They would go great with my Bronco special teams coasters.
So picking two to start against Virginia Tech is no easy task, as the Bronco depth chart makes reminds us each and every week. Here are the candidates, as I see them, for the opener:
- Middle linebackers: Derrell Acrey, Byron Hout, Tommy Smith
- Outside linebackers: Aaron Tevis, J.C. Percy
For me, the decision comes down to Derrell Acrey, Byron Hout, and Aaron Tevis. J.C. Percy is a great player, but his lack of playing time in the Fiesta Bowl concerned me. Tommy Smith saw a lot of playing time at Saturday's scrimmage, but he kind of came out of nowhere and I do not react to change that quickly.
Tevis would be my choice at outside linebacker, for more reasons than just my eagerness over hearing Mark Johnson call him "Colt Brooks." But that is a big reason. I'm torn between Acrey and Hout. If I had to lean a certain way, like if one leg was longer than the other or something, I would teeter toward Acrey based solely on his all-around great play in spring ball.
Oh boy, I've been waiting for this one.
The linebacking corps has a lot to prove this season. I picked up a Lindy's magazine the other day at Barnes and Noble to look at their unit rankings, and the Bronco linebackers were the only unit that was ranked lower than #2 in the conference. Of course, this is all just analysis and is largely subjective, but I can't really say I'd disagree with the mag putting our 'backers as the one relative weakness on the D.
I think our linebackers are leaps and bounds better than they were in 2007 and marginally better than they were in 2008, but we haven't had a Korey Hall or even a Colt Brooks-like stud on the field for the Broncos since those heady days of 2006. I like that the emergence of the 4-2-5 has largely been responsible for the Broncos gobbling up spread offenses, but part of me misses the days when we'd put 3 LBs out there and dare teams to run. Of course, in those days we had Halls, Brookses, and Avaloseses.
The 4-2-5 puts a premium on the 2 linebackers that can not only step up in run support, but can drop into coverage or blitz at the drop of a hat. It's almost like we have two OLBs, really. Acrey obviously has the most experience, but has not been the most consistent performer...Tevis and Percy were nearly interchangeable a year ago.
Honestly, I think I'd take Tevis over Percy right now because I think he is more disruptive in the passing game. Right out of the chute, the Broncos will be facing a mobile QB who'll be improvising to spark the offense. Tevis seems the more likely of the two to make Tyrod Taylor have to tuck and run when the pocket collapses...then Winston Venable and Jeron Johnson will pay him their respects.
At MIKE, I'm going to say that Byron Hout will be our best defense in the middle against the likes of Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. Acrey had a good Spring, but where has he been this Fall? Hout tore things up in Fall Camp and let's not forget that he was originally recruited to play that position...a position where he was ranked 25th in the country coming out of Couer d'Alene's Lake City High. Percy, Acrey, and Smith will no doubt get some PT, but I say Hout and Tevis are the two you gots to go with on Labor Day. I'll stand by those picks.
The Acrey conundrum is a doozie, which probably explains why the local media hasn't touched it. How does a guy go from spring practice darling to fall practice milk carton? Having just seen Tom Hanks' Angels and Demons, I have some theories.
Here's a question that I'm going to throw out there and then ignore: Is Shea McClellin the team's best linebacker? Discuss amongst yourselves. I'm verklempt.
Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island. Discuss.
I feel comfortable saying that the linebacker position is top-to-bottom better than it has ever been, but you're right, Drew. There has yet to be that Avalos type to emerge. I think Byron Hout is absolutely capable of being that player this year. He is maniacally energetic, he is always around the ball, he plays with passion and instinct. He is unlike any other linebacker on the roster, which I think is a good thing.
My only question: Is he ready to be the man as of September 6? For the time being, I am going to hold my reservations and stick with Derrell Acrey. The Acrey I saw in spring practice was a complete, all-around stud. If he's healthy and/or present, I would give him the nod. The Acrey I'm thinking of would have a slight edge on Hout in pass coverage and a bit larger edge on the Hout in experience.
"The Acrey conundrum." Wasn't that a 1970s Michael Caine movie?
For whatever reason, Acrey always seems to have a great Spring and then goes the way of the dodo by the time Fall hits. I don't think Acrey is a bad linebacker by any stretch—he brings a lot of physicality and fire to the position—I just think he struggles with consistency, and that's not a good thing for a linebacker to struggle with (that, and color-blindness). Sure, Hout hasn't played a single game at linebacker, but I think he could've started as a true frosh at the position if depth concerns hadn't shifted him to DE. Hout's obviously got the speed, skill, and physicality to play the position...he just lacks game experience (at this level, anyway). Acrey getting the nod won't be damaging to the Broncos, but I just think Hout's shown more this Fall...and in case you didn't notice, that is also when football season starts.
Shea McClellin our best linebacker? If Shea made the switch to MLB I'd be delighted. Having a 6'3" 265 LB roving the middle of the field would be horrifying. But...since we're discussing the actual depth chart and not the fake one that I drew up on the back of my Trapper Keeper (Doug Martin at every position), I'll go ahead and leave McClellin at DE and settle for some quasi-LB play out of him in certain packages.
For some reason, I believed Dave Southorn when he said this was a new Derrell Acrey back in April. Why would you play with my emotions like that, Dave Southorn?
/removes from Facebook friend list
Theoretically, we don't know that Acrey has taken a step back this fall. He could be playing like gangbusters when no one's watching. Or he could have been moved to tight end. Hmm, I smell a Scott Slant brewing. I guess the main thing keeping me from putting my trust in Hout is that I've seen Acrey excel at the linebacker position before (he was pretty good for a stretch last fall). I have not seen Hout do it. At least, not against anyone other than Orofino.
Plus, there's this: Byron Hout was not Byron Hout last year. Yes, he looks good in practice - great in practice - but isn't that what we're ragging on Acrey for?
I am behind you for picking Hout if your reasoning goes one of these two ways: 1) Hout's practice brilliance this fall has occurred closer to gameday than Acrey's brilliance in the spring or 2) Hout has crossed over into Doug Martin territory where his practice excellence is so far and away awesome that there is no doubt he will replicate it in an actual game.
Drew, I think you've already picked reasoning No. 1. Think there's any credibility to No. 2?
I smell credibility there...kind of like the brimstone I smell when I roll into Moscow.
I'll admit that I don't know who was more of a practice stud, Acrey in the Spring, or Hout in the Fall. Either way, both are flashing some good skills and getting respect from the coaches. I guess the overlying question is: which one is peaking at the right time? Acrey could simply be a bit dinged up and that's why we haven't heard much from him. At any rate, I'll stick with Hout as my starter on Labor Day alongside Tevis...but the "OR" tag at MIKE wouldn't make me lose too much sleep.
Other questions plaguing Boise State's linebackers
- Is Boise State better off picking two linebackers and sticking with them or rotating every other series?
- What's the deal with Derrell Acrey?
- Do Boise State's linebackers make enough plays (i.e., turnovers, TFLs, etc.)?
- What's the deal with Allen Mooney and John Michael Davis?
- Will any of the Bronco linebackers land on this year's All-WAC team?
Boise State's linebackers, on a scale of Paul J. Schneiders
With five Paul J. Schneiders being good, and one Paul J. Schneider being the cast of Mean Girls.
Which two Bronco LBs would you start against Virginia Tech? Think Byron Hout has the edge on Derrell Acrey? Convinced this is the year Acrey breaks through big time? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Previously on Boise State football 2010 previews:
- Q: Who will be Boise State's starting running back? A: Pass.
- Q: Can Kellen Moore improve on his 2009 season? A: Statistically? Eh. On the field? You bet.
- Q: Can the Boise State offense survive without Austin Pettis or Titus Young? A: Have you seen the WAC lately?
- Q: Does the Boise State football team have anything left to prove? A: Sadly, yes.
- Q: Who is Boise State's most important offensive lineman? A: . Maybe. Unless it isn't.
Q: Is Boise State's defensive line better against the run or the pass? A: Yes.