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Examining Boise State's linebackers, because Rivals.com thinks we should

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Ask any Bronco fan you meet, and they'll tell you that the most important position for the 2009 Boise State football team is the offensive line.

Ask Rivals.com, and they'll tell you it's the linebackers.

Boise's only truly questionable unit is their linebackers.

Rivals' pick of the Bronco 'backers is curious considering the goal of the article, which was to nitpick the biggest one question mark from each conference. Among contenders in the WAC, Rivals went with Boise State's presumably two-man linebacking corps? What about Nevada's secondary? Louisiana Tech's quarterback? Fresno State's Pat Hill?

But I digress.

And I digress because Rivals might actually be onto something. A lot of the preseason pandering in regards to the Broncos has focused on the unknown offensive line positions. The defense seems to have received a free pass.

In actuality, the linebackers are a little thin on experience, and as we learned with the 2007 Boise State football team, linebackers make a big difference in the defense's ability to stop opposing teams. Here's a quick look at the position for the Broncos.

Probable starters:

Acrey is the elder statesman of the unit, which does not really guarantee much of anything for him. In the past couple years, he has been the "Freshman most likely to see significant playing time" and the "Sophomore on the verge of breaking out." Neither has really happened. He'll have every opportunity to shine this season, and here's hoping that he makes the most of it.

White grabbed some playing time late last year, including a significant stint during the Broncos' bowl game, which should have taught him how not to defend the run. He has the most Gingg-like qualities among returners.

Probable backups:

Mackey and Smith were newcomers last year; Mackey missed the season with a knee injury sustained in the preseason, and Smith was redshirted. Expect Mackey to challenge hard for the third LB spot and maybe even push the starters during fall camp. Tevis started last year's season opener, played well, then found himself on the bench for pretty much the rest of the year. I guess Idaho State is not the best judge of talent. Keep in mind that Tevis or some other linebacker might be a candidate for D-line duty if things get thin up front.

Insanely good true freshmen:

  • John Michael Davis
  • Allen Mooney

Both of these players were highly sought after recruits who have the potential to make an immediate impact this fall. Don't be surprised to see the Broncos burn a redshirt on one of them.

Others:

Special teams or bust!

After seeing the roster breakdown of the Broncos at the linebacker position, does this seem like a unit in distress? I don't buy it. Acrey at his worst is better than half the starting linebackers in the WAC. White showed flashes that he can carry on the tradition of the gritty, grinding BSU linebacker. Mackey, Smith, Davis, and Mooney - any one of these guys could have a great fall camp and find themselves in the starting lineup come fall.

And any conversation about the Broncos' linebackers has to include the linebacker-esque play of the Bronco secondary, in particular Jeron Johnson and the new Ellis Powers, Winston Venable.

If anything, Boise State's linebackers are a unit that is short on experience and high on potential. Kind of like last year's offensive line.

Actually, forget I said that last part.