This week, we will take a look at arguably the deepest position for the Broncos: safety.
Mason Smith - 6’ 218 lbs - walk-on, left.
Ma’a Tanuvasa - 6’1 197 lbs - walk-on, left.
Jace Richter - 5’10 188 lbs - walk-on, kicked off team for off-field incident.
Cameron Hartsfield - 5’10 197 lbs - graduated, 12 total tackles, 5 solo.
Evan Tyler - RS Junior - 6’12 192 lbs, injured for the season.
Damion Wright - RS Junior - 6’ 177 lbs, did not see action.
Kekoa Nawahine - Junior - 6’2 205 lbs , 108 total tackles, 65 solo, 3 INT, 4 passes defended, 4.5 TFL. All-MW Second Team, 2x Academic All-MW.
DeAndre Pierce - Junior - 5’11 174 lbs, 83 total tackles, 52 solo, 1 INT, 2 passes defended, 4 TFL. All-MW Honorable Mention.
Jordan Happle - RS Sophomore - 5’11 195 lbs, 15 total tackles, 9 solo, 1 INT, 1 pass defended, .5 TFL. Academic All-MW.
Kekaula Kaniho - Sophomore - 5’10 185 lbs, 32 total tackles, 23 solo, 1 INT (returned for TD), 4 passes defended, 1 sack, 6.5 TFL. Academic All-MW
Tyreque Jones - RS Freshman - 6’2 196 lbs, coming off red shirt season.
Chris Mitchell - 6’ 190 lbs, 50 total tackles, 35 solo, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumbles recovered and 7 passes defended.
Tyric LeBeauf - 6’2 178 lbs, 47 total tackles, 32 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL and 4 interceptions.
Phillip Mills - 6’2 223 lbs - 91 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 1 INT. Already on campus.
You’ll notice I have Mitchell, LeBeauf and Mills all listed at safety here. I think, of those 3, LeBeauf would be the most likely. I don’t anticipate any of them playing there, but this is where they played in HS AND we didn’t recruit anyone specifically to play safety. Ambrose has Mitchell and LeBeauf slated at CB while Mills will play linebacker. I think this position is deep enough right now that we wouldn’t need any of them to switch.
Nawahine and Pierce are your starters. I don’t think that is in question when look at their work and the numbers. Nawahine could also be seen as the leader of this defense with the departure of LVE as well. Pierce is a well known name among Bronco faithful, and rightfully so. While his stats might be overshadowed a bit by Nawahine, his ability is not. Both are formidable defenders in the secondary and will rightly be feared in 2018, ESPECIALLY considering they are both juniors.
Kaniho is the next player to stand out to me. He had a monster true freshman campaign. I expect that to continue in 2018. Kaniho will likely bounce around a little, so we could see Nawahine, Pierce AND Kaniho on the field all at the same time.
Jordan Happle quietly had a nice freshman season. While on the field, he showed he was more than capable of holding his own. I anticipate him to appear on the two deep along with Kaniho.
Evan Tyler has had a career marred by injury with this season cut short before it even began with yet another torn ACL. If Tyler can remain healthy, he is a stellar player. He made some noise early in 2016 before tearing his ACL then. If he can return to his original form, he very easily could earn a spot on the 2-deep as well. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for him to do this, but coming back from 2 ACL tears is a lot to ask.
Damion Wright has been a bit of a mystery. He hasn’t seen any action the past two seasons despite being a top safety recruit out of California. Sometimes the game doesn’t translate from high school to college. Wright has some work to do in order to earn playing time this season.
Tyreque Jones is a very interesting player. As a red shirt freshman, he earned Scout Defensive Player of the Year, which generally translates to a solid career on the field. He made some noise in spring ball, so the assumption at this point is we should see some of Jones this fall, despite the talent available.
That’s it for this week, tune in next week for kickers! GO BRONCOS!