Boise State’s strong 2008 was in large part thanks to defense – a WAC rarity. Or so it used to be. With San Jose State sending d-linemen to the pros, New Mexico State shooting up the passing defense charts, and LaTech keeping BCS offenses in check, defense is no longer a dirty word, especially for these five who make up the best fantasy WAC options for defense and special teams.
The Broncos finished 15th in total defense and were particularly staunch in defending the pass last year, and 2009 bodes well for a redux. Four out of a star-studded five defensive backs return, as well as two keys to the Bronco pass rush. BSU runs deep at defensive tackle, and their soon-to-be vaunted 4-2-5 proved difficult for spread offenses to attack. Throw in the conference’s best special teams with Kyle Brotzman (2-for-2 from 50+ yards) and CB/PR Kyle Wilson (three punt return TDs in November) and this is a unit you’ll want to keep an eye on.
2. San Jose State.
The Spartans seem to do defense well every year, and this is no exception. The Ihenacho brothers, Duke and Carl, were surprising stars on last year’s defense and they’ll head up the job of replacing four starters, including current pros Jarron Gilbert, Christopher Owens, and Coye Francies. Special teams is in good hands with head coach Dick Tomey who has consistently improved the SJSU kicking game since he arrived. Colorado transfer Tyler Cope takes over the field goal duties.
Though they’re not known for their defense as it relates to the scoreboard, the Pack are pros at stuffing the fantasy stat box with an opportunistic and oft-times hassling “D.” Whether it’s defensive ends Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped sacking quarterbacks or handsy linebackers/defensive backs returning picks for scores, Nevada’s defense holds its own in fantasy, if not necessarily in the standings. The special teams are nothing special.
4. Utah State
Draft the Aggies’ defense/special teams based on new head coach Gary Anderson, Utah’s former defensive coordinator, not on Utah State’s past history. Anderson should be able to find a way to turn a typically tepid unit into one of the conference’s better defenses. Former head coach Brent Guy left him some tools in LBs Paul Igboeli and Bobby Wagner, and the rest will be up to Anerson’s pressure-based scheme. Special teams for Utah State centers around the kicking of junior Peter Caldwell and the return game of Kejon Murphy. Both players are solid, if unspectacular.
5. Fresno State.
Here’s the thing about Fresno State’s 2009 fantasy defense outlook: It can’t get much more turnover-deficient than last year. If you believe that turnovers have a tendency to balance out over time, then last year’s 13 (total!) should mean bushels of picks and fumbles in 2009. Plus, Fresno boasts one of the nations’ most promising young kickers in Kevin Goessling, who had plenty of opportunity to work out his nerves last year.
Louisiana Tech-Bulldogs return one of the conference’s best defensive lines.
Idaho– Even with an easy schedule, never trust an Idaho defense to be good.
Hawaii: The Warriors lose nine defensive starters. Glass half full: they return two!
***Kevan Lee writes full-time about Boise State football over at One Bronco Nation Under God. This might explain the overt biases in his fantasy projections.