As the No. 12 Boise State football team prepares to play host to Miami (OH) on Saturday (Sept. 12), the Broncos are looking for ways to improve upon a stellar defensive performance in their season opener against Oregon. But despite holding the Duck offense to just 31 rushing yards, 121 passing yards, six first downs and eight points, the Broncos are still looking for more.
That is where sophomore defensive tackles Billy Winn and Chase Baker enter; a duo that came up big in the Broncos' dominating 19-8 win against the Ducks. But in order for the Bronco defense to continue its' strong play throughout the rest of the season, Winn and Baker will have to continue to impose their wills on opposing offensive lines.
“The DT position is extremely important,” Boise State defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “It is a huge part of our run defense and also being able to get some push in the pass game. Those guys have all improved and we need for them to keep working like they have been.”
Against Oregon, it wasn't necessarily statistics that turned heads about Winn and Baker's performances. More so, it was their control of the interior line that stifled the Oregon offensive attack and held the Ducks to just 44 total plays from scrimmage.
“We played strong,” Baker said. “There are definitely improvements to be made. But for our first game we came out and we did a good job. We all ran to the ball. We all made the plays that we needed to make and plug up the middle. There are definitely things to learn from it, but for our first game we can't be disappointed with it.”
Winn (6-4, 288), a Las Vegas, Nev. (Las Vegas HS) native, recorded four tackles, one tackle for loss and a safety in the Broncos' first game. Baker (6-1, 296), a native of Rocklin, Calif. (Rocklin HS), finished the game with three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and .5 sacks.
“Personally, I think I played okay,” Winn said. “The guy next to me, Chase Baker, I believe he had an awesome game.”
A big reason for the tandem's success comes from their close relationship on the field.
“Me and Chase are really close,” Winn said. “We each have each other's full trust. If I mess up, he's going to be there and I know that. If he messes up he knows I'm going to be there…He's my comrade, and my right hand man. You've got to have that bond with the guy you're playing next to. Chase is definitely that go to guy.”
According to Baker, there is also a balanced mixture of talent that seems to be adding up to just the right combination of skill.
“He's got the athleticism so he makes it quick,” Baker said. “If they get by him hopefully I'm there. I consider myself more of a run block kind of guy and he's quicker, so I think we make a great combination there.”
In the big scheme, Baker and Winn will play a huge role in Boise State's defensive attack this season. Both players recognize that while the defensive tackle position may just be another cog in the machine, their presence up front could be a huge determining factor for how great this Bronco defense could be.
“There is definitely potential [for our defense],” Baker said. “After seeing how well we played [against Oregon], and still seeing all of the improvements we can make, it's definitely reassuring that we can be a great defense. I think [we would like] to be one of the top defenses in the nation in running and passing aspects. We've got a great secondary. Hopefully we'll be one of the top defenses around.”
“It's something we don't really think about,” Winn said. “We think about things game by game, week by week. But by the end of the season I do hope we're one of the best defenses in the country. Time will tell, so right now we're just taking it week by week.”