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December 19, 2013

Five to Watch: Boise Defense

Oregon State and Boise State square off in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve (5 p.m. PT, ESPN). Who are the top five defensive players for the Broncos that Beaver fans should know about before the contest kicks off?

1. Demarcus Lawrence (DE): Undeniably one of the top defensive players in the Mountain West Conference. Lawrence is third on the Broncos with 67 tackles in 11 games and was twice named MWC Defensive Player of the Week, one of only two conference players to earn multiple defensive POW honors.

Almost 30 percent of those tackles (19.5) resulted in lost yardage, as well as 10.5 sacks. He is the runaway leader on the Broncos in both statistical categories. His 10.5 sacks are tied for 10th-most nationally and second-most in the MWC, and tied for fifth-most in a single season in Boise State history. He needs just one-half of a TFL to crack Boise State's all-time single-season list. Lawrence, who was also named first-team all-MWC in 2012, has 20 career sacks, 15th most among active NCAA players. Lawrence is also adept at blocking kicks. He swatted away two field goal attempts by Southern Miss in September. Clearly, he will be a handful for Oregon State's offensive tackles on the edge.

2. Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (DT): One of the top defensive tackles in the MWC. With a 6-foot-3, 300-pouind frame, he has the size and agility to compete (and beat) opposing interior offensive linemen. He has 50 tackles - an impressive number for a nose tackle - three for loss, four passes broken up and one sack, numbers that prove he is very active and disruptive inside. One of four Broncos named first-team All-MWC, Tjong-A-Tjoe has 42 career appearances (22 starts), so he benefits from extensive experience during his battles in the trenches. He is a major reason Boise State held opposing teams to 3.6 yards per rush during the regular season. His game-long clash with Oregon State center Isaac Seumalo should be a doozy.

3. Donte Deayon (CB): A second-team All-MWC selection, the 5-foot-9, 151-pound Deayon has a team-high five interceptions (tied for 15th most nationally; most by a Bronco since 2009) and nine pass breakups in 2013, along with 49 tackles (36 solo) and 14 passes defended. Earlier this season, Deayon had interceptions in three consecutive games, the longest streak by a Bronco defender since linebacker Korey Hall in 2006. He will likely be matched up with Brandin Cooks in an intriguing battle all afternoon long at Alohoa Stadium.

4. Bryan Douglas (CB): Deayon's partner at cornerback on the opposite side, Douglas has four interceptions (one was returned for a TD), eight pass breakups and 12 passes defended. He also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against San Diego State, giving him two scintillating scores. He averaged 36.6 yards on eight kickoff returns during the regular season.

5. Ben Weaver (OLB): Which player leads the Broncos in tackles? Weaver, a 6-foot, 233-pound redshirt freshman, with 86. In fact, Weaver is comfortably ahead in the race for most tackles on the Broncos. Linebacker Corey Bell is second with 67 tackles. Weaver's 7.8 tackles per game is the eighth highest average by a freshman in the NCAA in 2013. Yet, he didn't earn a place on the MWC all-conference team. Watch for him coming off the edge as he has adequate speed to make plays on the perimeter.

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