Baer Bits - Boise State

Kent Baer (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - Washington Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer had to grab a pad and pen to keep track when breaking down film of Boise State's offense. In any normal three-game breakdown on tape, Baer anticipates he'll see roughly 10-12 different formation looks on first downs. Watching the Broncos play, he thought he saw around 20. Then he started counting.

I'm not sure if he stopped counting at 35. I think he did. "They probably do more than any team I've seen since I've been here," Baer told Dawgman.com Thursday. "I'm serious. They try to formation you and get you in a bad position. If someone doesn't get aligned correctly and not reading the key and get you out of a gap - that's how they create big plays. Same thing with the passing game. There's just a lot of stuff to prepare for.

"They'll figure out different ways to shift, explode and move. They play as well as an entire team as anybody we've faced. You see what they did against Oregon State last year. It was early, but they beat a really good Oregon State team, and later on they beat a heckuva good Hawaii team. They beat a good Fresno team, and you know what they did against Oklahoma. Those are the games you look at and go 'wow'."

Baer knows when praise is due, but he doesn't believe his defense will be out of their element at all. In fact, he's hoping the environment actually helps put the Broncos on their heels a little bit. "It's a big game to come to our stadium, to come up here," he said. "It's important for them to come up here and play well."

The casual college football fan saw what Boise State did to Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and probably will remember the end of that game for a long time. For that reason, the Broncos have been tagged as a 'gimmick' team, an unfair distinction to say the least. Washington may not see any 'gimmick' plays in Saturday's game with BSU, but they can't forget about them altogether.

"If you are fundamentally sound and you read your key and keep your eyes on your key, all the things you teach from day one - you should be fine," Baer said when asked about having to worry about trick plays on top of all their variety on offense. "All those things should take care of themselves. They can out-leverage you, they have ways to do that, but for the most part those things should take care of themselves. If you worry about it you play slow and non-aggressive, soyou have to talk about it. We've talked about it since spring. It goes back to what we started in the spring."

And even having to adjust to seeing Syracuse run the pistol offense for the first time ever on Friday, Baer doesn't sound like he's close to deciphering the Broncos' game plan. "I don't know how much it prepares you," Baer said when asked if Friday night's experience will help his defense at all. "You always prepare for the unkown, and I don't know how you can really do that. You try and look ahead. You just can't get locked into doing certain things. You don't want it so it's two games to start the season where you worked on things and didn't see what you worked on. We saw about 25 percent of what they (Syracuse) did a year ago. I'm sure they (Boise State) have a lot of stuff waiting for us. They probably worked on us. That never changes. There's just a lot of things. You just have to be smart and communicate. That's the bottom line in this game."

When asked about Taylor Tharp, BSU's quarterback, or the Bronco wide receivers, he'll tell you that you just can't take anything at all from their 56-7 drubbing of Weber State. "It was just one long run after another against Weber," he said. "I don't blame them, I wouldn't have shown much either."

If BSU is coming to Seattle with something to prove - a team from the WAC trying to get their first road win against a BCS team - then UW is defending their home turf with just as much to show. And based on the way the Huskies' front four played against Syracuse, Baer is confident his veteran group will be just as motivated this week as they were in the Carrier Dome.

"I loved how they came out and played with an attitude," he said of Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Jordan Reffett, Wilson Afoa and Greyson Gunheim. Add Caesar Rayford in the mix, and those five made life miserable for Syracuse's offense. "All they kept reading about was how good their front four was, how it was the best they'd had in 20 years or so, and we talked about it in the meetings, and I think they really took it to heart. I told them that they might have a good front four, but so do we. When you play that style of offense sometimes, it forces you to not play physical, but they did. They got off the ball with great pad level and hit people in the mouth. I was really pleased with how they played attitude-wise."

"I think they are up to the challenge this week because they are going to be playing one of the best offensive lines in the country. You don't win 14 games in a row and beat the people they've beaten without a good offensive line. It's a great challenge for our guys."

But before you get too giddy, be advised that comparing SU's OL to BSU's OL would be like comparing a Benz to a Yugo. "It starts up front, so they have a good offensive line," Baer said, noting that the Huskies will be playing against four out of five starters from 2006's undefeated team. "The left tackle (Ryan Clady) is a heckuva football player, he can play for anyone in the country. Those other guys inside have been there and have played against some great defensive fronts."

Helping the DL to combat that beef up front will be the inside linebacker, and Trenton Tuiasosopo came of age Friday night, getting the starting nod over a slightly hobbled Donald Butler. The redshirt junior from Mariner High School took full advantage of his opportunity with four tackles, just two short of his entire 2006 total.

"I've always thought that Trenton has been his own worst enemy in terms of making mistakes, but in terms of talent he's a great talent," Baer said. "He plays inside from tight end to tight end as well as any linebacker we have. He does a nice job of keeping square and his pad level and he's a physical player. I think it goes back to his injury early on. As far as reading keys and concentrating mentally, he's done a tremendous job this fall. We always knew he could do it, but maybe it just took some time after that injury. It was a pretty severe injury. It helps our depth at inside linebacker to have him and (Donald) Butler and Mason Foster. They basically all play the same position."

And depth up in the front seven is going to be vital if Washington is able to mask some of the inexperience they are working with on the back end. True frosh Vonzell McDowell started against Syracuse, and Nate Williams saw substantial time as the Huskies' nickel back. "I was pleased with how the young guys played," Baer said when asked about McDowell and Williams. "It's a tough trip. For the most part, I thought they played decent. But they haven't played against 72,000 before. You don't see that in high school. I think they'll be fine. They just have to go out and play."

And ultimately, after listening to Baer break down both games, that's what it all boils down to - just playing the game as fast as possible and as mistake-free as possible. "I hope we can stay aggressive," he said, matter-of-factly. "We were able to stay aggressive last Friday. It was good to see."

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