The Idaho Press is counting down the 25 most important players to the 2021 Boise State football team. Next up is No. 12: EDGE Demitri Washington.
The 2020 season was supposed to be a breakout year for EDGE Demitri Washington. He spent most of the year watching the Broncos from off the field.
The hype surrounding Washington, who was poised to take on a staring role after shining in a reserve one the year before, was dashed in just the second game in the season when he went down with an ACL injury in his right knee against Air Force. The injury kept him out the rest of the season, as well as in the spring.
In 2021 he’s ready to take another shot in the spotlight.
“I’m champing at the bit,” Washington said. “Being on the couch watching the Mountain West Championship, I was just sitting there champing at the bit to go. I’m excited, I’m ready to go and I’m ready to get out there.”
In just two games last season, Washington certainly looked to be taking a big step at defensive end. Starting both games, he had nine tackles on the year before going down with the injury.
“He’s a physical player who plays with a high motor,” defensive line coach Frank Maile said. “Obviously the position he plays, there’s got to be some football intelligence. He plays up front on the line, he’ll set edges, he’ll pass rush, but he also has to drop into coverage. We can’t just drop anybody into coverage, those guys have to actually know where they’re going, who they’re dropping off of and the zones they’re dropping off of. He brings more to the table because of the football intelligence part of the deal. Adding on to his physical ability is what he knows upstairs.”
Maile, who served as the co-defensive coordinator for Utah State last season, was one of the few opposing coaches who got to see firsthand what Washington could do. In the Broncos’ season opener against Utah State, he recorded five tackles in Boise State’s 42-13 win.
When head coach Andy Avalos brought Maile onto his staff in January, Maile got to know even more about Washington.
“Having watched him on the other side of the ball, I kind of knew a lot about Demitri,” Maile said. “He’s a long lever, he’s explosive, he’s athletic. So I kind of knew a little bit about his abilities before I even got here. I was really intrigued about what type of a person he was, not knowing who he was prior. He’s awesome, he’s one of the leaders in our room. When he speaks, the kids move.”
Throughout the spring, Maile said Washington was eager to jump into certain drills, even though trainers had not cleared him for those activities. While they did have to pull him back at times from those drills, Maile said that that’s exactly the type of players he likes to coach: Guys who are ready to jump back in as soon as they can.
“I’d say I’m a very competitive person in everything I do,” Washington said. “If you see me in practice, I always want to do more. That’s just kind of been the way I am. I think my parents have ingrained that ever since I was a little kid, just compete with everybody I meet. You have to be smart, and there were times, definitely, where the trainers would be like ‘hey, let’s not do that right now.’ But I think it’s about finding that medium. I’m never scared to try something new out on the field. That’s what makes me who I am out there, that’s what makes me not afraid to do what I do.”
Washington said while he’s not cleared for contact quite yet, he’s still able to participate in the player run practices and able to do just about everything else.
He’s expected to be back on the field for the Broncos by the fall.
“I still can do pretty much everything, change direction, running around, jumping around and doing all that,” Washington said. “It’s really exciting finally doing stuff with everybody.”
The return of Washington will also help fill the depth along the defensive line that was lacking during 2020. A combination of injuries and COVID-19 contact tracing resulted in the Broncos being thin at that position through much of the season, and even resulted in the cancellation of two games.
But Maile said he’s happy with the group the Broncos have this year, which he calls a special group. He says Boise State is at least three-deep at every position.
That depth, Washington says, has brought a renewed energy to the group, one that he hopes can translate into results once the season starts.
“It’s awesome, it’s competitive, every single day you have to bring your best,” Washington said. “You see it every year, the next All-Mountain West player, the next player that leads the conference in sacks comes out of our defensive linemen. It’s a pride thing for us, it’s the feeling that we have a standard to uphold. It’s something the D-linemen room has always stood for and when we have that depth, it truly shows every day.”