BOISE, Idaho (AP) - For the second straight year, Chris Petersen and his staff focused their recruiting efforts on the future of Boise State's defense.
Of the 21 players signed Wednesday, 13 are projected to play somewhere on a unit that was ranked 12th in the nation in total defense a year ago but has major holes created by the graduation of both starting cornerbacks and four other starters.
So Petersen loaded up, announcing a recruiting class with five cornerbacks, four linebackers, six defensive linemen and a safety. They join three other defenders - a linebacker, cornerback and tackle - who either signed with the 2012 class and delayed enrollment or signed letters of intent in December and are now enrolled in school.
"The numbers dictated . we have to beef up a little bit" at cornerback, Petersen said. "We're very thin there, so all those guys are going to have a great opportunity to come in and compete right away."
The Broncos are coming off an 11-2 season, capped by a 28-26 win over Washington. The Broncos also decided in December to scrap plans to join the crumbling Big East Conference, opting instead to stick with the Mountain West and a new television deal that provides more financial stability and other incentives.
Petersen, who has used a high octane offense to compile an 84-8 record in seven seasons, also has 11 new recruits to one day plug into the offense.
Leading that group is Ryan Finley, a 6-4 quarterback who threw for 3,442 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix. But Petersen says he's also intrigued by Finley's ability to run and his intelligence, a key ingredient for any Boise State quarterback.
"Ryan's played in an offense that threw it a lot, which we like. I think his best days are ahead of him in terms of his running the ball," Petersen said. "He's extremely, extremely smart. He may be the best student coming in on the entire team. All those things intangible-wise add up."
The coaching staff also reached extensively into the junior college ranks to fill needs, signing six from those schools, the most ever, Petersen said. The list of transfers includes running back Derrick Thomas, a junior who last season rushed for 829 yards and nine touchdowns at Butler Community College in Kansas. On the defensive line, the Broncos added Tutulupeatau Mataele, a 285-pound tackle who had 14.5 tackles for loss last year while playing for Mt. San Antonio College in California last year.
"Usually you don't like to take that many JC guys, just because you don't have them that long," Petersen said. "That said, the JC guys we've taken we've done pretty well with. Our coaches have a pretty good feel for what we're really looking for. It has to be the right guy because he doesn't have much time. We felt like we had needs at these positions."
Boise State also snatched two star players from the high school in the small Idaho town of Fruitland. Joe Martarano, pegged for now as a future middle linebacker and his classmate, tight end Alec Dhaenens, helped their team win the state title in 2010. Martarano, who was also being eyed by college and professional baseball scouts, signed with Boise State at the end of his sophomore year, one of the earliest commitments Petersen says he's ever gotten.
"I think he's got no chance as a baseball player. My scouting sense says he can't hit the curveball," Petersen said with a smile on his face. "I know that guy is a football player and loves Boise State."