KEKAULA KANIHO USING SMARTS, NOT SIZE TO BECOME VALUABLE PART OF BOISE STATE DEFENSE
Boise State safety Kekaula Kaniho celebrates after
scoring a touchdown against San Diego State
on Oct. 14, 2017 - image by Denis Poroy.
BOISE — Kekaula Kaniho knows that his size is not his best attribute.
At 5-foot-10, 183 pounds he’s not one of the bigger players on the field, and he’s certainly not the size you’d typically want for a safety.
He’s found a way to make up for it in other areas.
Kaniho had two defensive touchdowns last season as a true freshman and played in all 14 games in his debut season of college football, showing that a lack of size can be overcome with extra time in the film room and more preparation on the practice field.
“His intelligence helps him out so much because he’s not the ideal size for a safety,” safeties coach Gabe Franklin said. “He makes it work. He’s a playmaker and a ball hawk, and I just think he’s got more confidence now. That game experience last year is going to help even more.”
Kaniho plays the nickel spot for Boise State, but has the versatility to move all around on defense. Asked to describe his position and role, Kaniho said “a little bit of everything. Kind of linebacker, corner and safety-ish. We’re right on the edge and can do a little bit of everything in the run or pass.”
He mostly sits in with the cornerbacks in meetings, and rotates his time in position drills between linebacker and the secondary.
“I just study a lot of film and be prepared the best I can to be consistent every day,” said Kaniho, who signed with the Broncos after attending Kahuku High School in Kahuku, Hawaii.
He wasted little time finding the field, earning playing time in every game and starting five games.
He had 32 tackles, four pass breakups, five passes defended, a forced fumble and accounted for two of Boise State’s four touchdowns on defense.
Kaniho scored on a 34-yard fumble return against San Diego State, and had a 53-yard interception return for a score in the Las Vegas Bowl win over Oregon to finish the year.
“I just try to do my one-eleventh on defense, but once I get the ball I just trust the guys around me and try to go as far as I can,” said Kaniho, who had five defensive touchdowns as a senior in high school.
“Just the preparation throughout the week. I try to watch as much film as I can, and we always have a good game plan going in so I just try to be solid with that and be consistent play to play.”
Kaniho will have to battle for playing time among a secondary that returns tons of talent. Boise State returns 10 of 11 starters on defense including both Tyler Horton and Avery Williams at corner and DeAndre Pierce and Kekoa Nawahine at safety.
But with what he showed last year, the Broncos are sure to find a spot for Kaniho – they just don’t know which one.
“He’s just a very versatile player,” Franklin said. “He’s playing nickel, he’s playing safety, he can play corner. I think having a guy like that is big.”