Going into the scrimmage there weren't that many question marks on a defense that has 9 returning starters, a middle linebacker unit that is 7 deep, four quality seniors on the defensive line, and likely the deepest secondary that Cougar fans have ever seen at BYU. Personel-wise the only real question mark is depth on the defensive line. In a scrimmage where the defense did a lot of blitzing, Bronco said that the scheme was "fairly vanilla", which makes CougarNation wonder if this Cougar defense might be more aggressive than in years past.
In the worst defensive performance of the season last year, and one of the most embarrassing losses in program history, the opposing quarterback had this to say: (I) "was just standing back there in a rocking chair all night. I would drop back and bounce in there just because they were giving me so much time." BYU quarterbacks didn't have the same experience yesterday in the scrimmage, the pressure was on early and often through-out the scrimmage. It started with Remington Peck putting a nice swim move to the inside on Michael Yeck as he got to Riley from the blindside before Riley had a chance to do anything. On that play Peck was lined up on the outside shoulder of Yeck, making him more of a pass rushing DE than a gap plugging DE which usually lines up closer to the inside shoulder of the tackle to take on the double team.
It appeared as though the defensive ends were frequently just having to beat the tackle in a one on one blocking assignment because they were rushing from the outside. They were running stunts as well with blitzing linebackers in an effort to put more pressure on the quarterback.
Bronson Kaufusi showed good agility, and stood out as having a good scrimmage. Tui Crichton stood out to Bronco as somebody that had a good scrimmage as well. Theodore King also showed his quickness and strength and made some plays. The question is whether it is better that the defensive line focus more on stopping the run or putting pressure on the quarterback. With how successful the defense was at putting pressure on the quarterback, and how successful the cougar offense was at running the ball in-between the tackles, it will be interesting to see how the defense adjusts in the next scrimmage.
Everything starts with the defensive line, so CougarNation will be watching that position group closely in subsequent scrimmages.
Linebackers are the primary playmakers in a 3-4 defense, and the depth there was evident. The middle linebackers looked very good throughout the scrimmage, and the depth and athleticism at outside linebacker was also on display. Alani Fua has put on 10 pounds to get up to 220, and says that he feels faster as well with the offseason workouts this summer.
Spencer Hadley played briefly at the beginning of the scrimmage and looks really good despite giving up a touchdown in the unenviable assignment of covering JD Falslev man to man down the sideline in the bluezone. Teu Kautai showed quickness and athleticism, and read a Munns pass to a runningback in the flat and almost took it the other way. Austen Jorgensen looked good and showed excellent speed on pursuit to the sideline tackling a runningback for a short gain.
The linebackers were doing a lot of blitzing, frequently coming from the outside which at times would put them up against just a runningback as the tackle was occupied with the DE. It may be that the coaching staff is more comfortable blitzing this year because of the athleticism and depth that the Cougars are enjoying in the secondary.
The Cougars rarely have as talented of a second unit at safety as they have in Mike Hague and Craig Bills. And Drew Reilly made a great play on a ball that otherwise would have gone for a nice gain downfield. Depth at the cornerback positions is lower right now because of the injury to Robbie Buckner, but there was still plenty of speed both at field and boundary corner.
DeQuann Everrett showed speed and athleticism to go along with his size, but he was flagged for PI on one play and should have been flagged for another when he bit on a stutter by Dylan Collie. Adam Hogan made a great play on the nicest deep pass of the day from Munns, and Comer showed some good cover skills and quickness. Hanneman came up with a sack on a corner blitz from the boundary corner position, and drew praise from Bronco for his combination of size and speed.
Jordan Johnson came up with an interception off of a Riley pass in skelli, and that won't be the last interception Cougar fans see from him either. The opposing quarterback has very little room for error when Johnson is covering the intended receiver. As BYU fans are seeing impressive progress from Alisa on the offensive side of the ball, expect similar progress from Daniel Sorenson at strong safety.
His progress may not be as drastic as Alisa's since he stayed on the same side of the ball, but last year was his first year back from his mission and it was also his first year playing safety. Before his mission he played OLB, and just months returned from his mission he won the starting job at SS filling in for graduated Cougar great Andrew Rich last year.
The athleticism and experience of this defense is going to enable the coaching staff to be more aggressive than they might have been in the past, and this defense is going to give the great Cougar defenses of the past a run for their money.