'We're really coming together as a team and as a defense," said Robbie Buckner. "We had a really good day. We had a bunch of turnovers and I really think we're working hard to become the best we can be."
The defensive backs disrupted the timing of the routes and blanketed the secondary with a mix of coverages, different personnel groupings, and tight, disciplined coverage help from the linebackers. The outstanding performance by the defense caused sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps to give some praise to his defensive counterparts.
"I'm very frustrated with our practice today, and this wasn't a BYU football offense that you saw out on the field today," Heaps said after Tuesday's practice. "The defense did a great job and they were forcing us to make the throws a little tighter, and they definitely put some pressure on us. You know, some days you're going to have those off days, and it seemed like we were in a funk that we couldn't get out of from the quarterback position. We played very uncharacteristic of a BYU quarterback today, and it carried throughout the day."
Call it what you want, but the offense received a little karma payback from all the whooping it up and end zone celebration they did last week. Even when safety Mike Hague intercepted an end zone pass, causing a quick whistle to blow, the defense didn't stop. Hague ran the ball out of the end zone with his teammates running behind him as the offense watched. Defenders watching from the sidelines came running out onto the field to run the full length of the field with him, preventing receiver Matt Marshall from reaching him.
"During our position's meeting [Tuesday], Coach Howell talked about us getting our run and pass keys down and also our effort and being excited out there," Buckner said. "You saw our defense out there screaming and jumping around out there and it was fun. You saw the guys that weren't in standing on the sidelines shouting and jumping around cheering us on."
"They came out with the right amount of energy and wanted it a little bit more than us," said Heaps. "It's good though. It's good for us as an offense to experience some of that and see how we're going to overcome some of that adversity. You never want to go through it, but hopefully this team can remember what that feels like so we can come back out here on Thursday and make it right again."
Both the players and coaches have seen the progress that the secondary has been able to make during spring camp.
"Yeah, I really have seen how this secondary is beginning to take shape, and everyone is really stepping up their game," Buckner said. "Every day we get grades from Coach Howell, and the grades are progressively getting better. We're graded on a few things like performance and assignments, but the one thing that we're also graded out on is our effort. Right now they're all in the 90s percentage range, and so right now I think as a team and as a defensive unit we're getting our assignments and effort right."
Buckner said that the secondary is better in part because they have been tested by a group of talented quarterbacks over and over again.
"We've got four really great quarterbacks that can play anywhere," Buckner said. "Getting to know each quarterback, because all of them are different, and getting to play against those differences has really helped us. We'll see each type of those quarterbacks along the season. They've all got good arms and they all can play."
Though the secondary is coming together and beginning to take shape, battles for starting positions will undoubtedly rage on as players look to secure starting positions. According to Buckner, it's a good problem to have.
"We're all good friends and I think we have a lot of talent this year," Buckner said. "I think we have a two-deep secondary that can play, and in some places I think we're even three-deep. It's a good thing to have."
"They're a talented group, and coming out here, it helps make us both better," Heaps said. "That's the point of this whole thing, getting better. We definitely have a talented secondary and I think they're now batting down more balls as a secondary than I ever think we've had here in a while. It's obviously very frustrating for you as a quarterback, but it's great to know that we have that much talent out there on our defense. They're doing a great job and improving every day, and I definitely think they're coming together.
"I think they were trying to figure out who was going to play corner and who is going to play the safety spots, and they're still trying to figure that stuff out. Now they're all a lot more on the same page and are now making plays. You've got Mike Hague and Daniel Sorensen, who made some great plays [Tuesday]. A lot of these guys are fighting for spots, so you love to see these guys going out there and making plays because we're going to need that this season."
On Thursday, the offense will have a chance to redeem themselves prior to the spring game in LaVell Edwards Stadium this Saturday. The offense has had a very good spring camp so far and looks to put order back in the BYU cosmos by redeeming themselves before Saturday.
"Well, we've had a really good spring so far, and [Tuesday] was really the first big bump in the road as an offense," Heaps said. "You definitely don't want this to happen at the end of spring camp. This is the time when you're supposed to be executing and clicking on all cylinders, so whenever there is a wrench thrown in the works, we'll see how we handle it.
"There's always the little dynamics that you want to see in how the team responds from things like this, because this becomes a molding and growing period aspect of practice too. [Tuesday] is going to be a good help to us in a different way in what kind of leaders we have and what kind of team we have.
"With that being said, I want to see how we can bounce back and see where we go from here. Being one of the leaders on this team, I'm really looking forward to getting with our guys and seeing how we can really help this offense and watch some film to correct this."