Cougar defense to begin transitioning

For the defense, Saturday's scrimmage was primarily a chance for coaches to see who would be backing up the ones. Now, the defense is preparing itself to transition to Ole Miss preparation.

During Saturday's scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Cougar defenders didn't stand up to their high level of performance they showed this past week.

"We had a really good practice from Monday through Friday with our energy [and] enthusiasm, and how well we were able to execute was better than I've seen it here in a long time, and when I say a long time, I mean years," said Coach Poppinga. "We had guys flying around better than I've seen it in a long, long time and they were doing exactly what they were supposed to do. They were playing physical and really asserting a force on the offense, but that didn't quite show up today."

The first-team Cougar offense scored on its only drive, and overall the defense didn't perform as was expected by the defensive coaching staff.

"It seems like that past couple of times we've come in here [at LaVell Edwards Stadium], it's been a little sluggish," said Coach Poppinga. "Our performance today was better than the last one we had here from a defensive standpoint. I think we could have had a little more energy and a little better execution coming in here today. I was hoping the way we played throughout the week would have carried on over here, but it didn't. All in all it was an okay day for us, and if I had to rate our performance, I would say a six out of 10."

With most of the defensive starters having solidified their spots, and thus being held out for most of Saturday's activities, the primary objective was to allow guys down the depth chart to either move up or further solidify their backup roles.

"Well, we had a lot of our starters out and so this was a chance for our younger guys to play," Poppinga said. "Some of the guys did really well for themselves and positioned themselves at a backup position or backup role. That was kind of our focus from a defensive standpoint today, was to see how well our backups did today in their roles. That was our primary goal today."

The only real potential starter that saw considerable playing time was Will linebacker Jadon Wagner. Because he has missed most of fall camp, Wagner received a large portion of playing time with the second- and third-team units.

"We had five of our top linebackers out today," Poppinga said. "Our linebackers in terms of starters are solidifying. We have a pretty good idea as far as our defense and who it is that really stands out. Now we've been looking at who our backups are going to be.

"Really this was [Wagner's] first day in full pads going all out in this setting. Really, Jadon Wagner went because he hadn't practiced and he was really one of our only guys out there that's a potential starter. Today was really his chance to get back in the swing of things, and I'll have go back and look at the film to see how he did, but really he was the only real potential starter out there for the most part."

The cornerback that started at the field side position was Joe Sampson, while Corby Eason was at boundary. The coaches are still looking for guys in the deep and talented group of corners to really rise up and take the starting spots.

"Talking with our staff yesterday, we had a really good idea of who our first-team guys were," Poppinga said. "We're still looking for guys to step up and take the positions at cornerback for boundary and field side corner. We have good cornerbacks that can play, and all of them are going to play, but we're really waiting to see if one guy can just step up and take it. That really hadn't happened until today."

For the most part the defense is solid and the coaches know what they have. Next week the defense will begin transitioning from personal preparation to preparation for Ole Miss.

"I think Monday will be the final day where we will have another two-a-day, and then Tuesday and Wednesday we'll do some BYU stuff," said Coach Poppinga. "Then when Thursday comes, I think that's when we'll start doing Ole Miss. That's not 100 percent and we could start that on Wednesday, but for the most part we're all sick of each other and want to start looking to our first opponent.

"After a while you get sick of working the same formations and the same plays and it gets to the point where you go, ‘Okay, let's move on to something new.' My guys asked me in our meeting, ‘Alright coach, what exactly is it that we need to be studying for Ole Miss?' So, we kind of jump-started that a little bit yesterday, but didn't get into it too much, but we did get into it. They just really wanted to get into it and see what they needed to do to get ready for those guys, so it won't be long before we really start getting to that more heavily, but right now our guys are anxious and ready to start doing that."

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