Tinkering in the Cougar secondary

The BYU defensive secondary has suffered some setbacks with injuries that have made Nick Howell earn every penny as the defensive back coach. There has been some shifting and moving of players here and there in order to help develop some key positions. Come fall camp, the Cougar secondary should look much different.

The field side cornerback position hasn't suffered the depletion of depth like the boundary side. Holding strong has been junior Jordan Johnson.

"We've been unlucky over spring camp and we've had some guys go down early and that's made things tough for us," said Johnson. "We had two guys go down early and one, a junior college guy [Trent Trammel] who came in early, went down on the first day. The other one was my roommate Adam [Hogan] too, so we've had some injuries that have popped up. I mean, Mike Hague tweaked his hamstring and he was moved over to the boundary side to help out there, so we're thin but we'll bounce back."

The rash of injuries has caused the defensive coaches to do some creative tinkering over the past few weeks. The staff has looked at who they have and have made a few changes to help shore up the defensive secondary.

"We'll pick it up. We'll pick it up and we're taking people from different positions and trying them out," Johnson said. "This is the time to do it during spring ball. It's been kind of fun seeing the younger guys come in and pick it up, like Jake [Zoilkowski]."

Coach Howell brought Jake Zoilkowski, who is a 6-foot-1-inch, 185-pound preferred walk-on wide receiver from Island Lake, Illinois, over to the defensive of the ball to develop at the boundary cornerback position.

"Jake is actually doing really well on that boundary side," said Johnson. "He switched over from receiver and now he's learning how to play cornerback with us. He's been picking it up really well but it's tough going from receiver to cornerback, but, you know, like I said, this is the time to do it."

Also at the boundary cornerback position is 6-foot, 192-pound junior Cameron Comer, who has primarily ran with the first-team defense. Comer has done a nice job in covering receivers in the fast-pace offense.

"Yeah, Cam Comer has been out there doing his thing on the other side," said Johnson. "It's nice to have him with us because he's been with us and knows what it takes to play the boundary position. I'm glad he out there and he's been doing well. It's been me and him locking down the ones right now."

Along with Zoilkowski, walk-on Conner Noe from Mason, Ohio has been in the mix during spring. Noe was a baseball player and didn't pick up track and football until in his junior year. Mason High School head coach Brian Castner turned BYU onto Noe late in the recruiting period. After watching film on Noe, the Cougar coaches asked him to walk on since there were no scholarships left to give.

"Conner Noe is another one who is young but is really picking things up quickly," said Johnson. "He's fairly quick and just needs to learn how to play within himself."

Noe comes in at 6 feet 2 inches and 195 pounds and is more of a natural safety given his body type, but the demands at the cornerback position over spring camp has placed him at field cornerback.

"He's a tall guy so he's long, but once he learns how to use his body and plant and peddle he'll be good for us," said Johnson. ‘He just needs some time to figure it all out, but I think once he does he'll be pretty good for us."

"We're just banged up and young right now," said Coach Howell. "That's pretty much it. We're young and learning and there's a lot of coaching that we have to do to help these guys."

Noe has been backing up Johnson at the field side corner position.

"Right now Conner Noe is behind me, so he's been getting some time with the twos and that's been good for him, " Johnson said. "Then behind Cam Comer has been Jake [Zoilkowski] backing him up on that boundary side. It's been cool. It's been fun."

"We're coming along but it's going to take some time," said Coach Howell. "We've just got a lot of work to do, but this is the time to do it. That's kind of what spring camp is for."

While the boundary side position has struggled with depth due to injury, the Cougar secondary did get Craig Bills back last Friday. His return to the safety position was a welcomed sight.

"Yeah, Craig is back and doing well," said Coach Howell. "He's been able to do everything with us and that's a good thing because we need more players back there."

The secondary will look much different come fall camp. Mike Hague will be back in the fold, along with some others. In addition, there will also be some new members joining the team.

The Cougar secondary just received some help, but that help won't come in until fall camp. De Anza College defensive back Robertson Daniel has the size and speed to be either a safety or boundary cornerback.

"I'm excited and looking forward to getting out there and helping out where I can," said Daniel, who prepped at Branham High School in San Jose, California. "This is a great opportunity for me and I know Coach Howell is going to expect the best from me on the top-rated defense."

BYU will also have 6-foot, 180-pound College of the Canyons cornerback Sam Lee, who might be more suited for the field side cornerback position. With Trent Trammell redshirting this year due to injury, BYU is looking at possibly bringing in another junior college cornerback in Ventura College's Lakeith Murray, who visited BYU last week. There will be a lot of competition and more depth to work with prior to the Cougars' daunting 2013 season.

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