The defensive backfield shuffle

With the heartbreaking news of Jordan Johnson's season-ending injury, Coach Howell now has to work his magic to shore up his secondary. There is hope that Mike Hague and Sam Lee will return soon, but in the meantime Robertson Daniel and Skye PoVey will be heavily relied upon.

Last December, BYU brought in a midseason transfer to help shore up the cornerback position. Trenton Trammell came in with the mindset of competing this season. Unfortunately, on the first day of spring camp, Trammell went down with a non-contact ACL injury. Then this past Monday, Jordan Johnson also went down with a non-contact injury while fielding punts.

"Really not much other than [he] kind of planted his foot funny and [his] leg buckled a little bit, and that's all that it took," said Coach Mendenhall.

What makes the injury to Johnson even more disastrous is the lack at cornerback. Junior college signee Sam Lee hasn't been able to play this fall camp due to a back injury, and possible replacement Trevor Bateman is also currently out, leaving four potential fieldside cornerbacks sidelined.

"Hopefully we'll get Sam back and hopefully we'll get Trevor back," said Mendenhall.

"I believe we had more depth than BYU's ever had at corner [earlier in the year]," said Coach Howell. "[We had] healthy bodies, good players and now, you know, things change fast and you gotta adjust on the fly and go, so that's what happens."

Mendenhall said Lee could be available anywhere from the first game of the season to game three. Regardless, there will have to be some movement in the secondary.

"It wasn't a previous injury and was something that happened here during summer conditioning – just aggravated his back and now we're just kind of waiting for it to heal up," said Coach Howell. "All of those guys came in healthy – Trent, Rob [Daniel], Sam. I mean there's three J.C. corners that you throw on top of Jordan Johnson, Skye, Mike [Hague]. There's seven or eight really good corners right there [and] that changes pretty fast."

"Rob Daniel will move over to field corner and hopefully we'll get Mike Hague back healthy and he can help us at boundary corner," said Mendenhall. "Then we'll find out who our backup might be."

"As of today, if we were to start today, Craig [Bills] and Danny [Sorensen] obviously at safety," said Coach Howell regarding who would be the starting defensive backs. "We would start Rob at field and Skye at boundary."

On the boundary side, true freshman Dallin Leavitt is expected to miss a week after sufferering a hip-flexor.

"Dallin Leavitt, well, the early report is seven days max," Mendenhall said. "It looks like a strain rather than anything structural."

If Leavitt comes back and is able to play, he more than likely wouldn't beat out PoVey at the boundary position according to Coach Howell.

"I don't think so. I think Skye's got a lot of experience and Dallin's coming along," said Howell. "Now that can change, but I would see Dallin right behind Sky."

Hague received some playing time at safety and the boundary corner spot in spring, as well as some time at nickelback. PoVey played mostly safety and received some nickelback duties. When Hague returns, he'll be thrown into the forefront – along with PoVey – at the boundary position.

"The way that I see it now, those guys can play all five positions, and I tell them that every day," said Coach Howell. "You gotta be ready to play any position at any time. I trust those guys wholeheartedly with anything, and they try hard and know exactly what to do and they play really hard. So, it's hard to say where we're going to put them. It could be a number of combinations of a different number of guys at different places."

To provide added depth at the field side corner position, the Cougar coaches have moved slot receiver Eric Thornton over to the secondary.

"When I looked down the roster thinking about creating depth right there, I'm thinking two guys: Jamaal Williams and Eric Thornton as far as the quick twitch, change direction recovery, speed, who can actually play that position," said Coach Howell. "You know, the best move for our team, obviously, is to move Eric over there when you've got depth with J.D. [Falslev] there and other guys in the slot."

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