"It was pretty good but then again it's the first day," said Robertson Daniel about the start of spring camp on Monday. "I feel like everyone did good. We practiced really hard, and the most important thing is everybody ran to the ball. Everyone is putting more effort in than I've ever seen before."
Daniel has a few goals he hopes to accomplish over the course of spring camp.
"I think becoming a team, being assignment-sound, and then learning the playbook," Daniel said quickly.
Having been at BYU for a full year after transferring from De Anza College, Daniel has grown comfortable in his new surroundings.
"I'm definitely comfortable now when it comes to school, my social life, and most importantly football," said Daniels. "I'm a lot more comfortable than I was when I first came here. When I first came here I felt like a deer in the headlights."
As a bigger defensive back, Daniel was actually recruited to play safety. He's being cross-trained now as a boundary corner and safety.
Once Trent Trammell takes over the boundary corner spot, Daniel will move to free safety, which will then move Craig Bills to KAT safety. With Bills being the more experienced safety, it makes sense for him to move to KAT since that position makes all the calls. Once all the pieces are in place, Daniel believes this secondary will be a much improved unit. In fact, Daniel believes it will be one of the best.
"I think if we approach the offseason the right way, meaning spring ball, fall, and summer, and everyone stays humble, and we practice hard, and get good communication, we could be the best secondary in football," said Daniel.
That topnotch status, of course, depends on the return of Jordan Johnson to the field side position and him playing at full capacity. Daniel truly believes this Cougar secondary will be something to talk about nationally if they come together in a way he thinks they can.
"I'm positive," Daniel said regarding his comment about having the best secondary in the nation, "because we have so much talent that we've never had before. When it comes to field corner, boundary and both safeties, we have a veteran guy in Craig who can lead us all. I mean, if we can put it all together, it's going to be ridiculous."
The competition between cornerbacks and wide receivers will be a hot one this spring and especially in fall camp. BYU boasts an experienced defensive back corps while getting an infusion of talent-rich receivers such as Nick Kurtz and also Michael Davis, who has gone back to the offensive side of the ball.
"It's been a learning experience because Nick runs great routes and his vertical is like no other," said Daniel with a smile. "And when it comes to Mike, you have to play 15 yards off and bail, because he's like legitimate 4.3 speed, so we've got a chance to guard both types of receivers. It will help us out a lot."
While the coaching staff is excited about the new talent in the program, it still has to be developed. Often the quality of play is enhanced by the level of talent that players face in practice. Daniel believes BYU's wide receivers will be great because of BYU's outstanding secondary.
"They'll be great because we get on their behinds," said Daniel with a confident chuckle.
"Exactly, because our defense is going to be a lot faster than last year," said Davis. "Hopefully Rob Daniel plays safety because he's quite a big dude playing safety. We got Trent and J.J. [Jordan Johnson] coming back, two really good corners. They'll be lockdown on the outside and then Craig and Rob over the top."
Because the strength of BYU's secondary lies in its speed, quickness, experience and smarts, even receivers with legitimate 4.3 speed – and some with 6-foot-6 height and that are fast in their own right – will become much better because of the secondary. Daniel wants to make that clear for all.
"Yeah," he said. "I'm letting them know that right now."
Daniel's confidence isn't without merit. Even Davis, who played corner last season, believes BYU's secondary will be tough to beat. He has one defensive back that he feels will test his speed and ability to get open downfield the most.
"Rob Daniel," said Davis. "Rob Daniel because he's good at on-man and off-man [coverage]. He's good at both, really good."
Also playing a role in pass coverage, but not receiving as much focus, are the outside linebackers. This season Bronson Kaufusi has been moved from defensive tackle to the weak side linebacker position, where he'll be asked to cover in space. Daniel feels this is a move that's long overdue.
"Yeah, Bronson, he's an athlete so I feel like we should have been doing that with him the whole time," said Daniel. "He can cover and he can rush the quarterback, so it was exciting to see that. He'll definitely disrupt the passing game."
The flexibility of the 3-4 defense suits the pass defense well. BYU has outstanding players in the secondary to cover. And if needed, a middle linebacker can be taken out and replaced with Dallin Leavitt in a nickel package for added coverage capability.