Poppinga Sounds Off on BYU's Struggles

There are a lot of new faces emerging on BYU’s defense as of late. BYU assistant coach Kelly Poppinga gives his thoughts on the potential and performance of true freshman outside linebacker Sione Takitaki and safety Kai Nacua. In addition, a video is also included where he talks about Fred Warner and the performance of Bronson Kaufusi.

Slowly but surely Sione Takitaki is starting to make a name for himself. The Tongan terror for the Inland Empire- Takitaki often has “IE” on his arm to represent where he’s from- has lived up to early expectations the BYU coaches knew was in him long ago.

“We’ve known Sione ever since he was a freshman because he had been coming to our camps,” said Coach Poppinga. “People knew about him. He was a highly recruited kid out of Southern California. I don’t think he had the attention because he had BYU on his mind the whole time. I think people knew that so they didn’t recruit him as hard, but we knew all along. If you watch Sione’s film from high school you’ll know that guy’s a player. He loves, loves, loves football and I’m excited to continue to see him grow.”

Yet it was BYU football that Sione Takitaki almost had to give up. Over the summer, Takitaki was involved in some off-the-field activities that nearly cost him his chance to play at BYU. However after further review, and a unanimous team vote, Takitaki was allowed to return to the practice field during fall camp. Since learning the harsh realities of consequence for actions, Takitaki hasn’t looked back.

“Yeah, there were some things that he did during the summer time that kind of put him in jeopardy to be on the team, but he took care of those things and has been great,” said Coach Poppinga. “He’s a great kid and very respectful and just really trying to get used to the environment here at BYU. He really didn’t have structure in his life and this is the first time he’s had structure in his life. He’s an amazing kid to be around and the team loves him. I’m just anxious to see him continue to grow and develop as a player.”

During the UCF game, Craig Bills took a shot to the head and shoulders area that left him a bit dazed. The hard hitting KAT safety was taken to the locker room early for concussion evaluations throwing freshman Kai Nacua into the mix earlier than expected.

“Yeah, we knew right away that we had to get Kai Nacua in,” said Coach Poppinga. “Even though he’s never played before we knew that Kai is really smart and understands the scheme really well. The one thing about Kai is you just never know if he’s going to be in the right spot.

“He knows what to do, but it’s just not knowing if he’s going to be in the right spot. He’s a little sporadic at times but he was super assignment sound, and like I said before, he made some plays. Going forward now we’ve got a plan because he looked really good out there.”

UCF threw for 326 passing yards against a depleted BYU secondary, which was an average of 10.9 yard per catch. In the recent past BYU’s secondary was much more efficient in pass defense, and the coaches know their some work that needs to be done.

“Yeah, we just have to tighten up our coverage,” said Coach Poppinga. “You look over the past four or five years and we’re running the same exact defense that was one of the best teams in the country in pass efficiency for defense. So, we’ve really got a lot of guys out there that really haven’t played much and are really just getting some experience and getting some reps during practice.”

That means defensive coordinator Nick Howell and his assistants have been running his secondary unit through more pass skeleton work during practice to better fine tune their performance.

“We’ve been working a lot with skeli, and doing more time with skeli and just the focus with the whole group of our back seven guys,” said Poppinga. “Really what it comes down to is just getting those guys on the same page and communicating and exchanging routes and things like that.”

“Yeah, Coach Howell has been keeping us busy with skeli and passing drills,” said Kai Nacua. “We’ve been working hard and the coaches have been drilling us to get better in our pass coverage and route recognitions and things like that.”

This Saturday the Cougars will face one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks on their 2014 roster. Nevada junior Cody Fajardo of Brea, California is a true run and gun type quarterback that can put up numbers both threw the air and on the ground.

“He’s a really good quarterback that can run, can throw it, and a really good scheme,” said Coach Poppinga. “They have a great scheme that does a really good job of getting their guys in to position to make plays. Really, it’s based around the quarterback though with the way he can run and throw, and as that guy goes their team goes so we have to do a really good job of shutting him down.”

Where does Coach Poppinga place the talents of dual-threat Cody Fajardo in comparison to the other mobile quarterbacks BYU has faced this year?

“The best one,” Poppinga said quickly. “No question. He’s the best one we’ve played so far this year.”

That means a lot of pressure will be placed on his outside linebackers to play disciplined and assignment sound football.

“Yeah, a lot of the time with a lot of the calls that we have the outside backers are going to have the quarterback in the zone read stuff,” said Poppinga. “They just have to be very fundamentally sound and not chasing the dive, making sure they stay on their keys, and just playing the quarterback.”

Cougar Cam: Coach Poppinga

To watch this edition of Cougar Cam with Coach Poppinga click the link below.

Cougar Cam: Coach Poppinga

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