Defensive Secondary Building Depth and Confidence

Despite a light and without full pads, that didn't stop the action on the field as the offense squared off against the defense in a game of give and take.

There was Aaron Francisco lined up in his Cougarback position, running downfield and re-introducing himself with a light "pop" to receiver daring enough to make a catch in front of him. Flat on his back, the receiver quickly hopped up and trotted off the field.

BYU head coach Gary Crowton spoke about his talented secondary.

"The biggest thing about the secondary, the No. 1 thing besides scheme and all that, is we are healthy: Jernaro's (Gilford) healthy, (Brandon) Heaney's healthy, Aaron's not, but he will be. Those two guys were not healthy going into the season, and now they're healthy with (Chad) Barney now having experience."

Jernaro Gilford and Brandon Heaney continue to show why may be considered for All-American and All MWC honors. Crowton referred to them, noting, "…because those guys are healthy, they are going to be asked to do a lot of man coverage, but we have enough arsenal in the scheme to not always leave them out there on an island, so we can roll the coverage and do things like that." (It will give) "…them a lot of confidence when to be aggressive and when not to. I think right now they're playing with a bit more confidence, not just confidence in the scheme of what we're doing, but also because we're healthy."

Both Jernaro and Heaney locked down their sides of the field, respectively. "The biggest thing, especially in our corners, is that we are much more healthy; the safeties not as much, but the corners we are," Crowton added.

One Cougarback back-up who has played well in Francisco's absence is Jon Burbidge. A hard working walk-on who finally earned a scholarship last year, Burbidge demonstrated today he is a more-than-capable reserve.

"Jon Burbidge is a very athletic guy with some good strength," Crowton noted, "and he's a real heady football player. He was a walk-on originally, but earned a scholarship last year. He's a good player too. He played a lot last year – and he's done well filling in. He can play either a Kat safety or a free safety."

Burbidge commented on the transition and position change. "It's a little different. You would think it would be almost the same going from Cougar to Kat in our defense." The Cougar is responsible for a little more over the top routes. I'm a little bit more used to playing in the flats than coming up on forcing for the run, so it's been a little bit of an adjustment like that."

He covered the deep ball well and broke up a few passes to tight ends and receivers over the middle. "Whatever it takes to get this defense going, I'll play wherever," said Burbidge.

The talent is there and it's deep. The defensive secondary is being groomed by Mendenhall in every layer of depth. Along with BYU defensive stars Gilford, Heaney, Francisco and others, there are others coaches feel will help out in the near future.

"We've got a guy coming in; transfer Shannon Benton is coming in when school starts. Nate Soelberg's coming along and James Allen was a corner that was beat up (injured) last year."

Cornerback Allen had the chance to show why he was offered by big time programs in the PAC-10. He's aggressive and fast playing on a defense that suits his style of play. He mixed it up good with receivers Christensen, Kukahiko, Smith, and walk-on freshman Mark Hansen.

Allen said, "This year at BYU is exactly my style. Last year at BYU, it was kind of laid back and relaxed. At my old JC, my coach is like Mendenhall. He always told us to run to ball. This is more my style right here, all out, speed of a cornerback and mind of a linebacker right here."

Burbidge summed it up: "It's coming along. As far as our efforts are concerned, we're going has hard as we can. I think where our problem lies is getting perfect in our assignments and knowing exactly where we need to go every single time without hesitation. As soon as we can get that part of it down, we'll be good to go. We're excited. We've only got 17 days until Georgia Tech comes to town, so we've got to keep working hard and do what we can to be ready for those guys."

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