BYU's "Flyin' Hawaiian" Loves Defense Unveiling

He is the youngest player (turned 20 last month) ever to receive BYU's team defensive MVP award – as a true sophomore last year. He is being promoted by BYU for post-season All-America honors. He will be BYU's first-ever "Cougarback" in an aggressive new defensive scheme – that seems custom made for his hard-hitting football talents.

He is Aaron Francisco, BYU's 6-2, 210 pound "Flyin' Hawaiian," a reminder of his childhood comic hero "Superman."

Francisco returned last week to full contact practice drills after being sidelined over three weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot that required the insertion of a tiny screw to strengthen and heal his foot faster. He injured it during non-contact summer voluntary workouts in Provo.

"When I got hurt, it was just so unexpected. I was just so bummed. I didn't know what was going to happen, how long I was going to be out, or anything. It kind of scared me. I'm just happy to be back out there on the field with the guys."

Noted for his sure tackling and punishing hits, Francisco said he can't wait to strap the pads on game day Thursday night, ushering a new defense scheme Cougar coaches hope will wreak havoc with opposing offenses.

"Our defensive scheme is totally different," said Francisco. "We are more aggressive. Our old scheme was more of a zone defense. As far as defensive backs, we didn't really get to be too aggressive on any plays we had. This year, we are more involved on everything that goes on with every play."

He added "it's a lot more aggressive especially in the secondary because we blitz on almost every play."

The complexity of defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall's new 3-3-5 scheme requires players to maintain specific accountability on certain formations and plays. For Francisco, the change is as vast as it is diverse.

"It's hard to explain unless you know the defense. People think that I roam or I'm just a rover back and that I can do whatever I want. It's nothing like that. I have a responsibility just like everybody else on the field has."

He added that "we progress everyday at (fall) camp. I'm not sure if we are where coach wants us to be at, but we're progressing as practice and the days go on."

The success of the defense requires everybody to be "physical or it doesn't work," according to starting middle linebacker Mike Tanner. It also requires "effort" and an understanding of how the defense functions as a unit.

"It's not only just one person. We have a lot of great guys on our defense, but when we all work together as one unit, that's when you're going to see how great we are. I love this defense. It's a lot of fun. We get out there, and when you play it right, it's just so much fun."

All eyes and minds are now focused on Georgia Tech, BYU's season opener in Provo next Thursday night on ESPN nationally.

"I can't wait to start playing games again. I'm getting tired of hitting our own team already. We're watching film and getting our game plan in. Today was our first day out of camp, so we're running what they run and we're getting ready for them (Georgia Tech)."

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