BYU Defense Eager to Improve on 13th National Rank

BYU is currently ranked 13th nationally in total defense – higher than it has been for a number of years, but it's going to get even better, according to Cougar cornerback <b>Chad Barney</b>.

"Oh, we can get tons better. I'm happy where we're at right now personally and as a defensive unit, but when watching film, it's obvious we can do things a lot better and become even more dominant," he said today.

When asked specifically what areas the defense can improve on, Barney noted, "We need to be blitzing better and blitzing harder. There are times when we're not running to the ball as hard as we can. Those things need to improve and we can become a total shutdown defense – which we all know we can be."

The most apparent defensive weakness is BYU's propensity to give up big plays on misdirection and big third down plays. "Without a doubt, we can improve on that. We're only giving up a few big plays a game, but they're plays that kill us. One or two big plays by the opposing offense can kill us these days and that can't happen."

This season has been an anomaly for most Cougar fans. The defense is doing everything to win football games while the offense has been inept at times in its inability to put enough points on the scoreboard.

Barney insists his defensive teammates are not yet frustrated by the lack of offense. "We're a team. We're not an offense and a defense; we're a team. We see how the offense practices and we see them working. I have no doubt they'll break out of this rut they're in because we know better than anyone they can because we see them practice –and go against them every day."

Offensive lineman Brandon Stephens said, "We're putting our defense in bad situations because we've been inept and that can't happen. I mean, the defense is just dominant and it's so frustrating to me as an offensive player to do what we've been doing – knowing our defense is doing everything necessary to win."

Barney reiterates they can and should do more on defense. "There is so much that we can do better. The biggest thing is causing turnovers. We practice forcing turnovers and focus on it a lot and we're not getting enough of them. That's the biggest way we can help the offense is by getting turnovers, putting them in good situations or even scoring for them."

Meanwhile, Barney has no doubt the offense will soon come through. "I don't know if it's going to come next week, but I know it will come. They could bust out next week because I can see it when they practice. When people say they're close, it's true. They're very close and people will see that real soon."

PRACTICE NOTES:

* BYU's linebacker ranks are thinning out because of injuries, forcing coaches to mobilize more true freshmen in KC Bills, David Nixon and Matt Ah You in critical game situations. Ah You was impressive with four tackles last week against Air Force. The injured linebackers include Lawrence Cowan, Bryant Atkinson and now Levi Madarieta. Bills may replace Madarieta if he isn't ready to go on Saturday at San Diego State.

Bills was the primary backup to Brady Poppinga last week. Coach Crowton said he likes Bills at outside linebacker because of his speed. Nixon will also back up at outside linebacker while Ah You will back up middle linebacker Mike Tanner.

* Injured starting fullback Taufui Vakapuna may be ready to go this week, but Crowton plans to slowly work him back into the rotation behind Naufahu Tahi, who has played well in reserve.

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