Defense Dominates in Monday Afternoon Practice

The horn blew signifying the end of the defense's fun-filled "sumo drill" Monday afternoon and the mood instantaneously transformed to serious intensity. Players separated into their position groups for drills designed to polish up technique and related skill-sets.

In front of overturned trash cans, the defensive linemen in three-point stances were put through drills as defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall signaled in the plays. Watching intensely alongside other defensive coaches was former Timpanogos High School defensive prep standout, Isley Filiaga, taking mental notes.

A short time later, the offense was assembled against the defense to match skills and wits in an intense, high-energy abbreviated scrimmage. The defense dominated and the passing game struggled to get off the ground.

The quarterbacks overthrew balls and missed open wide receivers as the defensive front put up an iron curtain, pressuring the quarterbacks at every turn. The defensive charge was led by linemen Vince Feula, Manaia Brown, Michael Marquardt, Shaun Nua and John Denney. From the outset, they disrupted the flow of the offense. It was more than any of the quarterbacks – John Beck, Matt Berry and Jason Beck could handle today.

The offense, however, found more success when they switched to a run- oriented attack. The improving offensive line nailed their blocking assignments for sophomore running back Curtis Brown, who also benefited from solid blocking from linebacker-turned-fullback Moa Peaua.

Brown looked most impressive when he bounced outside for consistent yardage gains every time. With noticeable muscle bulk added in the off-season, Brown's confidence seemingly grows day by day and he will be a major sparkplug in Gary Crowton's offense.

Fellow running back Naufahu Tahi, at 235 pounds, provided a bruising counterbalance to Brown's quick, shifty running style. One time, Tahi busted through the offensive line and lowered the shoulder to welcome 6-0, 195 pound Cougarback Billy Skinner to the stadium turf.

But it was the power-blocking of Peaua that made a difference with some crushing hits on charging linebackers to seal off the corner for his running backs. Peaua clearly possesses the speed and power to clear pathways for Tahi, Brown, Raymond Hudson and other running backs when he's not carrying the pigskin himself.

Freshman Hudson had the best run of the day speeding past linebackers and through defensive backs for a long run into the end zone. Hudson, at 5-8 and 185-pounds, is as quick as he is elusive and adds much-needed quality talent to the Cougars backfield.

Another freshman running back who impressed was 5-10, 185 pound Bryce Mahuika, who busted past BYU's stout defensive linemen and linebackers to meet head-up with the secondary.

Converted linebacker K.C. Bills, now a sophomore katback, took exception to the offense's rushing success with a hard, helmet- flying hit on a running back.

In Mendenhall's motivational "sumo drill," the defensive players divided into teams based on position. The cornerbacks and safeties lined up one-on-one, complete with the squat, lift and stomping of feet in typical sumo fashion. The only thing missing was the traditional salt-tossing to signify purification. The first player tossed out of the ring or brought to his knees lost.

After getting beat the first go-around, junior defensive back O'Neil Howell charged back with adrenaline-filled feistiness for consecutive wins that move him into the next round. However, he met his match with 5-11, 215-pound freshman linebacker William Turner who picked up Howell for a soufflé style body slam to the delight and hollering of his amused teammates.

Needless to say, the competition grew more in intensity as linebackers and defensive linemen faced off against each other. There notable heavyweight bouts were between 6-5, 270-pound Shaun Nua taking on 6-6, 275-pound John Denney and 6-4, 270-pound Michael Marquardt taking on 6-3, 253-pound Justin Carlson-Maddux.

The surprise "sumo drill" champ of the day was 6-2, 240-pound junior linebacker Kyle Tew, who beat all comers. Raising Tew's hand in the air, Mendenhall pronounced him sumo king for a day.

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