Defense Practices Various 3-3-5 Alignments for ND

Preparations for the season-opener against Notre Dame was the emphasis of Saturday's closed practice with the defense lining up against the scout team offense for the latter part of the practice. The defense practiced various formations of their 3-3-5 base alignment.

Jackson Brown led the scout team offense, with more new faces expected Monday when regular walk-ons can practice with the team. "You can only have 105 guys during the fall, but when school starts, you can bring some more guys in," BYU head coach Gary Crowton said today. "Guys like Michael Affleck, Greg Mortensen, D'Shaun Turner and a whole bunch of other unrecruited walk-ons will try out on Monday. We'll work them and try and decide which ones will help us most on the scout team this year."

Crowton noted it is difficult for scout team players to break the playing rotation and contribute during regular season games, but left tiny room for hope. "It's hard for those guys who are juniors and only have two years to play two. We try and tell them their chances may not be as good to play in the future as some of the younger guys unless they're unbelievable during tryouts."

A position ripe for former walk-on scout team players since defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall has arrived has been the Katback position. Players like Jared Meibos, Kip Neilson and Jon Burbidge started their BYU careers as scout team walk-ons and went on to play a significant roles on defense. The latest to join the walk-on to starter ranks at Kat is Spencer White, who has spent fall camp with the first team rotation.

White made the switch from cornerback to Katback during spring practice. "Coaches just told me they'd like me to switch over because we were looking a bit thin at the Kat position because of some injuries. It has worked out great so far," White said today.

He came to BYU in 1999, primarily for academic reasons. "I could have gone to a school like Dixie or another JC with a scholarship to play football. I decided that education was the most important thing so I came to BYU since it's a great academic school," he said.

After walking on with the scout team, White left to serve an LDS church mission to Uruguay and rejoined the team where he left off. After seeing some work on special teams, White hope to be a standout in the secondary this season. "I love playing with the ones (first team). I'm just thankful I've been given a chance to play. This is a system that gives you a chance to play more than others, I think. I love playing Kat a lot. I liked cornerback, but playing Kat just allows you to be more involved in run support and other things. I also love to blitz and I can do that now from the Kat position. It's a fun position to play."

White has borrowed a page from former walk-on Kip Neilson and Jon Burbidge, saying he has learned a lot from them over the past few years. "Those guys have definitely been a help for me. Bronco's system allows for those who show the most effort along with those who can make plays consistently to play. As a walk-on, it helps knowing that you'll get your chance to play if you just do those things."

The 6-1, 185 pound junior listed his goals for this season. "I excited to get some reps, but the prospect of actually starting isn't something I expected," White commented. "I'm just so thankful to have this chance. I'm going to give it my all – as I've done since I started playing here. I just got to keep working. Bronco demands 100 percent on every play. It's just so much fun when everyone on the defense is doing that. As a defense, we expect to be nothing less than the best. We're ready to go. We're sick of playing each other."

PRACTICE TIDBITS:

* Coach Crowton outlined some possibilities on special teams this year, noting a few players who will have an opportunity to return kicks this year. "We got a really good group; a real explosive group. We're bringing the young guys along because the kicks are a lot higher. B.J. Mathis is a guy who was the special teams Player of the Year for the state of Texas. We also have Bryce Mahuika, who was an excellent special teams player in high school. Antwaun Harris is another very good special teams player and we have Brett Cooper from last year, who averaged 27 yards per return." He also mentioned sure-handed returners Austin Collie and Micah Alba. "Those are our main guys right now and will be the guys returning kicks most likely for us this year."

* Crowton mentioned that John Denney and Justin Luettgerodt will be the primary long-snappers with Riley Weber, Austin Collie and Ryan Beck as kick holders. Denney and Weber are the primary starters in these positions.

* Crowton has also instituted a new system for coaches to proactively assist players struggling with academics this year. "We're having a meeting at 7:30 in the morning on Monday for all the players who have a 2.5 or less. During that time, we'll look at their syllabus and go over it with them so the coaches will all be aware of when their tests are and when they have papers due. The academic people will have a copy of that, too. We're not asking them if they have a test or a paper due, but we'll be able to tell them they have a paper due on the Wednesday, for example. In that way, we're trying to stay ahead of them and help them."

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