BYU Gets Defensive with Recruits

Brigham Young University's football team received 18 letters of intent from young talented athletes excited about becoming a Cougar yesterday. Of the 18 recruits, 11 will play on the defensive side of the ball. Among the defensive reinforcements, four will compete for spots on the very shallow cornerback depth chart.

A quick look at BYU's returning talent at the cornerback position could stir a little anxiety in the hearts of even the most casual fans. After seeing the familiar name Nate Soelberg followed by the somewhat less familiar name of Kayle Buchanon on top of the list with only a bunch of sophomore returned missionaries walk-ons behind them, the keener fans may break out into a cold sweat.

The departure of Ibrahim Rashada and Greg Lovely and the news that previously anticipated secondary saviors Shannon Benton and Eddie Scipio are not expected in Provo next fall, merely heightens the alarm.

So how well did the Cougar coaching staff address this need? "We're a bit thin when you look at it on paper, but I'm very confident that we'll have more than enough talent at cornerback this coming year," affirmed cornerback coach Brian Mitchell.

The following four recruits (listed in no particular order) represent the talent that Coach Mitchell is counting on to shore up BYU's weakened cornerback ranks:

1. Cade Hulbert, 5-10, 165 from Boise, Idaho. Regarded as the fastest high school athlete in Idaho last season, Hulbert spent most of his time playing wide receiver and running back in high school with only limited experience at the cornerback position.

Said Mendenhall about Hulbert: "I offered Hulbert on his official trip when I saw his very sincere desire to play here. He's the kind of player who wants to be here and wants to be in the program and that's the type of player I'm looking for."

2. Brandon Howard, 5-10, 165 (in soaking wet snow gear) from Riverside, California's La Sierra High School. Howard like Hulbert is relatively inexperienced playing cornerback having spent most of his high school career playing wide receiver. Like Hulbert, speed is not an issue for Howard. When prodded Howard sheepishly admitted that he was only able to manage a 4.40 forty at the USC summer camp due to a broken toe.

"He's very fast and a very determined young man," Said Coach Mitchell about Howard. "He'll get a chance to play right away for sure, but we won't be able to determine [how much] until he gets here this fall."

3. Justin Robinson, 5-10 and (you guessed it) 165 from Independence Community College in Kansas. Robinson is looked at as the candidate from this recruiting class most likely to contribute right away if only by the virtue of his junior college experience.

"Justin is an extremely hard worker and very dedicated," said Mendenhall. "I already know that about him and hopefully he'll show the hard work and dedication necessary when he arrives here and starts working out with the team. I'm sure that he will."

Said Mitchell: "Of all the guys that we're looking to play right away next year [Robinson] might have the best chance because he's had JC experience, but we really won't know until all the guys get here and start practicing."

4. Stephen Covey, 5-11, 180 from Provo's Timpview High School. Covey spent his high school career playing primarily at the quarterback position. Covey's highlight film awed spectators at the LOI luncheon Wednesday, showcasing his rare combination of effortless movement, tremendous quickness and exhilarating break-away speed.

"Stephen Covey will play defensive back this coming year before leaving on a mission," said Mendenhall. "When he gets back he'll then decide if he wants to stay playing defensive back or switch to quarterback."

Said Mitchell: "Stephen Covey is just a great athlete. He hasn't played much corner, but his athleticism is such that he could definitely come in and contribute right away. He's very bright and just a great athlete."

So there you have it. Four recruits yet to practice a down of Division I football who will be asked to provide depth and solid play in the secondary. A frightening scenario? Perhaps, but Coach Mitchell did point out one characteristic common to the incoming cornerback class that should give Cougar fans some comfort.

"They're all burners. They're very fast and very quick. That's one thing that you can't overlook and something you can't teach. All of the guys we've signed to play corner are sub 4.5 guys and might be even sub 4.4 guys in Brandon Howard and Cade Hulbert. They have speed and that's a great thing to build on."

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