Searching for Balance

BYU's defense took a beating early on in fall camp as the offense seemed to pretty much have their way in the blue zone, much to the satisfaction of on lookers. However, even though there is much to be improved upon with Mendenhall's swarm defense it is beginning to show its tenacity as fall camp rolls towards game day with Boston College.

It is pretty clear the primary feature of Mendenhall's defense lies within the five defensive backs that stunt, roam and cover just about every spot on the field. So with ten players manning the backfield on a two-deep roster it should be no surprise to hear about the over abundance of injuries within the secondary unit.

Kyle Buchanon, Spencer White, Chris Hale, K.C. Bills, Nate Hutchinson, Quinn Gooch and Justin Robinson have all received their share of nicks and dings; some are still hampered by their injuries while others are beginning to pull through.

One defender who was injured early but is now participating with the first team unit is Arizona first team all-state wide receiver turned cougarback David Tafuna.

"I was recruited as a wide receiver but when I got back from my mission, Coach Mendenhall thought it would be better for me to play a defensive position, and I have been playing defense since last year," Tafuna said.

There is no question that Tafuna has the physical abilities. One can see the wisdom in Mendenhall's decision to switch him from the receiver position to the defensive side of the ball. A larger athlete in possession of both speed and finesse, Tafuna has had to reshape one aspect of his game to fit a more defensive approach.

"The switch to defense was a little difficult at first," Tafuna said. "Playing on the offense you're more finesse, but on the defense you have to have the whole physical mentality. I just think it's going to take a lot of concentration and a lot of focus.

"I think my main problem is I'm not mentally all there yet. I'm just trying to get my pass run keys straightened out, and trying to execute the plays with more precision. I think if I can do these things my physical abilities will come along, but first I think I need to take care of the mental aspect of the game."

Tafuna is still young and working to the point where the defense becomes instinct rather than a read and react situation. The "second guessing" part of his game is what he is working to overcome.

"I think my main problem is I'm not applying what I'm learning in the film room directly onto the field," said Tafuna. "I'm coming along slowly but I'm still coming along, definitely."

Still, Tafuna has found himself taking reps with the first team defense right behind linebackers Aaron Wagner, Cameron Jensen and Justin Luettgerodt. The defense may have taken quite the beating early on in fall camp, but as time wears on the defense is beginning to restore balance to the field.

"The offense knows how to read us really well because they go against us every day," said Tafuna. "Just like today, they saw what we were running and attacked it. They got some plays against us and we're getting plays against them. It's giving us a good look on both sides of the ball.

"The defense has played pretty good except for a few minor mistakes."

Offensive linemen Jake Kuresa agrees with Tafuna's assessment of both the give and take both units are experiencing.

"It's good for both of us to go back and forth like this because it just makes us both that much better," Kuresa said.

About a month ago Tafuna tore his PCL ligament but has since then recovered from his injury. This is good news to the ears of Cougar fans since Tafuna is being groomed to one day man the starting position at Kat Back.

"It's nothing major now," said Tafuna. "I'm pretty much 95 to 100-percent recovered by now. I"ve been eating a lot of kumala and taro!"

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