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BYU has established itself as a haven for talented, hard-working walk-ons. In 2005, former walk-ons Spencer White, Kayle Buchanan and Nate Meikle all secured starting positions. 2006 promises to see more walk-ons step up and help the Cougars.

Early in BYU's preparation for the Las Vegas Bowl, Total Blue Sports asked Cougar Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall if he was impressed by any redshirt or scout team players. Among the four players named by Coach Mendenhall was Ben Criddle, a relatively unknown cornerback walk-on.

"I'm from Glendale, Arizona," said Criddle. "I grew up there. I was born in Oregon—Hood River. When I was about two months, we moved over to Arizona.

"I Played JC ball down in Eastern Arizona. My first year I had a scholarship there and then came back [from an LDS mission] and Glendale Community College offered me so I played there."

Criddle currently plays cornerback on BYU's scout teams. BYU fans will be pleased to hear that, unlike many current Cougar cornerbacks, Criddle has always played the position.

"I played corner and wide receiver at Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale," said Criddle. "I was just all-region defensive back. I shut down every wide receiver I covered, but again my coverage speed was suspect in high school just as it was at the junior college level, which I think is one of the reasons why I didn't get a lot of offers even though I had a lot of good statistics."

Because his combine numbers were less than desirable, Criddle only had offers from Division II schools and Division I-AA Southern Utah. Criddle believed that he could perform at the Division I level so he decided to walk on at BYU. Since arriving on campus, he has trained diligently and improved the numbers that were once deterrents.

"I'm just under 6-foot," said Criddle. "I weigh 188, 190—I fluctuate. My forty time is a high 4.4. I ran a 4.52 coming into the season. I have gotten faster since then by working out on the weekends before the games because I don't dress out. I come onto the field and work on my speed. For my [shuttle] time, I did a 3.9 and a four flat. My vertical is a 35. I put up about 320 on bench and 400 on squat. I power clean around 265, 270."

There were several factors that led Criddle to pass up a scholarship for a chance to walk on at BYU. He had family ties to the Provo, Utah campus, but, like many other current Cougars, he was enticed by Coach Mendenhall's reputation for playing walk-ons.

"My parents both went here," said Criddle. "I think my parents influenced me to come here. I think they wanted me to come here and see me play ball and have the social atmosphere and education I'm going to receive here. I really like my chances playing with Coach Mendenhall because I know he plays the players that play the best, and he likes walk-ons who work hard so I think I can fit into this system pretty well."

After redshirting this season, Criddle looks forward to making a push for playing time during spring practice. His primary interest is to simply to show coaches the full breadth of his game.

"I think coaches have seen me tackle, but I still want to show them more of how I can come up and fill the hole and that I am aggressive and I read the offensive line," said Criddle. "My run-pass keys are really good. I think I am versatile and can play any position in the secondary because of my coverage skills and my tackling skills."

Criddle admits that he still has room for improvement, but has a solid foundation to build on.

"Right now I would say my weaknesses are probably just getting into that fifth gear," he said. "I need to get a little fast—get down in the lower 4.4s. My strength is in the weight room. My upper strength is really good. I can press really well and get in people's faces. And my quickness. I have really good lateral speed and I react to the ball really well and can tackle well."

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