Aside from the introduction of a new scheme and a new secondary coach to implement it, there is one cornerback who made great progress on the scout team last year when he went up against both the first and second team offense.
"Well it's all about making plays," said cornerback Ben Criddle. "It's all about performing at the right time especially when the coaches are looking. I mean, you can make plays all the time but if the coaches aren't looking there's not a lot that's going to happen. So what it comes down to is making plays day in and day out.
"I've had the blessing and opportunity to go against the first and second teams every single day on the scout team, and I was making plays so I guess Bronco Mendenhall gave me some props."
His performance may have come as a surprise to some, but for Criddle it is just the same as it has always been.
"I've always been underestimated, even when I was playing at the junior college level," Criddle said. "I was the white cornerback out there and people always under estimated me because of that, but that perspective has kind of helped me. My freshman year I had a scholarship to Eastern Arizona. The head coach referred me to the defensive coordinator when I got there and really he didn't know anything about me and he had recruited a bunch of defensive backs out of Miami [Florida], so I had to prove myself at that point.
"Then at Glendale Community College when I got back from my mission, I had to prove myself all over again. Luckily I got a lot of playing time and had some good assistants in junior college. I came here to BYU and it was the same thing. I was underestimated and just had to prove myself day in and day out and that's what it's all about, just making plays."
With his experience playing cornerback and safety at Eastern Arizona and Glendale Community Colleges, Criddle feels he has the versatility that could find him a spot on the defensive secondary once BYU coaches start evaluating the progress of the players for role playing purposes.
"I played corner at Eastern [Arizona Community College] and I played safety at Glendale Community College so I can play any position in the secondary because I can come up and hit," Criddle said. "I'm very confident in being able to come up and make a tackle against guys that are bigger than me because I think I have good technique and I go full speed to the ball.
"I'm determined and very instinctive. Coaches teach me certain techniques and I try my best to implement them into my game. When the ball is snapped I go into my zone and sometimes you read something quick and you jump on the ball and make a play. A lot of it is instinctive pretty much. I ran a 4.5 last year. I think I've gotten faster this year and I've been working on my speed a lot since then. I hope to time a mid 4.4 to a low 4.4 this summer."
As a scout team performer, Criddle not only caught the attention of Coach Mendenhall, but also of the first team offense. During yesterday's practice, former wide receiver Todd Watkins came to watch his old teammates and made specific mention of Criddle while watching the cornerbacks.
"He was one of the best cornerbacks on the team last year," Watkins said. "He's pretty good and probably should have played last year."
Although he does not know where he will end up, Watkins is expecting to be drafted in the upcoming NFL draft. Criddle became very familiar with Watkins after going one-on-one with the speedy outside receiver on a daily basis last fall.
"Todd Watkins is an amazing player," Criddle said. "If you don't open up quick enough on him he is by you. I had the blessing and opportunity to cover him a lot last year and that made me a better player.
"We had great wide receivers last year and we have great wide receivers this year. It's tough because we lose Todd but we have more experience with a lot of guys coming back this year. We have Jonny Harline coming back after a great year and our tight ends are deep, our wide receivers are deep and we have new recruits coming in like McKay Jacobson. I just think John [Beck] is going to have a lot of options."
Facing Todd Watkins was not the only thing that honed Criddle's talents, staring down the nation's third rated passer every day also helped the cornerbacks refine his pass coverage. Being able to read the habits of the quarterback so as to gain an extra edge was tough to do against John Beck.
"I also had to face John Beck as a quarterback last year," said Criddle. "John is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation so that also helped make me an even better corner, and just watching John on film and learning his queues.
"John doesn't have a lot of queues that you can feed off of because he's so good. It's the same thing with Todd; he runs almost perfect patterns and when he doesn't you can make a play on him. It gives me more confidence in my playing ability. If I can make plays against these guys then I know I can play against anybody."