And then There Were Two

It was no secret that the secondary and specifically the safeties struggled throughout last season. The strength of the linebackers is not the only reason for the that there is one less safety on the field this season. After intense scrutiny during the off-season, the safeties are ready to show they can now hold their own.

With the exception of Spencer White, none of the safeties from 2005 had significant game experience heading into season. This year, the safety ranks are filled with one-year veterans. David Tafuna, Cole Miyahira, Quinn Gooch and Corby Hodgkiss all saw a lot of time last season. Experience is perhaps the most significant upgrade.

"We have a lot more experience in the secondary this time around," said Coach Mendenhall. "Last year we had almost no experience at safety heading into the season and it showed. I'm hoping that it shows different this year as we have some experience back there this time around."

Coverage Changes

With the two safeties in a 3-4 scheme, BYU's secondary looks to play more over the top coverage in the new formation which is just a start of the changes this year's safeties will undergo in adjusting to the new formation.

"There's not nearly as much man coverage," said Mendenhall. "There is one more player in the second coverage layer in this system, more over-the-top coverage and we're hoping that they can make some more open field tackles. Whether they can or not is something we'll assess throughout spring practice. Today was a good indicator of where we currently are in that regard and we have some work to do."

"It's more of a classic safety formation," added newly converted safety Cole Miyahira. "Nobody is left on an island in coverage for the most part. It allows us to mix it up physically a bit more, I feel. There is a strong safety which I'm playing and a free safety which is being played by David Tafuna."

Mendenhall mentioned that he's taking the safeties along gradually in order to get them comfortable with the new system.

"We've only played two new coverage schemes so far this spring, but those coverages are improving," said Mendenhall. "We only have two coverages we've called through six days. We're concentrating on coverages. In drop-back coverage I'm pleased, but we have a lot of work to do defending play-action. We have a ways to go there."

Making the Switch

As mentioned Cole Miyahira made the switch from cornerback to safety over the off-season and has seen all his reps playing strong safety so far. Given Miyahira's size and physical abilities, all parties assessed that it was the right move to make.

"I'm not a corner, I'm a safety," said Miyahira. "I played corner last year since that's where they needed me and it was easier to learn, but I'm far more comfortable at safety. So making the switch wasn't a hard decision for me or for the coaches I think."

"It's all about getting our best 11 players on the field," added Mendenhall. "Cole had a great off-season, he tested well and that built confidence and we're giving him an opportunity."

"I'm a physical type of player," added Miyahira. "Last season I didn't feel comfortable not being as involved in plays like I want to be. I like to hit and mix it up and playing safety allows me to do more of that. Like I said, I'm a safety, not a corner."

Practice Notes

Today marked the first day of full contact drills from which Mendenhall came away very impressed with the offense and what they were able to do.

"I think the practice went well," said Mendenhall. "I was very pleased with the physical nature Fui Vakapuna brought to the practice and John Beck's decision making. The defense now needs to match their intensity and I expect them to respond tomorrow."

- As mentioned by Mendenhall, Vakapuna had a number of impressive runs seeing most of his reps with the first-teamers as Curtis Brown saw limited action. Among his runs were a nine-yard touchdown run, a 22-yard run where he broke close to 4 tackles, and another touchdown run of seven yards.

- Y-receiver Vic So'oto impressed catching a seven-yard touchdown pass from John Beck. His most impressive play however came on a catch which set up Vakapuna's first touchdown run. On the play he caught a simple short pass across the middle, straight-armed a defender to the ground and broke another tackle before breaking it outside and outrunning most of the defense for about 50 yards.

Said So'oto: "I love the contact. I love hitting people. If you're coming at me, then you better be ready because I'm coming at you just as hard. That's football, that's why I love playing football. I'm just happy to help the team out in whatever way I can."

- Kayle Buchanan intercepted Jason Beck pass on a fly pattern intended for Matt Allen. Justin Robinson had a nice pass breakup on an out pattern while Markell Staffieri and Cameron Jensen both converged on a pass intended for Andrew George across the middle knocking the ball out of his hands. Tyler Berry had a pass deflection on the line of scrimmage to highlight the defensive plays of the day.

- Jonny Harline had the most impressive catch of the day leaping high over defenders for a 25-yard reception on a seam route. McKay Jacobson was not far behind, laying out to catch a 15-yard pass on an out pattern.

- Michael Reed did not practice today due to a family emergency. Coaches are hopeful that Reed will rejoin the team on Thursday.

- Linebacker Kelly Poppinga started the day playing with the 1s at outside linebacker before going down with an undisclosed leg.

- BYU announced the signing of a deep snapper today. Matthew Johnson comes to BYU from Citrus Junior College in Glendora, California. He was a two-time all-conference defensive lineman and was voted the team's most outstanding defensive player. In high school, Johnson was named an All-San Gabriel Valley defensive lineman. He also earned three varsity letters in track and four letters in wrestling. Johnson was the CIF heavyweight wrestling champion and a two-time league shotput champion.

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