TBS Fall Practice Report: Day Four

On the heels of a punishing extra conditioning drill and a tongue-lashing from head coach Bronco Mendenhall yesterday, the defense came out with renewed intensity today. The Cougar defenders held the offense out of the end zone in 11-on-11 drills, in what the defensive leaders insist will become the new norm.

"It's what we expect from ourselves," said senior linebacker Cameron Jensen of the impressive defensive performance. "We kept the offense out of the end zone, and that has to continue. We're going to be the best defense in the Mountain West Conference, that's the goal and we're striving every day to achieve that goal."

"We dominated them," said linebacker Bryan Kehl. "We came out and didn't let them do anything and that's what it's going to be like from here on out. Defense is back, baby."

Strong up Front

After being knocked around this spring, BYU's defense came to fall camp with a chip on their collective shoulder. While great things were expected of the linebackers, the defensive line was the position surrounded by doubts due to the need to play a high number of newcomers. So far this fall, the doubters have been silenced. The incoming freshmen linemen have more than held their own.

"They don't play like freshmen," said Jensen. "They've come out strong and determined, but most importantly they're confident. They're doing an amazing job and we need them. We need them to be good just like they need us to be good, and so far they're getting it done."

Today's standout rookie D-lineman was freshman Romney Fuga, who recorded a sack while holding the middle for the third-team defensive line unit. Fuga was not just picking on the scout team offense either. The defensive rotation worked out so the third team D-line was playing with the first team linebackers and defensive backs against the first team offense. Fuga was flanked by Ian Dulan and Jordan Richardson on the outside.

"They're keeping guys off of us," said linebacker David Nixon. "They're standing guys up and doing what they need to and it's been great for us so far. We just need to keep it going."

Subbing

Inside linebacker Markell Staffieri left practice after sustaining a leg injury. Filling in for Staffieri was Aaron Wagner who is battling back from his ACL injury a year ago.

"We're all brothers out there," said Wagner. "Sure, you want to play, but if you're only [with the ones] because one of your brothers can't go, then that's not what you want. I hope [Staffieri] hurries back because we need him."

Wagner is working on his change of direction and overall speed while getting confidence back in his knee. He is not even close to being satisfied regarding his play so far.

"It's tough," said Wagner. "But I want to play this year and I want to play well. It's very frustrating, but it's coming."

Offensive lineman Jake Kuresa did not practice today because he was attending a 10:00 a.m. class. His absence meant required movement on the offensive line depth chart. Travis Bright played right guard for Kuresa and freshmen Walter Kahaialii took Bright's spot with the twos. Braden Hansen also saw all the reps with the second team at right tackle.

"It's so much faster out there," said Kahaialii. "It's really tough knowing what to do and then doing it. It's so different from high school, but we'll get it. We're a confident bunch and know that we just need to focus on getting better every day."

Both Justin Robinson and Kayle Buchanan were held out of today's practice and were replaced by Ben Criddle and Brandon Howard. The pair fared well, with their tight coverage contributing to several sacks.

"I told Coach Mendenhall when I came here that I was going to be a first team all-Mountain West corner for him and that's still what I aim on being," said Criddle. "It was great being with the ones today, and I plan on making that a more regular occurrence."

Standout Player

Today's standout player was safety Cole Miyahira as he picked off a Jason Beck pass in the 11-on-11 drills and knocked down a pass on third down that secured the defense's bid to keep the offense scoreless.

"It's just playing," said Miyahira. "It's just knowing the system and getting used to it, that's all. I'm a natural safety and playing there from the spring until now has been the difference in my game."

Highlights

- Defensive lineman Russell Tialavea showed strong playing nose tackle with the twos He knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage and recorded a sack.

- Jan Jorgensen and Judd Anderton both recorded sacks on the very first two plays of the 11-on-11 drill.

- Ben Criddle forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

- Tight end Andrew George had the best catch of the day. He dove near the sidelines with his body parallel to the ground to make a finger-tip grab of a 14-yard Jason Beck pass.

- Chris Bolden held true to his promise to bring it every day. The speedy linebacker had two sacks and forced the quarterback to leave the pocket on numerous occasions.

- Kelly Poppinga also had a sack of his own, and Hala Paongo and David Nixon both knocked down passes at the line of scrimmage.

On Second Thought

Deep snapper Matt Johnson informed coaches earlier today that he will not be joining the team this year, electing to try to play defensive line at yet to be named university. Brett Denney and Bryan Kehl will handle the deep snapping responsibilities.

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