Defense Prepares to Contain Confusion

Throughout fall camp, Cougar defenders insisted that the new look BYU defense would surprise many, and in Tucson, they backed up the talk. Now in their 2006 home opener, the Cougars face an entirely new look from Tulsa's high-scoring offense. The BYU defense is not intimidated by the challenge, however. They are excited for another opportunity to prove themselves.

BYU's young but talented D-line will face the nation's most experienced offensive line this Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium. Senior tackle Jeff Perrett, a C-USA preseason all-league selection, will be the anchor an offensive line with 95 career starts among the four returning starters. All four returning O-line starters are seniors. Perrett has 38 career starts, followed by center Aaron Danenhauer's 27, tackle Mike Mengers' 20 and guard Jon Hameister-Ries' 14.

"Half way through the Arizona game I actually went and patted Eddie Keele on the back on the sidelines and told him, ‘You know what? Right now I'm actually really excited with how hard you guys were on us during fall camp because it really has paid off,'" said BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl. "As a pass rusher it was really hard to try and beat him, and that really helped produce a higher level of skill for us. In the [Arizona] game we were able to beat their offensive line more because we were going up against more skilled and experienced players, so I think we'll be really prepared coming into this game against the offensive line of Tulsa."

Kehl, who nearly had three sacks against the Wildcats of Arizona, will be called upon to use his speed and athleticism to help neutralize the experience of the Golden Hurricane offensive line.

"Our two D-linemen were able to get sacks and I was so close a couple of times," smiled Kehl. "My family was teasing me that if I would have been a step closer I would have had three, and so that encourages me to work all that much harder to get that extra step and get those sacks in the coming weeks.

Last season, BYU's defense struggled to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With BYU's young D-line recording two sacks against Arizona and Chris Bolden and Kehl nearly adding several more, the defense should be able to get pressure on a shifty Tulsa offense.

"Last season our ability to put pressure on the quarterback was basically non-existent," said Kehl. "As you could see during the [Arizona] game, we were able to get there. The two sacks were good but you could see the pressure was definitely there, and their quarterback sensed that. So if we can maintain that throughout the year we'll have a great season."

BYU's defense will need to put a lot of pressure on junior quarterback Paul Smith (3,361 career yards on 264 of 348 passes for a .632 completion percent and 24 touchdowns) who is poised to move into tenth spot behind Billy Guy Anderson on the school's career passing chart. Smith threw for over 200 yards in 10 games last season beating former TU QB and current NFL Rams quarterback Gus Frerotte's record set in 1993.

"As a defensive player it makes me excited to go against this type of offense," said Kehl. "They said the quarterback is a little more mobile than Arizona's Tuitama even though I think Tuitama had the ability to be more mobile, but just chose to stay in the pocket. I guess this quarterback will run the ball, and Coach Mendenhall said that he will move outside the pocket and run. For a blitzing linebacker that's exciting for me. It will provide an opportunity for me to go out there and get him because a lot of times if you don't beat the offensive tackle and the quarterback moves out, it gives you another chance to out and get him to get a sack. As a defensive player, I'm excited to face a high production offense like Tulsa provides."

BYU is expecting Tulsa to come at them much differently than the Wildcats of Arizona. Rather than a straight forward offense, Tulsa relies more on deception by running the same plays but from various formations.

"I think it's just the way they come at you," Kehl said. "Arizona is really straight forward, whereas Tulsa keys in on the deception. They try to deceive you, and I think the coaches said after watching their game last week that every play they had, had either a motion or a shift. If you think about it that's a lot of moving around and that's what they try to do is confuse you. They've been able to beat a lot of teams that were probably more athletic than they were. It's just they were able to deceive them offensively."

Kehl expects to come out and continue his Arizona performance this weekend against the Golden Hurricanes. He credits the new defensive scheme that plays more to his abilities as a player. Against Tulsa, BYU will need to be sharp while facing an offense that was ranked 6th in the nation for third down conversions and 31st in fourth down conversions. The Hurricane offense was ranked 23rd and had a pass efficiency ranking of 28th while holding the 41st best rushing offense ranking nationally.

"With my position there is a big difference with how I play in comparison to my assignment and how I played last year," said Kehl. "I think this defense helps to utilize my strengths as a linebacker. In comparison, I think a linebacker that is bigger and not as fast would succeed more in a three linebacker set."

Tulsa Notes

Tulsa only has one player on offense named to the C-USA first team all-league in Jeff Perrett, but on the other side of the ball the Hurricanes have three defensive players that were selected. They are linebackers in Nick Bunting and Nelson Coleman and safety Bobby Blackshire.

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