Fall Practice Preview: Secondary

The prospects for this year's secondary are very promising in regards to further strengthening BYU's traditionally weakest position. With the return of some good experience and talent, coupled with some promising newcomers, the safety and cornerback positions look to be in good shape as fall practices are set to begin.

With three returning starters and loads of quality playing experience at both safety and cornerback, there won't be much to shake out in regards to the two-deep roster this fall. A few things need to be resolved, but look for the expected starters to hold steady at three of the four secondary positions.

Solid at Safety

Quinn Gooch (6-0, 196 Sr.) and Dustin Gabriel (6-1, 213 Sr.) both look to finish out strong as the starting free safety and strong safety, respectively. Both players are coming off solid campaigns a season ago and will look to improve during fall camp.

Gooch was a very consistent and reassuring force behind the front seven defenders last season. He also came to be known as a fierce hitter across the middle. Gooch's leadership and play will benefit the defense greatly this coming year.

Gabriel meanwhile quietly went about his business with a very productive season as well. Subsequently, the talk of his consistent injury problems were quelled. Gabriel will again practice lightly, staying out of all contact drills as he preps for the season.

Solid and Experienced Backups

The experience and talent backing up Gooch and Gabriel is very solid as well. Not much will need to be resolved as to who will be backing up the two safety positions, as David Tafuna (6-1, 206 Sr.) and Corby Hodgkiss (5-11, 206 Sr.) look to reprise their roles as the first safeties off the bench this coming year.

The talent doesn't end there, as Kellen Fowler (5-11, 190 Jr.) and Kelly Bills (6-0, 216 So.) have both shown well in practices. Chris Warner will be held out for the year following his ACL injury sustained this past spring.

Incoming Talent

The influx of incoming talent looks impressive on paper as well. Jordan Pendleton (6-2, 195) will headline an incoming safety class which includes Gary Nagy (6-1, 190) and Steven Thomas (6-0, 180.).

All three are coming off impressive high school careers and will look to show their wares this coming fall. We'll be watching each of them closely to see what type of impact they may make this year, or how they look to contribute in future years.

Solid at Corner

Headlining the cornerbacks will be 2006 standout Ben Criddle (6-0, 185 Sr.), who looks to practice consistently as he was held out of spring practices due to injury sustained during last season. Criddle should see limited work until he is able to withstand a full practice regimen, as he has little to prove on the practice field.

On the other side of Criddle, the job should be Kayle Buchanan's to lose. Buchanan (6-1, 191 Sr.) has been hampered by injuries since the day he first suited up to play. If Buchanan can remain healthy, look for him to be the front runner at the other cornerback position opposite Criddle.

Intriguing Prospects

Unlike most years in the past, the options at cornerback aren't limited, as the talent in the program and the talent coming in look to be significantly upgraded from where it has historically been in Provo. Brandon Bradley (6-0, 195 Fr.), Brandon Howard (5-9, 170 So.), Andre Saulsberry (5-10, 180 Sr.) and Scott Johnson (5-11, 182 Jr.) all return and should add to the depth and talent level at cornerback considerably.

Bradley will finally be able to practice fully, after sitting out for almost an entire year due to injury. Howard, Saulsberry and Johnson are all coming off a very successful spring practice session and will look to improve their game this fall.

If Buchanan is held back due to injury or other issues, look for the battle to start at corner opposite Criddle to be one of the more intense and interesting battles of fall camp. There are good options to start at the position, which is certainly healthy for the position and the defense as a whole.

Promising Duo

Incoming freshmen Brannon Brooks (5-10, 175) and G Pittman (5-10, 182) are both coming in with impressive credentials and will be eyed closely by TBS throughout the fall practice session. Collectively, they form one of the more promising duos BYU has ever signed out of high school at the cornerback position.

Both could potentially get a lot of looks maybe even garner playing time for the coming season. Both are speedsters coming off the heels of very successful senior years in high school.

Bottom Line

As mentioned, the prospects at every secondary position look to be filled with good experience and talent come the first game against Arizona. While the one open position opposite Criddle isn't secure, the options to fill the position are numerous and promising.

All eyes will be on how the field corner position shakes out, as Criddle is secure as the starting boundary cornerback. As mentioned, it will be Buchanan's position to lose. If Buchanan can remain healthy and consistent, he'll be the starter. If not, the options behind him are very intriguing indeed.


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