Cougars Prepare For Saturday's Full Scrimmage

Tired of walking the line between hard hits and cautious play, Saturday marks the first time of fall camp these caged Cougars will be fully unleashed during a scrimmage of full contact.

BYU's defense is ready to hit someone. Earlier on Friday the defense was able to keep the offense in check for the most part, but after a few adjustments the offense came out and was able to catch the defense off guard a bit.

"I felt we came out and handled the offense very well this morning," said senior cornerback Ben Criddle. "They didn't have as much success on us with passing the ball. They weren't able to score on [the first team defense] and it looks like they went back in after this morning and made some adjustments for this evening's practice."

One adjustment the Cougar offense made forced the defense back onto their heels. The offense went into a hurry-up offensive mode and ran it very affectively. The Cougar defense was forced to catch up.

"This practice they came out with some adjustments and with a little more fire," Criddle said. "That's what this is though; they make adjustments and come out against us and then we make adjustments to counter. Our defense is predicated on what they do, so now we have to make adjustments based on what they did against us during this later practice in preparation for tomorrow's scrimmage. I think we'll come back and dominate them next time knowing what to expect, and then they'll try and come back and do the same to us.

"They came out here with a hurry-up offense during this later practice and we had to hurry up and get our calls in. It forced us to hurry our defense up and to work on getting our calls in and our defense set up quicker."

Kelly Poppinga said that he thinks the offense has a lot to prove, just like the defense does. He added that the team wants to prove that even though they lost some key players, they can continue to be successful.

During the start of Friday's evening scrimmage, Hall went 7-for-9 for 63 yards and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Mahuika.

"Our offense continues to get better and better and they're doing things to improve over this defense," said Criddle. "When you play against a defense of this level of quality, your receivers run sharper routes, your offensive linemen pick up blitzes faster and the timing between the quarterbacks and the receivers is sharper."

Through the practice conditions and the tempo of the offense, Popping believes this Cougar defense is receiving invaluable preparation.

"I strongly believe that there isn't any defense in the country that is training the way our defense is training right now," said Poppinga. "The number of reps that we're getting in a day and the way our offense is coming at us with a fast pace, no-huddle tempo, there aren't too many teams in the nation that are doing that.

"We are training at a very high level. It's very exciting for both sides of the team to be able to compete at this high level and [get] tons of reps. A lot of people are getting a chance to play and develop under this situation."

During Saturday's scrimmage, the Cougar defense looks to reestablish their dominance.

"We're ready to go out there and not hold anything back," said Poppinga. "When you're running in that thud tempo you have to hold yourself back a little bit, but tomorrow it's all about going all-out. Tomorrow we'll go out there and be ready to destroy a few people. We're pumped up and ready to hit someone for real during tomorrow's scrimmage."

However, there is one group of offensive players that will still be off limits that Poppinga wishes he could send a statement to.

"I just wish our quarterbacks were live because then I would be a much happier guy," said Poppinga while chuckling. "I just want to hit a quarterback. I want to hit a quarterback just to let them know what it's like. You know, go out there and just give them a nice hit to just say hello."

Although they play on separate sides of the ball, Poppinga and quarterback Max Hall have a very competitive yet friendly teammate rivalry going.

"Max and I are always going at it," said Poppinga while chuckling. "I just want to give him a chance to let him know what it's like to get hit by Kelly Poppinga. Max and I are always talking to each other and it's fun. I think it's going to be a good scrimmage tomorrow."

"Well have all four strings in and everyone will get a chance to go live and show what they can do tomorrow," Criddle said.

Since starting most of last season for BYU's top-rated defense, Criddle has learned to appreciate health.

"I've learned that health is very important," Criddle said while chuckling. "Health is very important to the success of the team. No, one thing we have a lot of in our defensive secondary is a better understanding of the defense. With that comes confidence, but we're not perfect in our abilities either.

"Coach Hill's philosophy is, we don't even want a single pass reception caught on us, we don't want any touchdowns or any big plays. Until we get to the point where we are making picks or breaking up every single pass, we still have a lot of work to do."

"Our goals as a defensive secondary unit is to play to the best of our capabilities all the time without mistakes," said defensive back coach Jaime Hill. "There were times last year where teams didn't score a touchdown catch on us. We want to strive to make it so we don't have any throughout the entire year."

On Saturday, the Cougar defense will once again try to rise to the challenge to stop Max Hall and the Cougar offense.

"We're ready," said Poppinga. "It's time for us to show up on the field and dominate tomorrow. Then the offense will try and come out and do the same to us, but it won't matter because this defense always answers back. Tomorrow is our chance to show it and we'll do just that."

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