The trio manning the front line of defense for the Golden Hurricane will be 6-foot-3-inch, 290-pound Wilson Garrison (#96); 6-foot-2-inch, 330-pound senior Brandon Jones (#90) at nose guard; and 6-foot-3-inch, 275-pound Moton Hopkins (#93).
"They're going to be one of the biggest d-lines we face this year," said R.J. Willing.
One of the two returning starters on the defensive line is Jones, who has played in 37 career games, starting eight of those, and has registered 31 career tackles. The other returning starter is Hopkins. Garrison is a transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
"I'm guessing one reason why [Tulsa likes their linemen to be] big is to help hold down the offensive line," said Willing. "They like to have them big to help fill in those run gaps. That's the major difference I've seen with these guys in comparison to the other linemen we've faced."
"They have a load of a nose guard," said a chuckling Tom Sorensen.
Defensive end Popsie Floyed (#39), a 6-foot-1-inch, 250-pound speed rusher, will rotate in on occasion with another undersized defensive end in 6-foot-2-inch, 222-pound Allen Eliot (#92). Redshirt freshman Jon Bell, measuring in at 6 feet 1 inch, 260 pounds, also saw limited action at defensive end in Tulsa's season opener.
"They're definitely not as finessed as ULCA's d-linemen," said Willing. "They try to hold their gaps and stay on the line. They do try to go around the blocks or through the blocks, but for the most part they like to hold the gaps."
"We're expecting them to come out and play hard," said Manase Tonga. "When one guy goes out, there is always someone right behind them that wants to come in and make a name for himself. You can never really let your guard down no matter who is in the game."
BYU faced a lighter four-man front during their contest with UCLA. The Bruin linemen used speed, crossing patterns and twists to get by the larger, much stronger BYU offensive linemen. The Cougars don't expect that too much from the Tulsa defenders.
"With the three down linemen, they don't do many stunts," said Willing. "They do like to bring the blitz though from the linebackers and from the safeties. It's pretty much like how it used to be back in the days when Coach Mendenhall had that type of defense here at BYU. They try to confuse you with different alignments from the backfield for blitzes."
"What they'll try and do is stalemate you," said Sorensen. "No defensive lineman likes to get pushed back, but this is something that they really emphasize to allow the linebackers to roam free. They don't do too many stunts or things like that.
"They're more of a man-blitz [defense] and are pretty much straight up, kind of how Arizona was. We kind of put a hurting on them last year, so I don't know if they're going to stay and do much the same things as last year. They may try and switch things up, but if they do we'll be prepared."
The Cougars aren't expecting Tulsa to run an exclusive 3-3-5 defense, especially if the Golden Hurricane find themselves in trouble defending the run or on short-yardage situations.
"If you look at what they did last year when they struggled with the run, a lot of times they'll go with a four-man front," said Sorensen. "We have been practicing and preparing a little bit for that. Mostly this year they've been sticking with that three-man front with the three linebackers."
"They pretty much have the same team coming back with the same defense," said Tonga. "However, we are playing down in Tulsa this year. I'm sure they have a chip on their shoulder after what happened last year, but as far as their scheme and the type of defense they play, it will be much the same as last year.
"When we start getting into our bigger package with the I-formation, they'll probably move more to four down linemen. For the most part we're expecting them to play pretty much the same kind of defense we faced last year. We're expecting them to come out and play hard."
BYU's offensive line will be active in creating double teams to knock the defenders off their gaps, and will also work at not getting beat with the blitz, either from a safety on the outside or by a linebacker.
"It's just a different kind of offensive scheme that we're going to have to put together to get downhill with these guys," Sorensen said. "We're really focusing on that and to try and establish the run. Our offensive line tries to get as many double teams as possible, and that's one of our goals: to get that double team on somebody, either with a tight end or a guard.
"We feel that when we get two of our guys on one of their guys, then it's not a battle. Our offensive tackles are going to check off on the defensive end to see where he goes, and if he stays inside, then he's going to follow him."
BYU quarterback Max Hall will face the 3-3-5 defense for the first time in his college career when he goes up against Tulsa. Hall gave TBS his thoughts on facing the Golden Hurricane defense this up-and-coming Saturday.