Scouting Report: Eastern Washington's Defense

Total Blue Sports caught up with a number of the players on BYU's offense to get a scouting report on what they will be going up against when they face the Eagles of Eastern Washington on Saturday.

The type of defense that the Eagles of Eastern Washington run is similar to what BYU has already seen at Sam Boyd Stadium when they faced the Running Rebels of UNLV. The Cougars are expecting a similar style of defense without the size that UNLV put on the field.

"Their biggest d-linemen are around 250 pounds," said Vic So'oto. "I think our running game should be there, especially since how well we performed against a similar defense in UNLV. On the passing game, they are better at covering the pass than they are at stopping the run, but as far as our passing game goes, I think we should be all right. You'll have to talk to Harvey [Unga] about their run defense because I'm sure he knows all about it."

"They play a defense similar to what UNLV runs for the most part," said Unga with a smile. "So for the most part I'm hoping the outcome is a lot like UNLV. They play a type of defense what Coach Doman likes to call ‘an umbrella defense.' They have four down linemen, two linebackers, and in the secondary they line up in a coverage that shapes like an umbrella."

"I'm sure Harvey hopes they're a lot like UNLV," said Travis Bright with a chuckle. "He had a great game against the Rebels and it was a lot of fun for us as an offensive line to just run it. We're known as a passing team, but it was kind of fun for us. It's so much more fun to just go out and pancake guys downfield."

The Cougars talked to Total Blue Sports about what makes the Eastern Washington defense similar to that of UNLV.

"They have five defensive backs with one guy being a combination of a safety and linebacker who roves around," said Unga. "They like to play a lot of underneath fronts and are very similar to UNLV in their zone coverage. Our game plan hasn't really changed much but we are adding a few kinks here and there to kind of catch them off guard."

"They play a basic 4-3-4 defense with a rover linebacker/safety in the backfield," said Vic So'oto. "In the secondary, they run a lot of Tampa-two with a strong safety/linebacker rover-type player, kind of like Star Fuimaono from UNLV was. They run really well but I don't think they're very big."

That person roving the field will be 5-foot-8-inch, 180-pound Lonnie Hosley (#1), who has 10 solo tackles, 15 total tackles and three interceptions for 52 yards on the season, tied with teammate Kevin Hatch for the most on the team.

"Their safeties are pretty good and that rover guy is someone we're going to be blocking a lot," said Dennis Pitta.

At cornerback, the Cougar receivers will face a couple of solid players, including previously mentioned Kevin Hatch. In addition to his aforementioned three interceptions (for 29 yards), he currently has 16 solo tackles and 26 total tackles.

Wide receiver Austin Collie gives Total Blue Sports a quick rundown of what he thinks of the Eastern Washington secondary.

In the trenches, the Eagles have smaller but quicker linemen across the front. At left defensive end, Dallas Reynolds will face 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound junior Greg Peach (#94), who is considered Eastern Washington's top d-linemen.

"[Peach is] not a very big guy but he moves well and is always making a lot of tackles," said So'oto. "He's a quick guy and runs really well. He could be a really good linebacker if he was playing in the middle because he runs really well, so look for [Peach] to try and make some plays off the edge."

"They're a scrappy defense," said Pitta. "They're not the biggest guys we've faced on the field, but they're obviously going to come in here and try and play us hard. They have some good defensive ends that are pretty quick."

Undersized guys on the front line usually mean guys that can move around a lot quicker. BYU's offensive line struggled on the edges against smaller but quicker pass rushers like those of UCLA, but then again that was UCLA. The Cougars also struggled a bit against a smaller Tulsa pass rush off the edge as well, but faired well against the smaller defensive front in the Falcons of Air Force.

"I think they're more finesse than power," said So'oto. "They don't really have the size to overpower you, so they rely more on finesse and speed."

"Yeah, they're a little undersized but they move around well," Unga said. "However, they are four-and-two right now and not a team that is used to losing, so we can't take them lightly. I believe they're going to come at us knowing we're a D-I team and try to take it to us."

On the other side, facing David Oswald will be Lance Witherspoon (#97). Witherspoon is a 6-foot-2-inch, 255-pound junior that had 10 tackles from his defensive end position last weekend against Montana State, the 11th-ranked team in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).

On film the Cougars have seen the d-line characteristics and noticed the Eagle front utilize a lot of stunts, twists and other techniques.

They like to do a lot of spinning and push-pull with the offensive linemen," said Bright. "They get the offensive linemen going forwards, pushing on them, and then they like to pull back to get them off balance. They like to use your weight against you, so I've seen a bunch of their defensive linemen using that technique."

Also seen on film are the tendencies of the linebackers. The Cougars can expect some blitzing from a linebacker or the roving safety/linebacker hybrid.

"They do a little more blitzing than UNLV did but not as much as New Mexico," Bright said. "They do all the field bomb blitzes, which is something we're used to, but we do expect them to come out and get going on it."

Although Eastern Washington is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), the Eagles are a program the Cougars simply can't take lightly. When a game of this nature is in the making, the Appalachian State vs. Michigan game comes to mind.

"These are undersized guys but that doesn't mean that they're not going to play hard," said Pitta. "We can't overlook this game. Right now this is the most important game on our schedule up to this point, and so we have to come away with a win this week."

Eastern Washington, meanwhile, has been impressive in its own right on both offense and defense, ranking third in FCS with an average of 486.7 yards per game. Eastern is 20th in both scoring offense (34.3 points per game) and scoring defense (19.3 points per game).

On the flip side, Brigham Young is averaging 462.8 yards of offense to rank 16th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) and allows only 313.3 yards per game to rank 21st. The Cougars have the sixth-best passing offense (329.0 yards per game), and quarterback Max Hall ranks sixth nationally in total offense (330.8 yards per game).

Hall gives Total Blue Sports fans the rundown on the Eagle defense in this audio interview.

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