Scouting Report: TCU Secondary/Linebackers

BYU quarterback Max Hall just came off a great game against CSU, in which he completed 22-of-30 passes for 255 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. To give BYU fans the scouting report on TCU's defense and secondary are Dennis Pitta, Andrew George, Matt Allen and Michael Reed.

BYU is one of only four teams in the country that currently ranks in the top 18 in both total offense and total defense. The Cougar offense is currently averaging 451.8 yards per game. Against CSU, the offense racked up a total of 461 yards.

"I thought it was a good game, and not just for me, but for the offense in general," said Max Hall. "I thought we came out fired up, which was the biggest thing, and I think we were having fun. These past couple of games I don't think we were having as much fun as we were earlier in the season, so we came out and had fun, and it showed. We all fed off of one another and played well."

With only two days to prepare for TCU, it's become déjà vu all over again. But unlike last year, TCU isn't ranked 17th in the country, the game isn't in Dallas, and TCU doesn't have a bye week to prepare for the Cougars. However, TCU has a defense full of speed and athleticism at both the linebacker and secondary positions.

"TCU runs primarily a 4-3 defense," said tight end Andrew George. "They have some great athletes, especially in the secondary. They have some safeties that are athletes back there with a lot of experience."

"Obviously they have some speed defensively," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "We're going to have to make some adjustments in order to handle that speed. They run a 4-3 defense, but also a 4-2 defense, and do a lot of zone blitzing. Their defense is a lot like Eastern Washington in that regard."

Junior TCU safety Stephen Hodge (6 feet, 212 pounds) was named the Co-Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in last Saturday's 37-0 victory over New Mexico. Currently on the season, Hodge has 5.5 sacks, which is good for second-most on the Horned Frog defense. Defensive end Chase Ortiz, with six sacks, has the most.

In the match-cover defense of TCU, the strong safety primarily will match up with the tight end. Matching up against BYU tight ends Pitta, George and So'oto will be 5-foot-11-inch, 199-pound senior Brian Bonner.

"[Bonner is] coming back, so he has some experience back there," said Pitta. "He's also their kick-return player, so he has some speed. We're just going to have to get open with their coverage and find those open spots in the defense."

"[TCU will] basically will split the field up into half and will match up their skill players with whatever skill players we have on one side of the field and the other," said George. "They'll also go to a cover-three defense as well, but primarily they run a match-cover defense. They can play a man-cover zone, but they just like to split the field up and try and match up their skill players with ours."

Pitta gave more insight into the match-coverage defense of TCU's secondary, a defense that he said the Cougars haven't seen much this year.

"What they do is they split the field, and one side runs one coverage and the other side runs another," said Pitta. "What they do with match-coverage is it will be four [TCU] guys on three [BYU] guys and they'll pick up on who goes where. We're going to run our stuff, but we'll make some adjustments to handle that and I'll think we'll be successful."

TCU's two cornerbacks are Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest. Sanders is a 5-foot-10-inch, 174-pound sophomore who has 27 tackles on the season, 18 of which are solo tackles. He also has one interception.

Priest, meanwhile, is a 5-foot-10-inch, 163-pound sophomore who is right behind Sanders on the stats chart. Priest currently has 20 solo tackles and six assisted tackles on the season, as well as two interceptions.

Giving the rundown on TCU's cornerbacks is BYU wide receiver Matt Allen. Now in this audio interview, you can listen to Matt Allen talk about the speedy cornerbacks of TCU and how the Cougars are preparing for them.

During TCU's game against New Mexico, the Lobos didn't reach 100 yards of total offense until there was just more than six minutes remaining in the game. The Lobos were the Mountain West Conference's second-best offense, averaging over 397 yards per game. TCU linebackers David Hawthorn and Jason Philips are the two leading tacklers on the Horned Frog defense.

"Their linebackers are good players and have some decent speed," said George. "They'll primarily play more the run than the pass, but they're good, solid players. I'd say they're more finesse-type players like UCLA [has] than the bruising-type linebackers that Arizona has."

Hawthorne (6 feet, 225 pounds), a senior, leads the Horned Frog defense with 42 solo tackles and 21 assisted tackles. He has 6.5 tackles for a loss, with those tackles adding up to a total loss of 31.

"Their linebackers are very active," said George. "They move very well to the ball and aren't the biggest guys on the field, but they're fast to the flow of the ball."

Following right behind Hawthorne in the leading-tackler department is Philips, a 6-foot-1-inch, 234-pound junior. Philips currently has 41 solo tackles and 19 assisted tackles. His eight tackles for a loss combine for a total loss of 29 yards.

In this next audio interview, junior BYU wide receiver Michael Reed gives his thoughts on facing and preparing for TCU's defense.


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