Hooks Getting First-Team Reps

Throughout the winter, junior middle linebacker Terrance Hooks had worked on specific aspects of his game in order to be a greater contributor to the Cougar defense. It appears Hooks' efforts have paid off, as his spring performances have become noticeable.

With the graduation of Kelly Poppinga, Bryan Kehl and Markell Staffieri, David Nixon is the only return starter from a linebacking corps that dominated the Mountain West Conference. A big question mark looms ahead, as it remains to be see whether or not BYU's new group of linebackers can play well enough. And, with the offense having its way with the defense during the first week of practices, that question mark seemed valid.

But oh how a single week can make a difference. Sure, BYU will have a top-15 ranked offense in the country, and possibly even top-10 offense, but somebody forgot to tell the linebackers that this week.

"Hey, we've had a great week of practice and have stepped up our game," Terrance Hooks said. "If you watched our defense today you can see how well we did, especially our linebackers. We were getting caught up on which receivers to come up on and which receivers to drop back on. We spent a lot of time hitting that with film. We all looked comfortable in our defense and feel like we're progressing, knowing when to come off the receivers for secondary, knowing when to cover under or over, and having a better football knowledge of our defense. Having greater football knowledge is key. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't know where you're supposed to be, your talent is useless."

One thing is for sure: the offense is figuratively pouring information by the bucket load into the heads of these Cougar defenders.

"Going against this offense day in and day out during practice is kind of an honor," Hooks said. "These guys put up big numbers last year and we have tremendous athletes with a year of this offense under their belts. I feel we have one of the best offenses in the nation and it shows on the field.

"You have Max Hall, who is a tremendous leader on the field and hates to lose. He does whatever it takes to win, and then you have [Austin] Collie, who is pretty much the same way. He chases down everything that's in the air and brings that swagger to the offense. Mike Reed is the same way. Then you have these pounding, bruising running backs and no one wants to hit the Tongan trio, Manase [Tonga], Fui [Vakapuna] and Harvey [Unga]. Then we have new guys like J.J. [Diluigi], who is a change-up player and can come out there and change up the speed. Our tight ends are great and trying to cover those guys is a task in and of itself. They can make plays and are great blockers as well.

"Then you solidify everything behind the big guys up front. I mean, you have Ray Feinga, and that's like going up against a pro offensive lineman every single day. So we have the right chemistry and talent on our offense and it will only make us as a defense be that much better. It helps us tremendously facing it every day at practice, and it doesn't get any better than this. I just think our offense is going to be amazing and it's going to be a challenge for any defense we play against to try and stop them this year."

The excitement surrounding the offense is telling, but there were plenty of smiles on the faces of many of the defensive players on Thursday due to their success. Much of this success has come from not only great coaching, but from offseason workouts as well.

"As far as my personal progression goes, I've been working a lot during the offseason on my pass drops and my change of direction," said Hooks. "When I got a little heavier, it was harder for me to change direction, so I've cut down my weight a little bit and I'm down to around 230-235."

For being someone who weighs about 230 pounds, Hooks carries it well.

"I don't want to run out there looking sloppy," Terrence jokingly stated. "I don't want to run out there looking like a defensive end. Having the lesser weight will help me with my change of direction, and that's one thing I've been focusing on."

Along with dropping weight and working on his agility, Hooks has also been focusing on playing at a lower pad level. Hooks credits the coaching staff for much of his personal development, which has put him right in the thick of first-team competition.

"With having longer legs, I feel I have to work on staying a lot lower," Hooks said. "I give a lot of credit to Coach Tidwell and Coach Omer for helping me in my personal development. I feel they've really helped me to accomplish a greater amount of agility and personal technique development. Coach Tidwell has really stressed my pass dropping abilities this year.

"We've always been a good run defense, as you can tell from how we played last year. I mean, it took [13] games to get one 100-yard rusher [against] our defense last year."

Inside linebacker Shawn Doman has become the poster boy for the rest of the linebackers. Doman's abilities and execution as both a run stopper and pass defender are implemented by many of his teammates.

"Everybody kind of looks towards Shawn Doman when it comes to dropping back into coverage because he's so athletic and smooth in everything he does," said Hooks. "So we watch how he does things as far as execution and footwork. We all try and help each other with our weaknesses and our strengths."

Knowing about the abilities and limitation of one's teammates is something every player on the defense tries to do. The reason for that is so that the players know how much they can know how to utilize their defense based on what advantages or limitations there are out on the field.

"Yeah, you try to know what the nature of your teammates are so you can know how to better cover or take advantage of it," Hooks said. "Like having Shawn Doman out there with you, you can feel a little more comfortable coming up quicker on the run. He's such a pure athlete that you know he'll always have your back, so you can sprint out on someone a little faster knowing he can cover for you. We all depend on one another because we all don't do the exact same things equally well, but at the same time you want to show all of your strengths and work on your weaknesses as much as possible to be the best player you can be on the team."

David Nixon chimes in on the recent defensive success in this audio interview.

Total Blue Sports Top Stories