Defensive Spring Scrimmage Report

The Cougar football team gathered at LaVell Edwards Stadium Friday for a full-on scrimmage pitting the offense against the defense in front of nearly 900 people gathered in attendance.

When the BYU coaches go back and review the film of Friday's performance, there will be both good and bad things learned on both sides of the ball. For the most part, there weren't a whole lot of fireworks by either side.

"I thought we did alright," said Jan Jorgensen. "We didn't do anything special and had an alright performance. We had some of our starters out, so that kind of hurt us a little bit, whereas our offense was fully loaded out there. I feel we could have done better, but all in all I felt we did alright."

From the defensive point of view, the defenders are still learning to trust one another, know each others tendencies, and not play outside the defense. Playing in a full-on scrimmage allows these aspects to surface, and following Friday's performance the coaches will have learned a lot about the defensive progression as a whole.

"These guys are learning, learning and learning some more, and then they get thrown out into a scrimmage situation," said Jorgensen. "It really makes things completely different. No matter how much you do team workouts at practice, when you're put into a scrimmage it becomes completely different. The dynamics are different and there's a different learning curve that has to happen."

The coaches had planned on making Friday's scrimmage a 50-rep series, but due to the injury suffered by junior linebacker Terrance Hooks on Thursday, the decision was made to tone it down to 30 reps. The balance between giving the team a chance to develop under full contact conditions while avoiding injuries is one the coaches are constantly weighing. Regardless of how many reps were involved, the defense benefited from Friday's scrimmage.

"Playing against this offense in live scrimmages will help us out a lot," Jorgensen said. "We're seeing this offense every practice and it's helping us learn those little things that we need to have. When fall comes around we won't see very many offenses that are as good as the one we've faced in spring and fall practices. It makes it really nice for us, especially as a defensive line because there aren't very many offensive lines that we'll face that are as good as these guys."

Although the linebacker group has seen a major personnel overhaul, there is experience to be found there. One positive aspect found at the linebacker position was the pass coverage packages. Junior outside linebacker Vic So'oto did a good job dropping back into coverage and out in the flats on passing routes.

Matt Bauman showed a little of his experience Friday in defending against the run by plugging up the middle well against running backs such as Fui Vakapuna and Manase Tonga, among others, and linebacker Coleby Clawson de-cleated a running back bursting through the offensive line with a nice hit that caught the attention of spectators. Finding group chemistry will be something this group of linebackers will accomplish the more they play together.

"Our linebacking corps does have a little more experience than some people realize," said Jorgensen. "David Nixon is back and has a lot of experience, and Matt Bauman is back and he got a lot of playing time last year. When Markell [Staffieri] was out a couple of times, Matt got a lot of playing time.

"We also have Shawn Doman, who also has a lot of playing time but wasn't out there today [during the full-contact scrimmage]. Our guys in the middle have a lot of playing time, and then we have Vic, who is pretty green. I'm not really worried about Vic because he's got the mentality and the athleticism. We're not really worried about Vic because he'll be fine. I think our linebacking corps is going to be pretty good."

One difference that Jorgensen has seen in this year's offense is a sense of identity that wasn't there last year.

"They have a lot more confidence this year than last year," Jorgensen said of the offense. "I think coming in last year they were trying to find an identity and trying to find out who they were. Now we have the emergence of Max Hall, Austin Collie and Harvey Unga, along with the other guys, and now Max doesn't have to sit back there and wonder who he has to dump the ball off to if he gets into trouble. The big difference this year in comparison to last year is our offense knows who they are."

As for the defensive line, Jorgensen has high expectations.

"Our defensive line is good," said Jorgensen. "With me and Ian [Dulan], Brett [Denney], and once we have Russell [Tialavea] back, our defensive line is going to be really good. Tevita [Hola] is a new guy in the middle and he still has some things he has to learn. He has a lot of athleticism and I think once he gets it he'll be able to come in and give Russell a good breather when he needs it. There won't be too many people moving us around very much, and we're going to be putting pressure on the quarterback all day long."

A key that will help the defensive secondary be more effective will be how well BYU's defensive front can be in applying pressure to the quarterback. The defensive line helped their secondary out at times by doing just that.

"Hopefully with the experience we have up front, we can put some pressure on the offense to help take some of the pressure off of the secondary," said Jorgensen. "That way their learning curve won't be as drastic as it would be if we were young too."

In this exclusive interview, BYU assistant coach Paul Tidwell gives his perspective on how Friday's scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium went.


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