The assumed starting set off ILBs as fall practices begin will be Shawn Doman and Matt Bauman. Both players played significant roles within the Cougar defense a year ago and each have two years of prior experience, making for a solid duo in the middle of the 3-4 defense.
Shawn Doman has always been one to fare well and make plays when healthy. The problem with Doman is staying healthy enough to see the type of reps a starting ILB needs to have. Doman's back has been an issue throughout his first two seasons at BYU, and without many flare-ups this past spring, Doman and the entire defense hopes that those problems are behind him.
When healthy, Doman has proven to be one of the more effective ILBs the Cougars have had over the past two seasons. He moves very well in the open field, which makes him effective when asked to drop in coverage as the ILBs in the 3-4 are often asked to do. Doman also fills his gap assignments well. When healthy, Doman is a very effective player.
Alongside Doman will be Matt Bauman as the other starter as fall practices begin. Bauman's strength is in pass defense, as he knocked down his share of passes while in coverage a year ago. Having started as a true freshman, Bauman picked up where he left off and contributed right upon rejoining the team following his mission even though many didn't expect him to.
The strength of this starting duo will be in dropping in coverage and in lateral pursuit. Both players are a bit undersized and it remains to be seen how effective they will be in taking on blockers when defending against the run 30 or more times a game.
Regardless of this slight concern, both players are proven and capable in completing their defensive assignments and leading the defense from the inside linebacking positions.
While Terrance Hooks looked to be the first and best ready option off the bench at the very least, his injury put the backup spots in flux as spring came to a close. As it stands right now, Matt Ah You and Dan Van Sweden look to be the guys who will work to back up Doman and Bauman.
Ah You showed a lot of promise prior to his mission and has shown well during practice sessions following his mission service. He has a good center of gravity, which may make him the best option to stuff the run.
Van Sweden meanwhile was switched back to ILB from OLB to help supplement the loss of Hooks. Van Sweden has been a solid practice performer and now has his window of opportunity to solidify a spot in the regular ILB rotation.
More Moves Coming?
Other moves could well be on their way during fall to add depth to the critical inside linebacker position. Inside linebacker is a position group where you certainly don't want to be weak and thin in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and Cougar coaches will certainly work their best to assure that they're not left thin on depth as the season begins.
The most likely move could be moving Coleby Clawson back inside from the outside, as he proved throughout spring to be a player worthy of playing time. Clawson is a solid player who received raves from defensive leader Jan Jorgensen as spring came to a close.
Clawson certainly has what it takes to perform well and contribute at either ILB or OLB. Another option is moving Grant Nelson inside, as he's become well-seasoned in what the defense does since returning from his mission service.
True freshman Jerry Bruner could be moved to inside linebacker, although most anticipate that he'll try to make his mark at running back upon joining the team. The other true freshman who could be making his mark sooner rather than later is Iona Pritchard, who will be working to make his mark at the ILB position.
All Eyes On
We'll certainly be watching Shawn Doman and his health status, as him staying able and healthy will be critical to the position. Due to his importance we don't anticipate Doman to participate all that much during contact drills, as he's proven within the system.
Our eyes will mostly be on Matt Ah You, as his upside is tremendous and he's received raves during the offseason workouts from his teammates. Ah You appears to be the player most poised to make a run at the starting positions while working to become the top option off the bench behind Doman and Bauman should he not break the starting spot.