Practice Report: Boundary Battle

The boundary cornerback position is developing into one of the more competitive battles of fall practices. While Scott Johnson and Brandon Bradley both look to be capable, what is interesting is how different both players are in just about every way.

In one corner you have Scott Johnson. Johnson measures in at 5 feet 11 inches and 185 pounds. He is a former walk-on from nearby Timpview High School and since the spring has seen most of his reps with the first-team defense.

"He's absolutely trustworthy," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall when asked of Johnson's attributes. "It doesn't matter what situation you put him in, he's going to do exactly what he needs to do to the best of his ability and know why he's doing it."

Indeed, Johnson has a knack for being right where he needs to be exactly when he needs to be there with every practice session. While he won't blow anyone away with his athleticism, Johnson's smarts are the primary thing keeping him on the field with the 1s so far this fall.

"I don't know about that," said a sheepish Johnson when asked about his smarts on the field. "I do really focus and have focused a lot on watching film and trying to learn from the guys before me. I was roommates with Kayle Buchanan and I still talk to him this day about doing things and what he saw when he played and everything else. So, I do focus a lot on watching film so I'm 100 percent confident with what my responsibilities are and where I need to be."

Indeed, being where one needs to be earns a player trust with the coaching staff.

"When it comes to trust at the cornerback position, it's a pretty good indicator of who is going to play," said Mendenhall.

In the other corner you have Brandon Bradley. Bradley measures in at about 6 feet 1 inch and 205 pounds, and is a scholarship player from the state of Florida. Bradley has maintained a strong presence, often dominating play in the backfield as he sees most of his reps with the second-team defense.

"Size and plays on the ball," said Mendenhall regarding Bradley's best attributes. "When you have a corner who has the size he does, it's very difficult to out-jump him on the fade routes, and when you get matchups against bigger receivers, his ball skills and his size are working to his advantage."

Indeed, Bradley has risen to the occasion more often than not during goal line situations. Most practices see Bradley knock down at least one pass in the end zone.

"I'm trying, I'm trying," said Bradley. "Every day I just go out there and try to make plays whenever I can. I just want to play and hopefully I'm showing coaches that I can make plays and give them enough confidence in me to play me and have me play a role in this defense."

Friendly Battle

Both Johnson and Bradley, despite the competition, are more than willing to prop one another up. Each player cheers for the other while on the sideline, as the ultimate goal remains to help out the team as much as possible.

"Scott is great," said Bradley. "He's so smart with what he does out there and he's consistent. He teaches me a lot by just watching him and he's always helpful in pointing out things I can do better."

So why would Johnson even want to help out the teammate that is trying to take his starting spot at boundary corner?

"It's not about that," said Johnson. "We don't really consider it a battle, but just an opportunity both of us have to make the team better. That's what we want and if we can work to both help the team in whatever role the coaches assign us, then that's what we both want."

"I want to beat him out and he wants to beat me out," said Bradley. "But it doesn't matter; it doesn't make me root for Scott to mess up. I want him to play as well as he possibly can because you never know what is going to happen in the season. This team needs both of us playing as well as we possibly can to be the best we can be. So when Scott is out there, I want him to knock down every pass for sure."

Varying Roles

While defensive coordinator Jaime Hill has not rotated his cornerbacks much at all since arriving at BYU, this year could see Johnson and Bradley both being played at times during a game, along with Brandon Howard and G Pittman both seeing time on the other side at field cornerback.

A lot of this is due to having good depth at the position. While Coach Hill has had to make do with a limited stock of cornerbacks, this year may allow for more flexibility with how he plays each cornerback position.

"I'm not sure," said Mendenhall when asked about a possible cornerback rotation. "It depends on how we see these battles develop over the next few weeks, and Coach Hill has a great feel for who can play and when and how much, so I'll leave that up to him."

Practice Notes

-During the first set of reps during 11-on-11 drills, Max Hall went 3-for-5 for 16 yards. Hall hit Michael Reed for passes of 3 and 10 yards, while his other completion went to Andrew George. Scott Johnson was responsible for Hall's two incompletions, as he knocked down both of those passes.

-The second set saw Brendan Gaskins go 3-of-6 for 16 yards with passes completed to Isaac Taylor, Landon Jaussi and Kelly Bills. Brandon Bradley knocked down a pass, while both Taylor and J.J. DiLuigi had runs of more than 10 yards during the set.

-The third set saw Hall go 5-of-7 for 44 yards with passes completed to Luke Ashworth, Fui Vakapuna, Michael Reed, DiLuigi and Wayne Latu. DiLuigi had his second run of more than 10 yards during the set, while Vic So'oto made the standout defensive play when he stuffed a run for no yardage.

-Kurt McEuen then went 2-of-5 during his set, completing passes to Kaneakua Friel and Bryan Kariya. Russell Tialavea ended McEuen's set by jumping him in the backfield for a whistled sack.

-Hall then went 3-of-6 on his final set with passes completed to Dennis Pitta and Latu before hitting Harvey Unga for a score from 5 yards out. That score was set up by what was likely the best run day, a 13-yard run by Unga.

-Coach Mendenhall said that during a team meeting he addressed the comments made by true freshman O'Neill Chambers to an ESPN reporter, and that he considers the issue resolved.

-Thursday's practice was open to the public but wasn't as well attended as open practices in the past due in large part to the practice not being held during Education Week like in past years.


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