Situational Practice Yields Defensive Results

Position mastery and executing at a higher level are a constant focus by BYU's coaches. Raising the bar and the quest for perfection are just a few themes that reflect that emphasis, but what about the other side of the program that involves coaching and program development? On Tuesday we found out.

Coach Mendenhall and his staff are not simply standing still doing the same old things but expecting different results. No, they want better performance results and that ideology is reflected in the program's constant evolutionary process. The Cougar coaching staff has dissected performances from past seasons, found some deficiencies, and has incorporated offensive and defensive situational circumstances into their practices in order to improve as a team.

"Just as our program matures and we strive to maintain consistency as one of the top programs in the country, the standard will continue to go up and not down," Coach Mendenhall said. "You're going to have to be great in those situations in order to continue having success."

During their team meetings the coaches will outline a situation based on past games. It's something that takes a lot of work by the coaching staff but so far has yielded results.

"Last week we've done specific situational things," said defensive lineman Matt Putnam. "The coaches will show us in our team meetings the situation. They'll show us the situation where we didn't do very well, or what we did do well over the past few years. So we know what it is during the day so we can focus on it and then we come out here and work on it in a practice setting."

Tuesday's situational drill pitted the offense and defense against each other in a late-game situation.

"Today's situation was the other team's offense has the ball and we're losing with three minutes on the clock," Putnam said. "So they're trying to stall by running the ball every play to run down the clock. It's basically up to the defense to get the ball back. It's up to us to try and get the ball back as soon as possible."

So how did the Cougar defense perform during the situational practice?

"In the first series we had the offense at a third down but they got the conversion with Max [Hall] throwing over the top to Dennis [Pitta]," said Putnam. "Then we held them to another third down but the clock ran out so they won that situation. We held them for the next three, so the defense won those."

So out of the four series the defense held three times, which isn't too shabby. The defense played very well and was oftentimes in the offensive backfield making the tackle. BYU fans will be happy to know that the execution by the linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks was well represented during the situational exercise.

"I think we did really well today," said a fired up Bernard Afutiti. "The defense was given a situation and came out and played unbelievable. I think the entire defense played great today. I think for the defense to be given a situation and told to stop it this early in spring is a great sign."

"I think we did really well given the situation that we only had a short amount of time to get the ball back and we did that three out of the four times," said Putnam. "We did really well and there was only that one time where they got that first down and the clock ran out, but other than that one series it was nothing but three-and-outs."

These situational exercises not only bring greater focus to specific areas, but they also create an atmosphere of competition that makes practice that much more fun for the players.

"It's a lot more fun because it creates a practice situation where we all know what's at stake," said defensive end Brett Denney. "We're trying to accomplish something and the other guys are trying to accomplish something that the coaches have set up. It's a lot of fun and I think everyone likes it."

"The intent, if you have the right kind of players and coaches, will create the right kind of competition," Coach Mendenhall said. "The intent is learning, and we think we are a competitive team and a team that likes to play the game, and so as long at that remains intact then we can get the learning in addition to that. I think we've been able to accomplish that so far."

It will be interesting to see what the next situational exercise the coaches develop is, In the meantime, Brett Denney pipes in on Tuesday's practice in the audio below.

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