Defensive Identity

The key to establishing an identity as a defense is learning more about what it can do collectively as a unit. One positive aspect that has come out of spring camp is that the defense feels it has found and established that identity.

"I think the defense has definitely found our identity and that's been the biggest key this spring," said defensive end Jan Jorgensen. "We found an identity and guys are playing with more intensity, and with that intensity guys are flying around out there."

The 3-4-4 defense is primarily based on emphasizing the play from the linebacker position. With that being the case, the linebacker position tends to hold greater responsibility where leadership is concerned. The graduation of linebackers Kelly Poppinga and Bryan Kehl left David Nixon out on the island last year. This year the newer guys, along with the more seasoned players, have stepped up to fill the role the position naturally requires.

"We had a lot of new guys last year, especially with the linebackers," Jorgensen said. "Those new guys that got a lot of playing time last year are back this year and they have a lot of confidence, so they know what they're doing on top of having that confidence, and it's a great feeling out there."

On the offensive side of the ball, the four linemen that replaced Dallas Reynolds, Ray Feinga, Travis Bright and David Oswald have been the surprise. Center R.J. Willing and guards Terrence Brown and Jason Speredon have performed exceptional, along with right tackle Nick Alletto prior to his injury, but what about on the defensive side of the ball? What crucial position has stepped up to perform at a higher level to help establish an identity?

"I would have to say our outside linebackers have come along really well," said Jorgensen. "I also think our safeties have come along really well. I've always known that our safeties would be great with Scott Johnson and Andrew Rich and the other guys. A lot of people don't know much about those two, but I knew they were going to have really good play. So the safety play might come as a surprise to some people, but to me I've always known.

"I think the biggest surprise has come from our outside linebacker play with Coleby [Clawson] and Jordan Pendleton. They've really come along and I think that was a huge question mark for us coming into spring. I also think the linebacker play as a whole was a place that had everybody wondering too, and so far this spring they've come a long ways and have done a great job. I just think the biggest surprise of this spring has been the play of our linebackers in the middle and on the outside."

As Jorgensen said, the play of the outside linebackers had been a question mark within the minds of many. With that being said, the position was an aspect of the defense that was heavily watched over spring and should receive a boost in the arm with the return of Vic So'oto. The amount of speed and aggressive nature had at the position helps to set the tone not only for the linebacking corps, but for the defensive line as well.

"This defense is built for linebackers," said Jorgensen. "The linebackers play a big role in our defense and if you don't have good linebackers this defense isn't going to be effective. It helps that the linebackers are able to take some of the pressure off of us on the outside. and if they can do that then it makes things better for the defensive linemen. I think our defensive line is going to be the best we've had here at BYU since I've been here. If it isn't, it should be. These are the same guys I've been playing with for four years, and so we've got a lot more experience now and so we should be the best we've ever been. Having great play from the linebackers will only help us be even better."

Coach Mendenhall was also very optimistic about the prospects of the team's defensive line.

"Yeah, it's going to be good," said Coach Mendenhall. "Hopefully with grades still coming in and baring any poor choices off the field we should be deep at the defensive line position and have a great chance to rotate players on and off the field. We'll be able to even put a fourth guy down if we need to at certain situations in terms of pressure, so at this point we're looking good at the position but things could change. But at this point I'm liking how we're looking and performing there."

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