Fall Practice Preview: Defensive Backs

While three of the four starting defensive back positions are locked down heading into the fall practice session, the battle for the starting field corner spot is completely wide open. Little experience returns to fill the position, which led to the coaches bringing in three junior college transfers. These three will battle with others to earn a spot as the starting field cornerback this month.

The Cougars will have good experience returning this fall at the boundary cornerback spot and at both safety positions. While all three didn't start at their respective positions last season, all three are very familiar with their responsibilities out on the field.

Scott Johnson (5-11, 188 Sr.) leads the way from his new strong safety position, which requires an impeccable knowledge of the defensive system and coverages. Johnson is more than equal to that task, as he's readily defined as being the "brains of the defense" by teammates such as Andrew Rich.

Johnson provided solid play from the boundary corner position last season and was the natural choice to switch over to free safety this year due primarily to his superior knowledge of the coverages. He performed very well in the spring, and that should only work to continue this coming fall practice session.

Joining Johnson in the middle of the Cougar secondary will be Andrew Rich (6-3, 215 Jr.), the assumed starter at strong safety. Rich provided exciting and promising play when called upon last season and should do very well this season while patrolling the middle of the field for Jaime Hill's defense.

Rich is coming off of a very good spring and was called upon by head coach Bronco Mendenhall to be one of the two players to represent BYU at the conference media days function in Las Vegas. This is as good of an indication as any of how highly coaches regard Rich's play and prospects for this coming season.

Primary Backups

Shiloah Te'o (5-10, 206 So.) is poised to be the primary backup at either safety position, although he'll most likely log his time at the strong safety position. Te'o came in as a true freshman with a lot of promise, showing great instincts relative to his experience. He should be making even more progress this coming fall practice session as he looks to break the two-deep roster.

Travis Uale (6-2, 195 So.) has shown great potential since walking on to the team following his church mission. Uale has very good size and an imposing presence, which should make him a viable candidate to break the two-deep roster for this coming season.

Formidable Freshman Options

Two of the more intriguing incoming freshmen options this fall will include Craig Bills (6-2, 202) and Jray Galea'i (6-0, 185). Both players headlined the 2009 defensive recruiting class, and with that being the case, both of them could readily be looked upon to contribute immediately.

Those that read Total Blue Sports' articles, message board and chat room are well aware of how high I am on Bills' prospects. Bills is the best high school safety I've ever seen in the state of Utah, and it's not really even close.

Bills has worked very hard this offseason to prep himself for his debut season as a Cougar. Thus, he'd be one I'd expect to make some kind of impact this fall practice session. Although the strong safety position is difficult for any incoming freshman to learn, I think most fans should look for him to make his mark this month.

Galea'i meanwhile is probably slated to compete at free safety or even at cornerback. He has great instincts and will certainly be worth watching as he aims to show his worth during practice sessions.

Others that will compete at the safety position include such players as Paul Olsen (5-11, 195 Fr.)...

...Landon Fowler (5-11, 184 Fr.), Carter Mees (5-11, 192 Fr.) and Blake Morgan (5-11, 193 So.).

Bradley at Boundary

Brandon Bradley (6-0, 200 Jr.) has been hyped since first arriving at BYU and looks poised to finally play up to that hype this coming season. Bradley has battled through injuries, but now looks to be in prime position to provide very good play from his boundary position.

Bradley is simply capable of things that few typical BYU defensive backs are. He brings a superior combination of size and speed that should provide ready dividends to the Cougar secondary and defense as a whole this coming season.

This past spring Bradley was as consistent as anyone while playing both the boundary and field corner spots alternatively. That progress should only go on this coming fall.

Backing up Bradley will likely be Steven Thomas (5-11, 176 So.), who switched over from safety last season. Thomas has logged some playing time and received some valuable experience at boundary this past spring.

Landon Jaussi (6-5, 210 Jr.) is certainly an intriguing option given his size. He switched over from wide receiver recently and showed some good play this past spring. Jaussi's obvious advantage is his size, which he'll use to his advantage this coming fall to try and earn himself a spot on the two-deep roster.

A Field of Options

One of the main stories this coming fall practice session will be who earns the starting field cornerback spot following the departure of Brandon Howard, who started throughout last season. Each player that will be vying for the starting spot has yet to participate in even one play at the Division I level.

To help remedy this problem, the coaching staff acquired the services of three junior college transfers this offseason. The coaches hope these players will go a long way in providing good and consistent play to the position.

Lee Aguirre (5-9, 200 Jr.) will report to camp after a very good stop at Fullerton College, which prepped him well for Division I football. Aguirre is widely considered to be the most viable option to win the starting field cornerback spot.

Brian Logan (5-9, 195 Jr.) from Foothill College has had the added advantage of being at BYU since the spring. Although he's been slowed down by minor injuries that have limited his workouts, Logan should be one of the top candidates to take the starting role.

Corby Eason (5-9, 180 So.) was a late pickup, but comes in with a very impressive resume. He has a redshirt option available to him and has one more year of eligibility than the other junior college transfers. However, Eason likely won't settle for a redshirt option, as he aims to take the starting role this coming season.

Robbie Buckner (5-10, 165 Fr.) has been home from his mission since late winter, barely missing the opportunity to participate in spring practices. Regardless, Buckner showed a lot of promise as a true freshman prior to his mission and could very well prove to be the best option at the wide open starting spot.

Rounding out the options is Garett Nicholson (5-9, 181 Fr.). Nicholson has the enormous advantage of having a full spring practice session with the first-team defense. He had his share of moments during spring, indicating that he'll continue to battle hard for the starting spot this month.


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