Buckner, Cougar Defense Jump Out Early

On Saturday BYU kicked off its opening day of fall camp, and although the team hasn't quite broken in the new pigskins, the Cougar defense came ready to perform. The offense will have to wait until Monday for a practice rematch in order to settle the score.

After the normal routine of running wind sprints, pursuit drills and skellies, the team went to work in the usual scrimmage setting. There were some surprises on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. Newcomers Brian Logan, Corby Eason and Lee Aquirre were welcome additions to the defensive backfield. All three made plays and performed very well for their first day of spring camp. Eason's play was good enough to catch the eyes of many in attendance.

But one player that stole the defensive show on Saturday is someone BYU fans are very familiar with. Well, at least they were two years ago, but it's only a matter of time before the fanbase becomes reacquainted with defensive back Robbie Buckner.

"I don't know if my performance today had anything to do with a personal secret," said Buckner jokingly. "I think it has more to do with Coach Omer and what he did for us over the summer. I think he might be my secret. I've gained 15 pounds of muscle since I've been home now."

Buckner has been home now for six months after serving a mission to Mozambique, Africa. What makes his high level of performance even more amazing is some of those six months were spent recovering from an illness.

"Just as I was leaving my mission, I got a worm or something and got really sick," said Buckner. "Before that I was around 185 pounds, but when I got the worm I lost 15-to-20 pounds. I'm good now though."

Buckner's first day of fall practice performance, after being away from football for a few years and then having battled an ailment, made it seem like he never left the field of play. The 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound freshman from Ashdown, Arkansas was one of the more pleasant surprises during Saturday's practice. His speed was good, his quickness and change of direction seemed fairly sharp, and not one wide receiver caught a pass while being defended by him. His competitive spirit was visible on the field and many of his teammates picked up on his energy following great coverage or a batted-down pass.

"I'm just starting to be able to run full speed again," Buckner said. "I really don't know how I did it out there. I feel really good out here now and it has been a while since I really sprinted out on the field, but I felt really good out there. One thing I'm just trying to focus on is learning the system because during the summer I was lifting but couldn't really run. I just tried to watch as much film as I could and come out here and watch the guys run while I was getting better."

Buckner got a good taste of how far he is over his illness and how good his speed, endurance and cardio are earlier on Saturday. As the sun was moving west over the Wasatch Mountains, the team was collectively put to the test by sprinting up Y Mountain.

"This morning sprinting up towards the Y, I got fifth place," said Buckner. "The whole team ran up to the Y this morning. McKay [Jacobson] got first and second was Matt Marshall. After Matt came Stephen Covey, then Brenden Gaskins, and then me. I know [Gaskins is] a quarterback but he had a good start on me, but what can I say? He beat me."

The key for a younger player to develop more rapidly within the Cougar system always seems to be getting the help of someone on the team. In the case of Buckner, safety Scott Johnson took him under his wing and helped Buckner learn the defense more rapidly during the offseason.

"You know, Scott Johnson really helped me out a lot," credits Buckner. "Scott knows the defense like the back of his hand, so he's somebody that really helped me out a lot. When I first got back, we started lifting together and became really good friends after that. We watched film together and he would really help through a lot of it. One thing that I always try to do is work hard. If there is something that I'm lacking talent-wise, I just try to make up for it with hard work. I'm still a little rusty with technique and can still use a little more conditioning, but those are things I'm going to work hard on and then I think I'll be good."

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