"This is a great time of the year and it's good to look around and see all the new guys here," said safety Andrew Rich. "Obviously we miss some of the old guys that left who were great leaders for us, and we'll continue following the examples they left. But it's good to see these three junior college cornerbacks that are here, and all of them are talented.
"Then you have Robbie [Buckner] back from his mission and Garett [Nicholson] here improving every day. We also have Brandon Bradley back and he's looking really good at the boundary cornerback position, so we have a group of really good-looking guys back there in the secondary."
When asked what has been the most impressive aspect of the defensive secondary, Rich stepped back, took his time and mulled through the many options he could give. And after thinking it through, his answer was quite surprising and yet exciting.
"You know, it's so hard to say because there are so many changes this year," said Rich. "I would have to say the more impressive thing I've seen in our defensive backfield are our two younger safeties Craig Bills and Jray Galea'i, who've both stepped in and hit the ground running. That is just impressive to see. They are great, great athletes and are going to be great players for this program one day soon."
Surprisingly, one thing that has been absent so far from fall camp has been a vocally instructional defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. One could interpret this in many ways. This new disposition could reflect the level of confidence he has in the unit, or the confidence he has in the level of talent and degree of progress the unit has attained. Rich believes the answer is all of the above.
"We've got guys flying around back there making plays," said Rich. "Once you get guys back there in the secondary doing that, the confidence level just increases on down through the defense, but as a safety or a cornerback you have to play with confidence in order to be good. So when a safety or cornerback starts making play after play, that confidence not only increases for that player but it filters down throughout the defense. I also think the coaches have more confidence in us too that we can play well and that we can definitely accomplish our goals. This is an exciting time for us."
Rich, who is entering his second year at BYU and first as a starter, is one reason why the secondary seems to be well above the curve. Not only is the physical 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound safety a natural born leader with cornerback experience, but he is also joined by fellow safety Scott Johnson, who possesses similar traits.
"It's good to look over and see Scott Johnson next to me because it's like having an extra coach out there," said a humble Rich. "He just knows this defense so well and he's a great mentor and friend. He's the anchor of the defense because he knows it so well and is doing a great job leading the team."
Johnson had a very good practice during Monday's seven-on-seven drills and scrimmages. In fact, the safety intercepted a pass and ran it back to the end zone during skeli drills. Total Blue Sports caught up with Johnson to get his thoughts on the Cougar secondary and Monday's defensive performance.