It wasn't long ago that TBS was breaking news on the commitments of both Lee Aguirre and Corby Eason. After spending last fall within the program, both players will be moving on before we even know it, as neither of them used a redshirt year last season. Both played in spots last season, but would certainly like to see their roles expand this coming season.
Given the unusual quality of depth coaches are currently enjoying at both cornerback positions, earning playing time as a quality junior college cornerback isn't as easy at BYU these days. Most years would see players with the talent of Aguirre and Eason thrust to the forefront of the depth chart at cornerback, but with both Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley returning, that certainly has not been the case.
Throw in the play and potential of sophomore cornerback Robbie Buckner, who has come out very strong this spring, and the situation becomes even more clouded with five capable cornerbacks competing for two spots.
"It's tough because you know that you can play, but you know that all the other guys can play too," said Eason. "For me, I just want to get on the field. I'll do anything the coaches ask, I mean anything, and I don't care where they play me, I just want to play. I want to play bad, real bad."
In an attempt to aid his chances to play, Eason has been moved over to boundary cornerback. He's been more than happy to make that move, as he feels that knowing the boundary position as well as the field corner position only helps his chances to achieve his main goal of playing.
"I already know the field position, so I can just switch over there when they need me, but this spring it's about learning the boundary spot.," he said. "You have to get a different feel and a different mindset to play at boundary, that's for sure."
With every day of practicing at the position, Eason has become more and more comfortable with it. While the field corner position is left on an island without much coverage help from the free safety and linebackers, that is not the case with playing boundary corner where there is more help with coverages.
Despite the added help, there are nevertheless a lot of adjustments to be made.
"You can be more aggressive with your coverages at boundary because you get more help and you need to be more aggressive because they expect you to," he explained. "You have to make more coverage calls and it's a lot more physical playing there and that might be the biggest adjustment, but I'm loving it. My goal is to prove to coaches that I can play both positions."
In Aguirre's case, he's firmly entrenched as the second-team boundary cornerback behind Bradley, but given his druthers, he'd like to see an expanded role. That could come via some possible position changes. It's no secret that BYU is looking for a capable free safety to fill the void left by Scott Johnson last year, and Aguirre believes he may be that guy.
"I'm concentrating hard at learning all the positions because coaches tell us that we could be called at any time to fill any of the defensive back positions," said Aguirre. "You just have to be ready. It's all up to the coaches and all we can do is to make sure we're as ready as possible to fill in wherever they need us."
Given that this will be his final year barring a redshirt, Aguirre is more than willing to undergo any position change that will help him see more playing time.
"I'll do anything they want and play anywhere they want me to, I just want to get on the field," he said.
Aguirre may have some competition from Eason when it comes to moving to free safety, as Eason is as willing as he is to undergo a position change should it earn him more playing time. Both players are also aware that a consistent nickel package may be employed this season, as the team's depth at defensive back would indicate a good ability to play more nickel.
Last season saw the coaches scrap the nickel formation that was so successful in 2008 due to the relative inexperience with Eason and Aguirre just joining the team in August and with Robbie Buckner so soon removed from his mission service. Now with each of those players being that much more experienced in the system, changes could be coming forth.
"We're strong, real strong this year in our secondary, so we can do a lot of things," said Eason. "If we do any nickel, then I'll play nickelback, no question. It's something we all want is to be on the field as much as possible, but more than that, we just want to help the team. We believe that the secondary is the strength of the defense this year, so we feel that having more of us playing out there can only help us. It sort of hurt us not having a nickel package last year against passing teams, but I think that could change this year for sure."
Aguirre has been hitting the weights very hard this offseason and has come away with some pretty lofty marks at both the squat and the clean.
"I set records for defensive backs with both my squat and my clean," informed Aguirre. "For squat it was 525 and for clean it was 340."
He's also worked very hard at improving his other abilities in becoming a more effective defensive back.
"I really worked hard this winter and it's starting to pay off," he said. "I still have a lot of things to work on, but I feel good out there and better than I did last year. "I really have worked on getting quicker and learning the game more and will continue learning that this spring. I don't think I learned as much as I could have last year, so I'm trying to make up for that."
Eason's goals and what he's worked on are similar to what Aguirre has, and although he can't touch Aguirre's weightlifting marks, he too set a high mark for defensive backs during his workouts.
"I set a mark of a 38-and-half-inch vertical, which was the best of all the defensive backs," he informed. " It will definitely help me on the field of play."
More important, however, has been their social adjustment. Both players have acclimated to BYU's unique culture well and believe that being part of BYU's program has helped them off the field as much as it's helped them on it.
"It's easy to live your life right out here being surrounded by great people," explained Eason. "Being out here, the sky is the limit, that's for sure. I have a great chance to be successful and to do better for myself and for my family and that's what it's all about."