Spring Practice Report: Day Thirteen

Wednesday's practice saw the defense change up its coverages and formation a bit, which led to a lot of initial success in confusing the offense. With at least five able bodies at the cornerback position and some question marks at safety, Wednesday's coverage shakeup appeared to better address the disparity at each position group.

"That was our pressure coverage we were working on today to put our best cover players on the field," explained head coach Bronco Mendenhall about the new formation used during 11-on-11 drills. "It wasn't necessarily playing new safeties there, but it was a substitution to go along with the pressure."

Wednesday's practice saw cornerbacks Robbie Buckner and Corby Eason playing on the outside while Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley played the inside coverages. It was something new, along with something the defensive players noticeably enjoyed doing.

"Oh man, when they told us what we were doing today and actually doing it, that was the most fun I've had at practice for a long time," commented Bradley. "It's something coaches have been figuring out and working on for some time, but it was the first we heard of it today, so yeah, we were having a ton of fun out there."

The new package held the offense out of the end zone. Jake Heaps had the best success, going 7-of-11 for 71 yards and driving the offense down to the 5-yard line for a successful field goal attempt. Riley Nelson meanwhile completed just one of his three passes for no yards, while James Lark completed two of his four passes for 12 yards.

Offensive highlights included Joshua Quezada catching a pass in the flat and taking it 20 yards upfield with some impressive running, Spencer Hafoka making a very nice diving catch fro 8 yards and Marcus Mathews hauling in a Jake Heaps pass for 20 yards on a third-and-long.

The defense was all over the field accounting for a lot of sacks, batted-down passes and other things to wreak some havoc on an offense that has perhaps felt a bit too comfortable at times. Bradley himself knocked down a pass that would have gone for a long completion to Devin Mahina across the middle.

"It was the first day we did it and it worked, so hopefully we do more of it," said Bradley. "We don't get to man-up with each coverage a lot in this defense while blitzing again and again, so it was different and it was a lot of fun and it was fun mostly because it was working so well."

The purpose of the so-called "pressure package" is to simply match up man-on-man with whatever formation the offense throws at them. While the two outside cornerbacks will obviously lock down on the wide receivers, it makes sense to have the two most experienced corners in Bradley and Logan to change up their matchups due to what an offense presents.

"Sometimes I'd play like a safety when there's no slot receiver lining up, then I just play middle coverage," explained Bradley. "It all depends on what the offense gives us, so I play according to who I'm matched up with. It's real early and we obviously made a lot of mistakes, but we love it and we're going to work very hard on this to make sure we use it, just like everything else we do."

For some time, TBS message board has been populated with thoughts and suggestions surrounding a better use of all the quality the team currently has at corner to offset the inexperience at safety. Players have been anxiously waiting as well, as they're all very confident in their coverage abilities.

"We have great talent and ability at corner and I feel like the more of us that we get out there, that great things are going to happen for this defense," said Bradley. "We obviously all love to make plays and we all feel we're capable of making plays, so having more of us out there, we like that and hopefully Coach Hill likes it too. It‘s all about throwing the offense and their timing off, changing the quarterback's launch point, which you could see worked out there today as there were several passes that were overthrown."

The purpose of the pressure package is exactly what the title would indicate: putting more pressure on the quarterback and offense than they're used to, given BYU's conservative zone-coverage system. In order to play the package, it's incumbent on every defensive back to learn the other positions to execute it effectively, although it's a relatively simple package in its nature.

"Coach Hill does a great job in making sure that we know every position and what every player is doing and what they're supposed to do, so it's on us to make sure we know this stuff to better succeed in doing these new packages that will help this defense," said Bradley. "If we don't know what each position does, then we simply couldn't put in packages like we did today. We have to play off each other no matter what coverages or packages we're doing."

Coming up, it will be Bradley's intent to pressure coaches in using the new pressure package as much as possible.

"Oh, I will, I will be big-time, I can guarantee you that," said Bradley. "We want to be as successful as we possibly can and today, wow, that worked very well and it was just the first day. I know the offense will come back well after they've seen it, but at the same time, we'll be that much better having worked on it. The more we can do with different coverages, then the better we'll be as a defense. It's all on us though. Coaches know what coverages are best, but we have to show them that we can do it."

Practice Notes

-The team again struggled with snapping the football, which is becoming a growing concern. "It just shows you how important that [center] position is," said Mendenhall bluntly. "When they're not able to snap the ball, the offense can't do much."

-Former Cougar quarterback John Beck attended practice along with Andrew George and recruits Austin Heder and Travis Still. D.J. Doman and Dallin McEwen, who both plan on walking on this fall, were also in attendance.

-Wide receiver Ross Apo saw his first action in practice, as he's been cleared to join the team as he recovers from his shoulder injury.

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