Irish Expect Some Surprises From BYU Defense

The Irish closed day two in their preparation for BYU on Wednesday. Irish Eyes spoke with the offensive line coaches about the challenges the Cougar defense will give the offensive line on Saturday. We also spoke to Quentin Burrell about the BYU passing game. The Cougars should have an advantage with so much time spent focusing on the Irish.

Offensive centers and guards coach, John McDonell, said the Cougar defense will present problems for the offensive line. "They're a real good defense," he said. "They're very big and strong, and their defensive philosophy presents problems."

"It an unorthodox type of defense, lots of different looks, lot of different problems for us. It appears they sell the house. They do blitz quite a bit, but it's not Washington State where they bring seven or eight guys all the time. They don't bring much more than six, but they definitely try to confuse you with what they do."

Not only will the Cougars blitz on passing downs, they blitz on running downs as well. "Both, I think that is a misnomer," said McDonell when asked if they run-blitz a lot. "I think most people think that people always blitz in pass situations, it's not that way at all. They try to blitz to stop the run. For example, have a linebacker take on two blockers to free up another backer to make a tackle."

The Cougars will have 16 days to prepare for the Irish and McDonell says he expects to see some new things from the BYU defense. "I think we have to be prepared because I'm sure they're not standing pat with what they do on defense. They will have studied us extensively and will have something that they feel they can take advantage of."

Offensive tackles coach, Mike Denbrock, agrees that the BYU defense will have something special planned for the Irish offensive line. "I think they're going to do a number of things to disrupt our blocking schemes and get us off-balance," said Denbrock. "Anytime you have a young offensive line, one of the things that defenses try to rely on is a little bit of deception and trying to get our guys guessing. We need to give our guys the type of scheme where they can turn themselves loose and be aggressive."

The Cougars play a different defense than the Irish have faced this year. We asked Denbrock why they've been so good against the run, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. "They've got some very good physical football players up front. Not only their down three guys, but the three linebackers that they play with do a really good job of getting to the football. They play hard, they play physical and I think some of their success comes from the scheme that they play. It's not something you see every day. It's got some things that are unique and different about it that you've got to be on top of. We're trying to give our guys a cram course in the next two or three days and make sure they're ready to go."

"They've defended the run very well in a lot of situations," Denbrock continued. "I suspect we'll see two or three new things that we haven't seen before as you usually do when you play a team coming out of a bye week."

Free safety Quentin Burrell said BYU likes the throw the ball in front of the defense, but they can beat you deep. "With them throwing a lot of things in front of us, you still have got to be disciplined because they can still beat you deep—that is something you have to be conscious of. When they do throw it in front of you, you have to get to the ball quickly and make sure you make the tackle."

The Cougars have a pretty good tight end in Daniel Coats. Coats has 30 receptions on the year and has scored four touchdowns for the Cougars. Burrell says Coats is someone to be concerned with. "We've faced some pretty good tight ends before. It's a challenge because he's a pretty good athlete, but we just have to have to go about it like any other tight end we've faced."

The Cougars have given up 31 sacks on the season. We asked Burrell if he felt the Cougars were more of a finesse team than a power team. "They are probably a little bit of a finesse team. Regardless, they're still a good team. Hopefully our front line can add some more to those 31 sacks because our front line is pretty good, that will help us out a whole lot."

Having the extra time to prepare has been a concern for coach Tyrone Willingham. Willingham was asked which group of players benefit most from the extra time. "I would say in most cases, the linemen probably benefit the most, unless you've got those really grueling practices, because if you do, then there's really no change for them ever," said Willingham. "But if you do modify things and try to slow things down a little bit, then they're the group that benefits because when you slow it down for receivers what have you done, it's kind of the same practice, but when you slow it down for an offensive lineman, you've taken away some of the grind for him and he benefits."

Willingham was asked how important it was to have the home team advantage. "So much of that rests on our shoulders. We, as players and coaches, have to give fans what I call hope and belief and confidence. When we come in and play well, then they come in with great expectations. These expectations are manifest in the way they cheer and support the football team. So when you've got them excited, jacked up, giving their all for the team, now it becomes that place that the sound is deafening for the opponent and there is just great energy for the home team."

The Irish secondary should be challenged again this week according to Willingham. "We've got to be consistent up front, in terms of getting pressure and applying pressure to the quarterback; we've got to be consistent in our coverages; we've got to be consistent in identifying the right people, the formations so you can get lined up. Because if you don't get that started, then you're back on your heels. We've got to have that applied everywhere."


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