Scouting the Mountain West: BYU

After looking like a dominant force in 2001 the Cougars came back to earth last season. BYU occasionally offers good prospects to the NFL Draft and if things break right, 2004 will be true to that statement.

Offensively the senior talent is of the free agent variety, though the underclassmen hold promise. Quinn Christensen is a big-bodied lineman and fixture at guard. Christensen blocks with tremendous fundamentals and is strong at the point. Not overly effective in space, he could back up in the NFL at either guard spots in the right scheme. Center Scott Jackson is explosive on the pivot and works hard but lacks the dominant strength and looks to be a camp player at this point. Receiver Toby Christensen is smart, reliable (just like his dad was) and works to get open. Never dropping a pass, he lacks overall speed yet could make it as a fifth receiver at the next level. Junior running back Marcus Whalen has excellent size, nice speed and big time talent. Whalen is strong on the inside yet displays the ability to cut the corner. He will only get better in time and will be a first day draft pick in the future.

Defensively, cornerback Jenaro Gilford displayed outstanding cover skills and looked like a comer before injury put him on the sidelines last season. Gilford gave serious consideration to entering the 2002 draft and were he to follow through, a first day pick was in the offing. His abilities are solid, as is his size, and a top 75 choice is a real possibility next April. Like many of his predecessors at BYU, Brady Poppinga is an undersized yet explosive defensive end. Poppinga combines terrific athleticism, speed and tenacity rushing the edge or pursuing the running play. Rarely off his feet, Poppinga makes a lot of positive plays. The junior does not have great growth potential but may slide into the first day of the 2005 draft. The rest of BYU's defenders are late round/free agent choices. Paul Walkenhorst is a heady linebacker who lacks speed and explosion. He has a slight chance on the outside in a three-four. Corner Brandon Heaney is tough as nails and likes to mix it up. He will not win any footraces but could be an effective zone cover corner. On the other side Chad Barney has more quickness and explosion but plays very timid. He could fit into dime packages.

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