BYU Football: Biggest Questions Facing Bronco Mendenhall's 2014 Defense
Under Bronco Mendenhall, the BYU defense has consistently been the most hyped unit during the offseason. This year, although Robert Anae's offense has stolen the spotlight, the D could be great.
Mendenhall will lead one of his deepest secondaries at BYU, and as always, the linebacking corps is solid. With that being said, there are still several issues that need to be sorted before the season starts.
Here are the ways to resolve those issues.
Will the Defensive Line Be Deep Enough?
At first glance, this year's defensive line lacks any big names. The most familiar player is definitely Remington Peck. Aside from him, there are not many well-known linemen.
However, this is not to say there is no hope. Marques Johnson and JonRyheem Peoples will return at their respective positions on the line, along with returned missionaries Graham Rowley and Travis Tuiloma. Incoming freshman Jaterrius Gulley will also add depth at nose tackle.
In reality, the line isn't as bleak as it appears. There is plenty of raw talent. If they can continue to improve ahead of the fall, the line will be fine.
How Can the Loaded Secondary Be Showcased?
There is more depth in this year's secondary than BYU has seen in years. However, you can only play so many defensive backs at one time. Of course, moving from a 3-4 to a nickel defense—if only temporarily—would increase that number.
The Cougars fielded a nickel package several times last season, but instead of playing five "traditional" defensive backs, they moved Alani Fua from outside 'backer to nickelback.
Instead, they could play four linemen—including Bronson Kaufusi—and two inside linebackers. From there, Mendenhall has the freedom to toy with his secondary, fielding any variety of cornerbacks and safeties.
With a ridiculously deep secondary, BYU should do all it can to showcase that.
Who Will Be the Playmaking Linebacker?
BYU's 2014 defense will be without Kyle Van Noy and Uani Unga, a duo that combined for 213 tackles and 25 tackles for loss last season. Not only did they dominate statistically, but they were the playmakers on defense as well.
In Mendenhall's defensive scheme, the linebackers are essential. Who will replace KVN and Unga?
Alani Fua and Bronson Kaufusi both have the potential, being the probable starters on the outside. Manoa Pikula, Jherremya Leuta-Douyere and Zac Stout could also fill that role, but none have been in a spotlight that large before.
It will come down to who can step up in big situations. All have the potential, but it is too soon to make a definite prediction.