Matt Putnam, 6'6'', 271 pounds. Travis Tuiloma, 6'2'', 316. Eathyn Manumaleuna, 6'2'', 295.
Those are the names and sizes of the linemen that ran with the first-string defense on the first day of practice Monday.
For those of us not to familiar with the defensive line position, this is a very big defensive line. In 2009, none of BYU's starting defensive linemen weighed over 260.
Now they are averaging over 290 pounds.
Let's compare the sizes of the defensive lines that BYU will be going up against (note: for BYU's opponents, I will be using their depth charts for last year):
|Ole Miss||265, 240||340, 322|
|Texas||260, 260||295, 285|
|Utah||265, 250||305, 290|
|UCF||238, 253||306, 263|
|Oregon St.||257, 249||311, 276|
|TCU||255, 260||308, 310|
|Utah St.||250, 238||262, 282|
|San Jose St.||242, 235||290, 265|
|Idaho||248, 225||280, 280|
|New Mexico St.||234, 235||245, 288|
How many yards will the BYU defense give up per game?
As shown on the chart, BYU's starting DEs average about 45 pounds heavier than opposing DE. What will this mean for the Cougars defense? Two things:
1. It will be hard to run up the middle against the Cougars. Essentially, BYU will be playing two nose guards and an oversized DE.
Manumaleuna played a lot of end last year, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him eventually slide over to that position, especially if Funga makes a full recovery. We could see a two-deep of Manumaleuena (6'2'', 295) and Tuiloma (6'2'', 316) at one defensive end, Funga (6'2'', 307) and Fangupo (6'1'',310) at nose and Putnam (6'6'', 271) and Rowley (6'4'', 261) at the other end.
That is a big line that will be hard to move.
2. BYU is going to have to blitz to put serious pressure on opposing QBs.
Putnam played in all 13 games last year and started in nine of them. He had only two sacks. Manumaleuna played in 13 and started eight and finished with 2.5 sacks. In Funga's four starts last year before he was injured, he only recorded half a sack.
I realize that BYU does have some faster ends (Thomas Bryson and Mike Muehlmann) that might be able to apply more pressure, but both are smaller and will have catching up to do. Bryson is out of school this semester for personal reasons, but is expected back for fall. Muehlmann has just switched over from the TE and will need some time to learn the position.
Which position group will record the most sacks this year?
The good news for the Cougars is that they have some talented pass rushers among the non-linemen. Backup Corby Eason had 3.5 sacks from his corner position. Jordan Pendleton had two sacks in five games. Van Noy started two games and played in 11 as a reserve and he also had two sacks.
It is going to be hard to run the ball against the Cougars, especially between the tackles. Expect to see aggressive blitzing schemes to make up for the loss of pass rush resulting from the Cougars increased size upfront.
Fortunately, the Cougars have the athleticism on defense to make this work.