No surprise here, I think the DB’s are going to be the defensive catalysts this year. With a year of solid experience under their belt’s they are poised for an eventful year -probably in more ways than one. With some inexperience up-front the BYU secondary are going to be relied on heavily to both participate in the run, yet have enough ability to perceive the pass and ensure their pass responsibilities are met. It is a difficult balancing act that will need to be perfected if BYU is going to have success defensively. I understand that the LB’s are talented and probably more athletic than previous units, but they haven’t been proven -especially in the middle. With BYU’s defense everything flows to the middle linebackers. If those two guys aren’t producing than the ball carriers will bounce or squirt through to the second level hopefully running into the Kat/strong safety or the Will. When the ball carrier does bounce it will be the job of the outside linebackers and corners to wrap up and make 1st down and TD saving tackles -again experience comes into play.
With the Mike controlling the down lineman it will up to Andrew Rich to control the linebackers and other secondary members. I have always been impressed with Rich’s play and understanding of the game. He is a solid force on a defense that is going to need him on every down. The best thing about Rich is he is big enough to be a presence in the box and yet agile enough to cover and run in space. Coach Hill will have a fun time moving him into different alignments and positions, giving offenses different looks, keeping quarterbacks off balance and guessing.
While experience may not be tangible like a 40 or a vertical leap. It is a variable that leads to tangible results. As a player develops and grows their understanding of positions, movements, and tendencies becomes more important than how fast they can run from point A to point B. Instead of relying on grit and rawness, they understand how to manipulate and deceive in order to shape how offenses react. These subtleties are what is going to make this years DB’s a more reliable group. Last year they had some very solid performances, yet still allowed to many explosive plays and passing TD’s. Explosive plays are the life blood of college offenses -specifically in the MWC. When a defense can limit or eliminate these explosive, high emotion plays, the game is reduced into a physical, field position advantage game. I understand these aren’t the games fans pay to see, but if our defense is limiting our opponents and making field position more important it causes opponents coaching staff to take more risks. This means running plays that aren’t practice much or relying on a quarterback/running back or WR. In short is can make offenses one dimensional and predictable, which gives our defense yet another advantage. An advantage that an experienced player can really capitalize on. (Of course, I hope you understand I am making the assumption that our offense is scoring!)
Another important question is how will the inexperience at other positions effect the DB’s? The first thing I think of is the pass rush. With Pendleton and Vic coming back and Putnam returning to his disruptive form, I would actually expect our pass rush to improve. If BYU can get more pressure from the ends and outside linebackers they will be able to force opponents into quick and possible inaccurate throws. It can also lead to more third and long scenarios, which helps the defenses overall effectiveness. Young talent can also mean bone head errors. This is where experience in the back end helps cover up mistakes and keeps the defense alive to play another down. I believe there will be some growing pains associated with the front seven, but with a strong core of DB’s returning they can provide the leadership and focus a young defense needs in order to be successful.