Thursday, August 27, 2009

One big question on D

Some of you already know this, but my head is swimming in the clouds above LaVell Edwards Stadium these days. I am more confident about BYU football than ever.

I’ve already made my prediction for the season: 11-1, with our only loss coming at the hands of a well-tested Oklahoma team.

Our defense is viewed as a weakness by many cougar fans, but I am optimistic. I think we have more depth, more experience and more athleticism than we had last year. The addition of some talented JC transfers and moving Scott Johnson to the safety position with Andrew Rich will improve our defensive backfield drastically.

Our line is going to be one of the best units on the team. Our nose tackles are running lean and strong, and our ends are extremely talented and running two-deep.

Only one lingering doubt still hovers above my head, and it involves the four guys between the defensive line and the defensive backs.

The linebackers.

In BYU’s 3-4 defense, we depend on a solid group of linebackers to make plays. They fill the gaps on run plays, they cover receivers and they rush the QB more than any other defensive scheme. Therefore the two outside linebackers need to be speedy and athletic, and the middle backers need to be tough, vocal and physical.

Picture Cameron Jensen in the middle and Bryan Kehl on the outside. Now you know what I’m talking about.

My concern about the linebackers is two-fold:

A. Can Matt Bauman step into the role so admirably played by Cameron Jensen and Kelly Poppinga and be our vocal, tough guy in the middle? Can he be the defensive general?

B. Do our outside linebackers have the speed and athleticism to both cover receivers and put heat on the quarterbacks? Bryan Kehl and David Nixon were so good—can Jordan Pendleton and Coleby Clawson step in and handle this huge responsibility?

I worry about these two issues. These key elements surrounding our linebackers will be the difference between a dominating, 2006-type year, and a weekly offensive shootout like we saw last year.

Unfortunately, fall camp has done very little to address my concerns. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

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