BYU fall football camp

BYU football: Cougar defense improved by going back to the basics

2014-08-17T06:00:00Z BYU football: Cougar defense improved by going back to the basicsJared Lloyd Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 17, 2014 6:00 am  • 

In six days, the BYU football team saw its defense go from losing to the offense in the first scrimmage to beating its offensive counterparts on Friday night in the team's second fall scrimmage, according to Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

"If you base it off of points scored, I would say (the defense won)," he said Friday evening. "That's usually how I measure it. There were glimpses of the explosiveness of our offense, ultimately the defense made enough stops to keep points off the board. If I had to say right now, I'd say that's right."

So what made the difference?

According to BYU senior linebacker Michael Alisa, it was due to the defense getting back to basics.

He said that showed up when the players and coaches got to work on the game film from the first scrimmage.

"On Saturday (in the first scrimmage) we had a ton of blown assignments," Alisa said. "You go to every position room and everyone was embarrassed to watch the film."

With that being the case, Alisa explained that Cougar defensive coordinator Nick Howell decided to go with a different approach.

"He came back on Monday and simplified the defense," Alisa said. "I think he was trying to throw too much too fast at us the first week because he expected us to all be the same defense we were last year. You can't do it. You have to focus on your base defense."

That renewed emphasis on getting the fundamentals down paid dividends when the BYU offense tried to move the ball, as the Cougars were able to focus on just taking care of individual responsibilities.

"We told the coaches to let us play today and it made a big difference," BYU junior defensive lineman Remington Peck said.

When all of the simple things are taken care of, that's when the defense can turn its attention to expanding the nuances.

"Once you have the basics down pat, then you can start adding blitzes and twists and cool different coverages," Alisa said.

The defense was happy with the improvements, but certainly doesn't believe the job is done.

"I feel like we did most things well, but we can definitely improve on the containment," Peck said. "Taysom (Hill) is hard to contain and everyone knows that, but we can do a better job with gap integrity and make sure whoever has contain keeps their job."

The defensive performance drew compliments from Mendenhall and Hill, but did at least one of the defenders have an "unfair advantage"?

That's what one of the offensive players on the sideline implied after Alisa had come bursting through the line to "sack" Hill by tagging him down.

"That was the first time I'd heard that," Alisa said. "I kind of chuckled to myself. As I got in my stance, I heard, 'Michael, you know all the plays.' I just kind of laughed because I really don't."

Of course, by this point in camp, it's likely that both the offense and the defense are pretty familiar with what the opposing side wants to do.

That makes it difficult to know precisely how things will play out when the Cougars take the field against an opponent. That will become more clear when BYU plays at UConn on Aug. 29.

Daily Herald sports editor ​Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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