Former BYU offensive lineman and current ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich took some time at Cougar Media Day last week to break down the teams BYU will face during the 2019 season.
His comments on the USC game (which takes place in Provo on Sept. 14) certainly got the attention of the Cougar safeties and cornerbacks.
“The Trojans are coming in with a new style as their new offensive coordinator comes from the Air Raid tree,” Matich said. “USC has always had lots of skill guys who are fast. I think they will come in, go up-tempo and spread the field. The BYU secondary have their work cut out for them.”
So how did the Cougar players and coaches feel about having that public challenge tossed out?
“I like being the underdog,” BYU senior safety Dayan Ghanwoloku said. “That’s how I got five interceptions when I played corner. Quarterbacks would see a smaller corner and throw it up. I want that because it’s an opportunity to make a play. If they are going to throw it up to us, we’re going to make a play on it. I want that challenge. USC can throw it all day. As a defensive back, I want them passing more than running because then there are opportunities to make plays.”
Cougar cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford may have some youth on his unit but he wants his guys embracing the challenge in the same way.
“I love it,” Gilford said. “That’s our job. That’s what we look forward to, trying and slow teams down like that. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t but I love trying to game plan for it and be ready.”
The BYU players want to prove they are at the same level athletically.
Ghanwoloku got some attention at Media Day because it was stated that he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, although he said he wasn’t surprised by that time.
“I think I have ran it once before but I wasn’t used to running at the weight,” Ghanwoloku said. “My weight always goes up and down because I’ve played different positions. It depends on what weight I’m at. I’ve run like 4.51 but I knew I could run a 4.4.”
The Cougar senior explained that he wants to be around 195 pounds this year so he can be used at safety or cornerback, depending on the need the team has.
“I just want to be on the field, whether at safety or corner,” Ghanwoloku said. “Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’m going to go play. Whatever the position, I’m good for it.”
The BYU defensive backs see this year as one of opportunity because not only do they think they will be strong individuals but they believe they have strong bonds as well.
“Every single one of the players are so smart and so talented,” Cougar senior safety Austin Lee said. “They are physical. They are tough. Many of the guys are married now so it’s been good to get even closer with them. It’s so exciting because I learn a lot from them as a football player but they are great to be around off the field.”
Having depth and guys pushing each other to be better is just going to make the on-field performance better, according to Ghanwoloku.
“It’s nice knowing that the next man up is going to be playing at or above the current level,” Ghanwoloku said. “There is more competition and Coach Preston Hadley loves that. He teaches us competition and keeps all of us accountable and ready to go.”
So what does BYU need to do to take the performance to the next level in the secondary?
“I feel like we need to make more plays,” Ghanwoloku said. “We are getting there but we’re not making the plays. We’re batting balls down that need to be picks. You never know when they are going to come, so when you have the opportunity you have to make the best of it.”
He said the key to making that happen is having the right mindset when training.
“You have to do it at practice,” Ghanwoloku said. “If you aren’t doing it there, you’re not going to be doing it in the game. If you are picking balls off in practice, it’s going to happen in a game. During practice, every ball that is in the air I try and pick it — even if it’s like five yards out of bounds.”Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.