Late in the scrimmage portion of BYU football’s second practice of spring camp on Wednesday, the Cougar offense chose to mix things up.
After a reverse-flea flicker, BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson found junior wide receiver Akile Davis open in the end zone for a long touchdown pass.
Even though it is still early in spring and the Cougars have a long ways to go as far as implementing the offense of offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, that type of play sent a message:
BYU is going to attempt to confuse opposing defenses.
The Cougar defensive coaches think that is going to be great for their players to face every day.
“It’s a really good offense, one that is really difficult to defend,” BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said. “We’ve got to be sound.”
Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said he had some initial hesitation about all of the details that were going into the offensive implementation.
“It’s really difficult,” Sitake said. “I was a little concerned because we were putting so much in our install on offense with a lot of movement and a lot of different things and different formations and different personnel groups, but I think our offense has handled it really well. I think the coaches have done a great job coaching it and players seem to have answered the challenge.”
With the offense getting up to speed and making plays, it is now on the BYU defenders to rise to the challenge as well.
“I think it will help our defense in the long run, getting all these different looks and personnel groups,” Sitake said.
Cougar senior linebacker Butch Pau’u said on Day 1 that he liked being in position in practice to have to figure out what his teammates are doing on the other side of the ball.
“The offense looks great, to be honest,” Pau’u said Monday. “They look so competitive. They are flying everywhere. It’s kind of the misdirection thing with them, so the linebackers have to stay home. We’ve got to make sure we know our plays and perfect them, so we can do well in the season.”
Some of the responsibility for understanding and countering what the offense is doing falls on the Cougar safeties, which new BYU safeties coach Preston Hadley thinks is great.
“It’s great because you have to have formation awareness,” Hadley said. “You have to be able to anticipate and react quicker to certain alignments and different splits. There is a reason for everything an offense does, so as a defense we have to unlock that reason. We’re not back there just chilling. We have to have awareness, see what is going on and get that communicated to the rest of the defense.”
Hadley will have the main responsibility of making sure his safeties accomplish those goals every day, meaning the former Cougar star has to be on top of his game as a coach as well.
Tuiaki said the integration of the only newcomer on the BYU defensive staff has been fairly seamless.
“We only had one change with Coach Hadley coming in,” Tuiaki said. “We had a lot of common language because he comes from Weber State with Jay Hill, who was at the University of Utah and we were all together at one time. He reminds us of some of the things we did in the past which they did at Weber, so it’s been good. It’s been really easy, and he is a great fit for our staff.”
Tuiaki said the main goals for the defense in spring are to make sure the players on the field have the foundation to be successful in the fall.
“We’ve got to refine a lot of the stuff we are doing,” Tuiaki said. “There are a couple of new wrinkles that we put in. Catching up all the young guys will be a big deal. If the best players are some of the young guys but they can’t play because we are making it too complex, I think that we are failing as a defensive staff. We have to make sure the best players are on the field and able to function at a high level.”