PROVO — Lack of depth is usually an issue in the Cougar defensive backfield, but that is certainly not the case this time around. While they're missing three starters from a season ago, the lack of experience at both safety and at cornerback is hopefully made up for with depth of talent.
"We definitely don't have as much experience as we did last year, but we all feel like we can play," said Robbie Buckner who is battling for the starting field corner spot which was vacated by Brian Logan. "We're pushing each other for sure and that's what you want. Everyone wants to play, but it's good that it's competitive because it will make us better as a group."
The defense won't only have to replace Logan, but also needs to find players who can take over for Andrew Rich at strong safety and Brandon Bradley at boundary corner. They have some good experience returning with Travis Uale at the free safety position and Corby Eason at boundary corner, but beyond that, there isn't much of any experience to draw upon.
"Until they play on the field in game day, it's hard to say that we have depth," said coach Bronco Mendenhall about his defensive backfield as a whole.
Buckner is battling primarily with redshirt freshman Jordan Johnson, who really impressed throughout last season playing on the defensive scout team.
Johnson came to BYU having played regularly at five different positions in high school. Now that he's able to just focus on one position, he's gaining a lot of necessary confidence.
"Last year when I started practicing, I had no idea what I was really doing," he said. "It's taken some time to get comfortable, and I'm not where I need to be yet, but my confidence level and my comfort with what we do on defense is a lot higher than it was last fall for sure. It helps being able to focus on just one position for sure."
Mendenhall stated that both players are pushing each other and are "neck and neck" in their battle for the starting field corner spot.
At boundary corner, coaches have been very impressed with junior college transfer Preston Hadley. Hadley has seen exclusive reps with the No. 1s on defense through two days this spring, while Eason is sitting out as he recovers from offseason surgery.
Hadley was the first player Mendenhall mentioned when asked whom he's been impressed with so far at defensive back.
"I really like his effort and what he's doing so far," he said.
NOTES: wide receiver Ross Apo went down with an apparent shoulder injury caused by running into a fence trying to haul in a deep pass. The injury isn't believed to be serious and he'll be evaluated further.
Jake Heaps finished the practice session going 6-8 for 52 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came by him hitting tight end Devin Mahina in the end zone from 19 yards.
Riley Nelson went 2-4 for 16 yards, while James Lark finished 2-4 for 50 yards. All of Lark's yards came with a pass to JD Falslev down the middle of the field.
Running back Drew Phillips saw his first action of the spring carrying the football a couple of times for seven yards and catching the football once for six yards during 11-on-11 drills.
Defensive highlights included two sacks recorded by linebacker Connell Hess, a sack from linebacker Kyle Van Noy and another by defensive lineman Graham Rowley
Cougar signee Ului Lapuaho was in attendance along with Teu Kautai who is home from his mission and planning to join the team this coming fall.