Cougar Nation: BYU football looking unusually deep at defensive back

Published: Monday, May 9 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

Lately, BYU has fared well in recruiting defensive backs.

Last year, the secondary produced some its best play in quite some time, and the Cougars will look to follow it up with a group of player two-deep who are all coming off of very strong performances this past spring.

“You never know for sure until they play, but I’ve really been encouraged by the play of our secondary this spring,” said head coach and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall. “We have a lot of potential to be very deep at the cornerback position, in particular.”

Corby Eason, a 5-foot-8, 172-pound senior, leads a group that includes such spring standouts as junior Robbie Buckner (5-10, 176), junior Preston Hadley (6-0, 200) and DeQuan Everett (6-3, 200).

At safety, BYU returns senior starter Travis Uale (6-2, 197), who was pushed hard by junior Mike Hague (5-10, 190) at free safety. At strong safety, sophomore Daniel Sorensen (6-2, 200) and sophomore Jray Galea'i (6-0, 179) will continue to compete for the starting spot into fall camp.

With just two graduating seniors in the secondary, fans shouldn't expect many signees at defensive back in 2012. There are some spots left to fill, however, as coaches have secured two defensive back commits already, and might commit some more before the 2012 NLI day.

Cornerback recruiting

The cornerback position is typically the most difficult position for BYU to recruit. While safety prospects commit and sign early, very few cornerback prospects follow suit. So, BYU will mine the JC ranks for cornerbacks.

Eight of the 18 cornerback prospects BYU signed in Mendenhall’s first full-recruiting year in 2006 came from the JC ranks. Five of the 10 coming from the prep ranks were signed in 2007 and 2008, and four - G Pittman, Gary Nagy, Brannon Brooks and Garrett Nicholson - left school long before they were able to make contributions on the field.

When prep players don’t develop or complete their eligibility, BYU is forced to look to the JC ranks. The Cougars subsequently signed three JC cornerbacks in 2009 as a stop-gap measure to make up for the talent signed and lost from 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes.

Since 2009, the coaching staff hasn’t scrambled for immediate help at cornerback, and subsequently, they went back to the high school ranks and signed two cornerback prospects in Jordan Johnson and Kori Gaines.

Johnson appears to be a lock to break the two-deep roster this coming season in only his redshirt freshman year. In spring, Mendenhall described the battle between Johnson and Buckner for the field corner spot as being, “neck and neck.”

Gaines, meanwhile, is currently on indefinite suspension. He was a member of the scout team in his first year.

In 2011, coaches went back to the JC ranks and landed Hadley from Snow College and Joe Sampson from Foothill JC. They are expected to be immediate contributors this coming season.

Hadley saw every rep in the spring with the first-team defense at the boundary corner position and looks to play a major role within the defense this coming season. Sampson, meanwhile, is set to join the team later this month and compete for a spot at either corner or at safety this coming year.

As a means of explanation, the boundary corner covers the short-side of the field and is typically filled by a bigger-type player that is a strong tackler. The field corner covers the long-side of the field, covering more space than the boundary, and is typically filled by the defender who is best in man-to-man coverage.

With just one graduating senior don't expect the Cougars to sign many cornerbacks in 2012. However, if the Cougars plan to sign someone it most likely won't be made known until after summer camps.

Safety Recruiting

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