BYU Cougars vs. Washington State Cougars: The matchups
As mentioned, WSU will present a variable front that will rely on a lot of deception and different looks according to Reynolds.
“Their defensive coordinator in the past has done a lot of blitzing and a lot of twisting,” said Reynolds. “We’ll have to be ready for all of that, but we just have to let them know that if they’re going to twist at us that we’re going to gash them and make them pay for it. It’s going to be a fun challenge, I think.”
WSU presents some good experience at secondary led by junior cornerbacks Damante Horton (5-10, 175) and Nolen Washington (5-11, 182).
“(They run) a lot of zone and when they play man (coverage), they run a lot of blitzing on top of it,” said quarterback Riley Nelson. “It’s hard because we have their defensive coordinator’s film, but with a different team and with different personnel, so he may feel he can do different things with this personnel than he did with previous teams. Watching their spring ball, they showed (everything). They looked like they went through their whole playbook in the spring game, so it’s hard to know what they’ll play like.”
Cougar question marks
A lot of attention has been paid to the tight end position this off-season and for good reason. Kaneakua Friel (6-5, 250, junior) emerged as the top tight end out of camp, but he’s largely unproven.
Ross Apo (6-4, 215, sophomore) is as athletically gifted as any receiver BYU has had in its program. He’s struggled with consistency early on, but looks to become a Hoffman-like force this season.
“Cody Hoffman has been a rock and a staple,” said Nelson. “I think he will have the year people expect him to have as long as he stays healthy. (All of the receivers) have been making plays and I expect them to continue to make plays.”
Don’t expect Doman to drop back Nelson in a traditional sense this Thursday and for the duration of the season. He knows what Nelson’s strengths are, possessing largely the same strengths when he played quarterback. For this reason, look for Nelson to do a lot of designed roll-outs and options in what should shape up as a very untypical BYU passing attack.
BYU rush defense vs. WSU
BYU looks to have a potent run defense with its front seven returning virtually intact from a year ago. Headlining the front seven are four of the most experienced defensive linemen any team could hope for (Ian Dulan, 6-1, 271; Eathyn Manumaleuna, 6-2, 288; Romney Fuga, 6-2, 318; and Russell Tialavea, 6-2, 275). Although Dulan will miss this coming game, the Cougar front-seven looks apt to stop most of what WSU throws at them on the ground.
So what will WSU throw at BYU on the ground? Using Leach’s offenses at Texas Tech as a guide, not much is the answer.
WSU should be chucking the ball around frequently with not much attention paid to a running attack that features three scat-back types on its two-deep roster.
“It’s difficult to know what any new offense is going to look like for that first game,” said outside linebacker Spencer Hadley. “We know that Leach likes to throw, so we’re expecting a lot of passing, just like everyone else is, but we have to be ready for anything.”
Cougar question marks
Not a lot of question marks surround BYU’s ability to defend a straight-up running attack, but WSU won’t be presenting that type of attack. It will rely on deception with its cadre of quick, elusive runners looking to beat BYU on the edges and when they’re least expecting. How well BYU defends against this sort of attack is a big question mark.
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