BYU has yet to be tested by a solid rushing attack this season. While Utah has struggled with its ground game, it should provide the sternest test for BYU’s front to date.
BYU has used a variety of different personnel and different looks along its defensive front this season to keep opposing offenses off-balance. This has worked well in defending the pass, but it’s questionable how effective a two-man front or the use of pass-rushing standouts, such as Ezekial Ansah and Bronson Kaufusi, will be in defending a consistent run attack.
“When Utah rushes for 100 yards, they win and when teams hold them to under 100 yards, then teams have a good chance to beat them,” said linebacker Brandon Ogletree. “We’re always a defense that focuses on stopping the run first, and that will be our focus against Utah. They have a really good running back, and we’re expecting him to play, but if he doesn’t, then we know they’ll have some capable guys to replace him, so our mentality doesn’t change if (John White) plays or if he doesn’t.”
BYU hasn’t been severely tested on the ground so far this season, but look for the Utah offense to test BYU’s ability to defend the run come Saturday night. The Cougars should prove equal to the task with three experienced down linemen (Russell Tialavea, Romney Fuga and Eathyn Manumaleuna) and two senior linebackers (Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree.) BYU does have some depth issues along its defensive front, and if Utah sees initial success running up the middle, then the Cougars could find some trouble.
Cougar pass defense vs. Utah
BYU fields what is believed to be its most-talented secondary since 1996. It’s a pass defense that saw a lot of success in 2011 and returns most of the players from that group while adding the stellar initial play of cornerback Jordan Johnson.
The Cougar pass defense allowed just 96 yards through the air against Weber last week, although most wouldn’t consider the Wildcats as much of a stern test in that regard.
Utah will likely start quarterback John Hays, although there has been talk of starting freshman Travis Wilson. Hays has struggled with his accuracy and completed just 12 of 26 passes last week against Utah State for 5.9 yards per attempt.
Utah always fields receivers that can beat a defense on any given play, and this year is no different. The receiving corps is led by returning players DeVonte Christopher (6-1, 200), Luke Mathews (6-2, 205) and Dres Anderson (6-1, 185.) Kenneth Scott (6-3, 202) was the big play-maker against the Aggies and will look to reprise that role against BYU.
Tight end looks strong with Jake Murphy (6-4, 252) and David Rolf (6-4, 250) showing well with their ability to make plays down the field.
Cougar question marks
BYU has proven effective rushing the quarterback so far this season and will need to keep the pressure on to limit Utah’s opportunities down the field. BYU has done this by presenting unbalanced defensive fronts and a variety of blitz packages.
Free safety Joe Sampson has shown well in providing over-the-top coverage but will need to remain disciplined as does strong safety Daniel Sorensen in not allowing for big plays over the top of the pass coverage.
“Utah has big-time playmakers, and we saw a lot of big plays being made last year, that’s for sure,” said Ogletree. “The key is to not get outside of what we do and to just stay disciplined with our assignments. We know that Utah will bring everything at us, and we just need to be ready for that. The key is just to trust others to keep their assignments while just focusing on what you need to do and knowing that others will do what they need to do.”
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