BYU football notebook: Cougars make adjustments at nickel now that Joe Sampson is gone
PROVO — In the wake of starting safety Joe Sampson's dismissal last week, BYU's defense finds itself in a bit of a quandary at the nickel back position. Mike Hague was the team’s primary nickel back, but is out for the year. With Craig Bills assuming Sampson’s starting role, the team doesn’t have a ready replacement when it opts to bring an extra defensive back on the field.
Enter starting outside linebacker Spencer Hadley, who has proven very apt with his ability to cover and play in space this season.
“Spencer Hadley is basically having to learn and do extra things and Craig Bills as well,” said coach Bronco Mendenhall. “Luckily we have good enough athletes to keep a semblance of nickel, but it’s just a different style of what we were doing before.”
Playing an extra linebacker in a nickel package is nothing new for Mendenhall, who often went with a 2-5-4 defense during pass situations last season. Against pass-happy San Jose State, fans should expect that same formation to be used extensively.
DIDN'T SEE IT: While thousands of people have viewed the surveillance tape of the incident that led to the dismissals of Sampson and Zac Stout from the team online, Mendenhall has not and doesn’t intend to. As with most things of this nature, Mendenhall depends on players being honest and forthright with him.
“Eventually players tell me the truth. It takes a while sometimes,” said Mendenhall. “Others had had seen (the video) and gave me an account of what happened, but I’m not interested in watching it.”
The surveillance video shows Stout and Sampson engaging in a fight with others at Rancheritos restaurant in Provo. Jordan Johnson also appeared in the video, but was seen trying to break up the fight.
“I have a good idea of what happened and I’m anxious now to help the young men grow and progress, but also to make restitution for what they’ve done and learn from it,” said Mendenhall. “For those that were involved on the other side I hope they’re not badly hurt and that they’re OK and can go on with their lives as well.”
Mendenhall mentioned he feels at peace with how the situation was handled.
INJURY NOTES: The team is relatively healthy this week, but may be down two backup inside linebackers with Uani Unga and Manoa Pikula nursing injuries and sitting out practice Monday. True freshman Jamaal Williams, who left the Idaho game early with an apparent knee injury, is fine and expected to play against San Jose State.
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