BYU football notebook: Cougars' season opener at Virginia filled with uncertainty
Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU fans aren't the only ones uncertain about what will unfold when the Cougars take on Virginia Saturday. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn't quite know what to expect either.
But that's the way it is every year.
“There’s always uncertainty,” Mendenhall said. “I’m not sure how good they are; I’m not sure how good we are; and I don’t know what the matchups are like. So you prepare as best you can and hopefully our staff is capable of making whatever adjustments we need based on what we see.”
BYU coaches have become very familiar with Virginia's coaches, knowing how they run their systems. But the uncertainty comes with matching up personnel against those systems.
BYU defensive coordinator Nick Howell is confident in how hard his players will work.
“Our dudes are going to fight as hard as they can,” he said. “Our defense is going to fly around as hard as they can. That’s the one thing for certain — the brand of defense our team is going to play will be the same as it’s always been and that’s the fun thing.”
Players are raring to go and prove themselves on the field in what they hope will be a big year.
“I’ve been waiting for this game since (the Poinsettia Bowl),” said inside linebacker Uani Unga. “It’s exciting and I hope I’m ready for it and I hope the guys are ready for it because I really want to come out on top. This is going to be a big season for us, so hopefully we come out with a win.”
RUN-FIRST MENTALITY: Defensive players and coaches expect Virginia to focus on establishing the run Saturday. They also expect the Cavaliers to maintain drives and use play-action effectively.
“They start with the run game and then I think the one thing they do really well is — where all their points come from — is with the play-action pass,” said Howell. “I think those are the two things they’re really good at and then we know they have a mobile quarterback. ... That’s going to be a challenge.”
Stopping the run is always paramount in Mendenhall's defense. Players are excited for the challenge Virginia presents with its power attack.
“We know they’re going to try hard to establish that run game and we’re hoping for that,” said Unga. “We like that and it’s going to put us to the test and hopefully we can do what we’ve been trained to do and make them go to the air.”
CORNER BY COMMITTEE: Howell mentioned that he'll be using a "committee" of players at boundary corner against the Cavaliers. That committee will consist of Skye PoVey, Mike Hague and Dallin Leavitt.
PoVey is expected to start, but all will likely be tried out. “There’s going to be competition within the games as we go until we get that solidified,” Howell said.
PEOPLES NOT READY YET: True freshman defensive lineman JonRyheem Peoples has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion, but isn't ready to see reps quite yet, according to Mendenhall.
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