PROVO — The BYU defensive backfield is a bit of a mixed bag as the team wraps up its spring practice session. There's a lot of clarity and confidence at three of the spots, but a lot of work cut out to fill the boundary corner spot and every backup position.
The best news is at safety where Daniel Sorensen looks to reprise his role as the starting strong or “Kat” safety and leader on the defense. With two starting years under his belt the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior safety has shown improvements this spring indicating his best work being ahead of him.
“He’s stable. He’s played for a long time and he just knows what he’s doing,” said defensive coordinator Nick Howell. “He provides a little stability back there and he’s continued to improve. He’s always been really consistent, but I think the things he’s improved with is he’s honed in more on his keys a little bit more because (we’re practicing) against an option offense. The reads are different than a traditional offense, so the that forces him to concentrate more on his keys.”
At free safety it’s Craig Bills seeing the reps with the first team defense after finishing 2012 starting at the position. Bills has missed a lot of spring due to injury, but is back and looking to make up on critical missed practice time.
“He’s missed two weeks of spring practice, so where he’s now — he’s just really practiced three days with us, so he hasn’t been able to progress as much as he’d like to or as much as I’d like him to,” Howell said. “What he’s done with the reps he’s gotten he’s improved, so (that’s positive.)”
Backing up both safety positions could be sketchy with three primary players looking to establish themselves. That group includes Hawaii transfer Michael Wadsworth, who Howell says would likely be the primary backup at both safety positions at this stage, along with Blake Morgan and Skye PoVey. Colorado State transfer Drew Reilly has missed all of spring due to injury.
At cornerback Jordan Johnson ended last season as the starter and has made the necessary progressions as the assumed starter at field corner.
“Jordan has done good and the tempo is really tough on a field corner because he has to run the most the receivers, they’re subbing guys and he’s just staying out there because we have no depth, so no one is really rotating with him,” Howell said. “He’s taking the bulk of the reps, so his conditioning is probably what I would say has improved the most. He has a few fundamental things he has to work on.”
Howell likes Johnson’s ability to tackle and feels his coverage abilities have only worked to improve this spring.
Beyond Sorensen, Bills and Johnson there isn’t much in regards to able, proven bodies that Howell feels confident with. Mike Hague is currently playing as the primary boundary corner, but has struggled moving over from safety and injury this spring.
“It’s not easy to go back from safety to corner,” Howell said. “He’s getting half reps when he does half safety and half corner and he’s been hurt, so we’ll find out who (will start there) — I’m not sure who it is, but we’ll find him.”
Howell didn’t have glowing things to say about the group of players competing at corner, stating that no one is really competing other than Hague.
“Right now I’m not seeing anyone pushing (Hague) and there isn’t anyone I can tell that wants the job of the guys that are here right now,” he said. “I don’t see anyone, other than (Hague), that has shown readiness for a football game.”
The defensive backfield will receive three more options at corner this fall with the arrival of JUCO transfers Sam Lee and Robertson Daniel along with Jacob Hannemann, who is currently playing baseball. Howell believes all three will push for backup roles, if not for the starting spot at boundary corner.
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