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BYU football: Cougar legends praise present defense, say past defenses were underrated

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 6:39 p.m. MDT

Former BYU Football Coach Lavell Edwards and former Quarterback Gary Shiede participate in the taping of Former BYU Football Coach Lavell Edwards and former Quarterback Gary Shiede participate in the taping of "Lavell Edwards and the BYU Quarterback Factory" for BYUtv. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU)

PROVO — Marc Wilson appreciates a good defense. After all, good defensive units allowed him to get back on the field fairly quickly.

One of several BYU quarterback legends present at BYU football media day Wednesday, Wilson heard and saw the buzz surrounding the Cougars' defensive unit, which includes standouts like Kyle Van Noy and Preston Hadley.

Wilson just wishes the defense that manned his late 1970s teams had gotten the same credit.

"One thing is, because we were so prolific offensively, no one really took notice of our defense," Wilson said. "The truth is we had great defenses. That was the only reason we could do what we did on offense. We could take chances on offense because we knew the other teams probably weren't going to do much once they got the ball."

Former BYU Football Coach Lavell Edwards participates in the taping of Former BYU Football Coach Lavell Edwards participates in the taping of "Lavell Edwards and the BYU Quarterback Factory" for BYUtv. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU)

Former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards didn't hear Wilson's comments, but it seemed his own thoughts on the subject were nearly identical.

"Our defense was a lot better than what was generally thought, simply because the offense just drew (so much attention) in terms of the press," Edwards said. "We had good defense."

Wilson credited the BYU defense in his time for the offensive opportunities that led to his 22-4 record as a starter for the Cougars.

"The best way to get rhythm is to get back on the field quickly," Wilson said. "If you score but you sit on the sidelines and the other team has an eight-minute drive, by the time you go back out there, the rhythm's all gone. If they can three-and-out and you get right back out on the field, that just helps those offensive players get into a groove. That's the kind of defenses that we had."

Former BYU Football Coach Lavell Edwards and former Quarterback Gary Shiede participate in the taping of Former BYU Football Coach Lavell Edwards and former Quarterback Gary Shiede participate in the taping of "Lavell Edwards and the BYU Quarterback Factory" for BYUtv. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU)

Edwards had a similar take, adding his own reasons for preferring a good defense as opposed to an all-offensive showing.

"You've got to get the ball back," Edwards said. "There were a lot of cases where we threw the ball two or three times and we had to punt. If you have to punt and you can't get the ball back, you can't do anything no matter how prolific your offense is.

"I hate those games where the teams can't stop each other," Edwards added. "I would rather have control over (the game) in terms of having good defense."

As for BYU's offense, both Wilson and Edwards were confident that it will return to its former place as nationwide envy sooner than later.

Group photo taken during the taping of Group photo taken during the taping of "Lavell Edwards and the BYU Quarterback Factory". Left To Right: Lavell Edwards, Gary Sheide, Gifford Neilson, Marc Wilson, and Robbie Bosco. (Mark A. Philbrick, BYU)

"I see great defenses here," Wilson said. "I think the offense is going to come around and do some great things. It's just a matter of time."

"Obviously they've got to get some offense going and that's (obvious) with Robert (Anae)," Edwards said. "Someone once said offense will win games, but defense will win championships. You need both, no question about it."

Matt Petersen is the sports web editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.

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