BYU middle linebacker Rob Morris could easily be accused of Jeykll and Hyde behavior.
Shortly after terrorizing the first team offense in Thursday's scrimmage at Cougar Stadium, the team's 1997 defensive points leader was sporting a smile and a University of Alabama baseball cap. BYU, as you may recall, opens its season against the Crimson Tide on Sept. 5 in Tuscaloosa."I needed a new hat so I thought what the heck," Morris said in downplaying his selection. "I'm going to put it on and wear it on the plane home (from Alabama)."
If Morris sounds confident, it's only because he is. The junior from Idaho and his defensive mates enter the new season with experience and attitude.
"We've got a bunch of ornery guys out there who like to be intense," Morris said after BYU's defense registered nine quarterback sacks and picked off two passes in the scrimmage. "It's the 6-5 season, a lack of any kind of team unity last year and it's frustration at some games where we gave up big points. We just don't want that to happen again. We think we're better than that."
With eight returning starters, BYU's defense is anxious to make up for last season's disappointment. Morris said he and others settled for being average too often. And he vows, it won't happen again.
Defensive intensity has shown brightly in each of BYU's public scrimmages since two-a-days began. Just ask Brandon Doman. The freshman quarterback was punched by several Cougar defenders who took exception to a low tackle he delivered to linebacker Justin Ena after an interception. Last week's scuffle was quickly resolved.
"We're a real unified team. You don't ever want incidents like that to happen, but at any college campus in the nation it does," Morris said. "A defensive mind is if something happens to you, you serve justice. You don't wait for the court, you just serve justice. And there's no hard feelings."
The philosophy is simple: What happens internally on the field, stays on the field. Morris said the ability to get over such things is what makes this year's team better than the last.
"It's like a good marriage," explained the 6-foot-2, 250-pounder. "They say a good marriage is not about whether or not you fight. It's about how quickly you make up. That's how we look at it."
The Cougars, it seems, are one big happy family these days. And a healthy one at that after almost two weeks of two-a-days and a pair of scrimmages.
BYU coach LaVell Edwards saw plenty of progress, but is even more pleased that no major injuries were suffered.
`We're getting better," he said. "Unless something unforeseen happens, we'll be healthy and ready to go (next Saturday)."
The Cougars will begin preparing for Alabama Friday. Workouts include a closed scrimmage Sat-ur-day.
SCRIMMAGE NOTES: Freshman running back Junior Mahe did not participate for precautionary reasons because of a sore left hamstring . . . Receiver Margin Hooks returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. He later caught two passes for scores from starter Kevin Feterik . . . Back-up Drew Miller also tossed a pair of scoring strikes, while No. 3 quarterback Brandon Doman overcame a shaky start to complete two long passes and record a 44-yard run . . . Safety Chris Ellison, who dislocated his shoulder last week, has been cleared to resume full contact.