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Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
Craig Bills talks to teammates during a BYU football practice at BYU's practice fields, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014.
Craig has always been like a big brother to me. Right when I got here, he took me under his wing. To have him next to me is a perfect example of somebody I really look up to. —BYU sophomore safety Dallin Leavitt

PROVO — With 18 career starts under his belt, senior safety Craig Bills anchors the BYU secondary.

Bills is, undoubtedly, the leader of the Cougar defensive backfield, his teammates say.

When asked about which player leads the secondary, cornerback Trent Trammell didn’t hesitate. “Craig,” he said.

“Craig has always been like a big brother to me. Right when I got here, he took me under his wing,” said sophomore safety Dallin Leavitt. “To have him next to me is a perfect example of somebody I really look up to.”

Bills embraces the leadership role on the team, and he sounds almost like a coach when assessing the safeties.

“I feel like guys have been stepping up and making plays. Overall, there have been guys who have impressed me,” said Bills, who finished second on the team last season in total tackles with 79. “I think we can be good. I love to see guys like Dallin, Chris (Badger) and Skye (PoVey). Those guys are versatile. They do a lot of things for our defense. It’s fun to see those guys step up. We have a lot of depth. You can have a ton of depth, but if they don’t know the defense and not making plays, the depth really doesn’t matter.”

Not only has BYU’s deep and talented receiving corps helped the offense, it’s helped the defense, too.

“It’s been good for the defense to go up against those guys in practice,” Bills said. “All these guys work hard. It helps us.”

Bills’ experience brings consistency to the secondary, according to coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“Craig Bills is very steady,” Mendenhall said.

THE KICKING BATTLE: Three kickers continue to vie for playing time during fall camp — Trevor Samson, Vance “Moose” Bingham and Andrew Mikkelson.

While Samson and Bingham battled during the spring, Mikkelson joined the team this summer after transferring from Oregon State.

Corey Edwards, who has been nursing a sore back, will be part of the team after classes start in a couple of weeks.

During last Friday’s scrimmage, Samson drilled 4 of 5 kicks, from 28, 36, 43 and 48 yards, respectively. He also missed a 48-yard attempt.

Bingham, meanwhile, was 3 for 5. He nailed kicks from 28, 36 and 43 yards, while missing from two 48-yard attempts.

QUOTABLE: “I’ve bought into the program. I love coach Mendenhall. I love my position coaches. Every play, I promise myself I’ll go 100 percent. The younger guys see that. I’m probably not the greatest outside linebacker because it’s been six years since I played outside linebacker (as a freshman in 2008). But no one can say that I’m not trying hard and not totally converted to what BYU stands for.” — senior outside linebacker Michael Alisa

COUNTDOWN TO UCONN: The Cougars open the season a week from Friday, on Aug. 29, at Connecticut.

Wide receiver Mitch Mathews said the offense is fine-tuning some things as BYU winds up fall camp.

“I just want to be polished. That’s the biggest thing,” Mathews said. “We want to dominate on offense and keep going deep. That’s going to help us win. It comes down to polishing our routes and timing with the quarterbacks.”