PROVO — The BYU football team hasn't featured a lot of seniors this season, particularly on the defensive side of the football. Sure, the loss of players such as linebacker Fred Warner and safety Micah Hannemann, and a few others will hurt a bit, but the prospect of so many returning players had defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki excited for the future, when asked during Tuesday's press session.
But Tuiaki's optimism for the future isn't limited to the many underclassmen playing this season.
“It’s exciting, and a lot of guys who aren’t playing with us right now on scout team. We’re really excited about some of those scout guys coming over and working with them in spring,” Tuiaki said. “Their development for this next year is going to be huge.”
Defensive scout team standouts pointed out by Tuiaki were defensive linemen Keanu Saleapaga, AJ Lolohea and Wayne Kirby; linebackers Christian Folau, Will Sedgwick and Garrett England; and defensive back Keenan Ellis. Tuiaki also mentioned the return of defensive tackle Tevita Mo'Unga as a potential big boon to the defensive prospects.
"We hear back from the offense, and they say they're doing a really good job," Tuiaki said about the defensive scout team players.
HADLEY EXPECTED BACK: Another boost to next year's defense is Matt Hadley, whose season ended due to injury. Coaches anticipate the 6-foot, 215-pound linebacker to return next season, despite having played as a senior in 2017.
“They’re putting the case together to get that medical (redshirt) back,” Tuiaki said. “So we’re planning on hopefully getting him back.”
BETTER THAN LAST: Like some Cougar football fans, BYU players were glued to the TV sets watching UMass play Mississippi State down to the wire two Saturday's ago. What they saw was a team that looked much improved over the team the Cougars defeated 51-9 last year.
“I was surprised they were doing so well,” said BYU defensive tackle Kesni Tausinga. “I’ve watched the film and they’re a good team. They have some good ball players and their quarterback is real good. I think it’s going to be a good challenge for us. I think they’re a lot better than they were last year.”
According to Tuiaki, the Minutemen will bring an offensive package that will present certain problems.
“It’s the most complex scheme that we’re seeing all year," Tuiaki said. “There’s a lot of unbalanced stuff. A lot of formations and different things that give you problems if you’re not sound.”