Coach Bronco Mendenhall is proud of his defense. “If you can’t get around us, you have to go through us and that is not happening. If we keep them from going over us, we keep the score down.” The 2014 Cougar secondary appears up to that standard. While this defensive group has not played an official game, one thing is certain: there are high expectations and this crew is ready to perform.
Last season’s defense was a force and the passing defense ranked well nationally. The defensive backfield lost prominent leader Daniel Sorenson, currently working himself onto the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster, but this year’s group is poised to fill that void.
Senior defensive back Jordan Johnson and junior Trent Trammell are both returning from knee injuries suffered during last year’s fall camp. Johnson started 12 games as a sophomore in 2012 and earned All-Independent First Team honors. He recorded 48 tackles and one interception. Meanwhile, Trammell is a transfer from City College of San Francisco where he helped San Francisco to a 22-2 record and a No. 1 ranking.
“We really missed Jordan last year,” defensive coordinator Nick Howell said. “It will be great to have him back.”
Johnson and Trammell will be joining returning starters Craig Bills, Robertson Daniel, Skye PoVey and Sophomore Kai Nacua to bolster this year’s Cougar defensive backfield. BYU also added Nebraska transfer Harvey Jackson and freshmen Michael Shelton and Kavika Fonua.
“I’m looking forward to see who steps up,” Bills said. “We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of depth. We will be able to use a lot of different packages that will help our defense.”
Howell said the increased depth in the Cougar secondary will allow the team to play a lot more packages and get creative. The team boasts a lot of strength at corner and will have the ability to play more man, freeing up other defenders to make plays.
“When single coverage is a possibility, it adds an element to an already dominant defense and will make it much harder for anyone to score,” Coach Mendenhall said.
This new talented secondary has gone toe to toe with the equally talented Cougar receiving corps. A battle junior wide receiver Mitch Mathews knows all too well, saying it is the most talented group he has seen since being at BYU.
“There are guys that are backups right now that would start other places no doubt, Mathews said. “Each day is a battle. It feels like a game every single practice. It’s intense. It’s made me better and I know for sure it’s the best group we’ve had.”
The Cougar defensive backfield is excited and ready for the season to begin. They’ve been the topic of a lot of discussion, but come fall, this group will be ready to step up and legitimize the hype.
“We’re excited,” Johnson said. “We want to get out there and make plays.”