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2008 BYU Preview - Defense
BYU DE Jan Jorgensen
BYU DE Jan Jorgensen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 18, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - BYU Cougar Defense



BYU Cougars

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN BYU Preview | 2008 BYU Offense
- 2008 BYU Defense | 2008 BYU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN BYU Preview | 2006 CFN BYU Preview 

What you need to know: Only three starters return to the 3-4 D that finished 10th in the nation and ninth in points allowed, but one of them is DE Jan Jorgensen, an All-America caliber pass rusher. David Nixon is the only returning starter to what was a great LB corps in ’07, but there are several experienced reserves, like Shawn Doman, ready to step in. Even with all of the replacements, the front seven should be tremendous; the BYU coaching staff knows how to plug the holes. The biggest issue is at cornerback. Scott Johnson and Brandon Howard will get the first look at starting spots, and while they might be a bit green at first, they should be fine in time. If they’re not great, the scheme breaks down.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jan Jorgensen, 77
Sacks: Jan Jorgensen, 14
Interceptions: Matt Bauman, 1

Star of the defense: Junior DE Jan Jorgensen
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Scott Johnson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Vic So'oto
Best pro prospect: Jorgensen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jorgensen, 2) LB David Nixon, 3) DT Russell Tialavea
Strength of the defense: Line, Jorgensen
Weakness of the defense:
Returning starters in the back eight

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: If junior Jan Jorgensen played for a BCS team, he'd be on everyone's All-America list. The 6-3, 260-pound left end had a good 2006 showing good pass rushing consistency, and then he exploded last year with 77 tackles, third best on the team, 14 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. He has a quick burst off the line, holds up well against the run, and is a great closer once he gets a bead on a quarterback. He brings it game in and game out, and on a team full of veterans and offensive stars, he's BYU's best player.

On the other side of Jorgensen will be 6-1, 252-pound junior Ian Dulan, who started in almost every game last year and made 24 tackles. He's a good pass rusher, coming up with three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, but he's not a dangerous one. If Jorgensen isn't producing, offenses can erase Dulan as a pass rushing threat. However, he's solid against the run.

Anchoring the middle will likely be Russell Tialavea, a 6-3, 320-pound run stopper on the nose who missed all of last year with a torn ACL suffered in preseason practice. Before getting hurt, he had too much quickness and athleticism for most interior offensive linemen, but he didn't do enough to get into the backfield on a regular basis. First he needs to get healthy.

Projected Top Reserves: Until Dulan gets healthy, it'll be up to JUCO transfer Tevita Hola to work on the inside. At 6-1 and 310 pounds, the star from Snow Junior College has a low base and is tough to shove around. Several big-name schools were after him, and he should show why early on. He's a mauler who should be able to start whenever needed.

Is star JUCO transfer Bernard Afuiti going to be ready right away to play a big role? He's 6-0, 260 pounds, and a tremendous pass rusher with phenomenal upside. Originally recruited by USC and Michigan, among others, he ended up going to Mt. San Antonio College where he did a little of everything well. He's the wild card on the end behind Jorgensen.

Filling in on one side when needed behind Dulan will be 6-4, 252-pound veteran Brett Denney, who made 29 tackles and four sacks. The team's top backup end all year long, he can be used as a pass rushing specialist and a spot starter when needed. He might not be the team's most talented player, but he's a good one to have in reserve.


Watch Out For ... Tialavea. The run defense was fantastic last year, and it could be even more special if Tialavea's knee is healthy. There are options for the nose, and the overall production won't slip too much if Tialavea isn't ready, but his 320-pound frame would be a big plus.
Strength
:
Stopping the run. The linebackers might have come up with most of the tackles, but the front three did its part. Getting anything going on the inside was next to impossible, and with reinforcements coming in, it'll be even harder.
Weakness
:
Plays in the backfield. The amazing part about last season, at least statistically, was that the Cougars put up great numbers against the run despite not getting into the backfield on a regular basis. There were plenty of sacks, but not enough tackles for loss from a group this active.
Outlook: The three in the 3-4 alignment will be a brick wall against the run. There are plenty of huge bodies to rotate in and out of the middle, while Jorgensen and Dulan are experienced veterans who'll be every bit as good as they were last year. Jorgensen is special.
Rating: 7.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters: Needing to fill some major holes in the linebacking corps has forced a little bit of movement and change. Junior tight end Vic So'oto was a superstar recruit for the program, and while he was decent, he didn't do enough for the offense. Now the 6-3, 249-pounder will bring his athleticism to the weakside where he has the talent and quickness to become an immediate star.

With So'oto coming over to the defense, 6-3, 223-pound senior David Nixon will move over to the strongside after finishing fourth on the team with 66 tackles, four sacks, and ten tackles for loss. With excellent 4.5 speed and a good sense of timing, he's great at getting to the ball and fantastic at getting into the backfield. However, he didn't do enough against the pass and could be more natural at his new position.

Getting the start on the inside after serving as a key backup last season is 6-2, 219-pound sophomore Shawn Doman after making 38 tackles with a broken up pass. With excellent speed and range, he should be all over the field making plays, but he has to prove his lack of size isn't an issue against the harder running teams.

Joining Doman on the inside will be 6-1, 226-pound junior Matt Bauman, a versatile defender who can play on the strongside if needed. A great reserve last season, he made 34 tackles with a sack and an interception, and while he might not be the athlete Doman is, he's a good tackler and should be one of the team's statistical leaders.

Projected Top Reserves:
Pushing for one of the inside jobs is junior Dan Van Sweden, a 6-2, 221-pound special teamer to who saw time in every game last year and made one tackle. Lost in the linebacking shuffle, now he'll push Bauman for time in the rotation.

Junior Terrance Hooks was poised and ready to go from being a promising backup, who made 16 tackles, to a starter after waiting his turn, but he suffered a major knee injury this spring and isn't going to be back to the middle of the season, at the very least. He'll likely be out for the year.

Ready to be in the mix on the strongside will be Coleby Clausen, a good JUCO transfer with 6-3, 220-pound size and excellent range. He has the toughness to play inside if needed, but he'll make the most noise on the outside.


Watch Out For ... So'oto. The writing was on the wall for So'oto, who was going to be buried on the tight end depth chart. His move to linebacker could be a major coup for a defense that needed some a boost in the linebacking corps.
Strength
:
Tackling. There might not be much in the way of starting experience, but there are plenty of veterans and good tacklers all across the board. BYU linebackers don't miss tackles.
Weakness
:
Veteran reserves. The loss of Hooks was big. Considering the defense uses four starting linebackers, coming up with the starters is difficult enough without finding decent reserves.
Outlook: There are plenty of good prospects and just enough overall talent to hope for a seamless transition from last year's fantastic group. Nixon is a good one to build around, and So'oto will be strong, but the keys will be Doman and Bauman on the inside. These two have to be major producers from the opening snap.
Rating: 6


Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: Who's going to take over at corner for Kayle Buchanan and Ben Criddle? Junior Brandon Howard
saw time in every game last year and was supposed to play a big role in a rotation with Buchanan on the field side, but didn't. Howard made four tackles and broke up a pass, and while he's not big at just 5-9 and 165 pounds, he's lightning fast. If he's not the team's fastest player, he's close.

Taking over for Criddle will be Scott Johnson, a special teamer so far making 17 tackles. At 5-11 and 185 pounds, he has decent size and good athleticism, but he's raw, even for a junior, and while he has seen time and has a little bit of experience, he still doesn't have the upside of Howard.

Senior Kellen Fowler became a key producer over the second half of last year as he took over one of the safety spots. Now he'll start at free safety, where he'll have to do more when the ball is in the air after making 28 tackles. At 5-11 and 187 pounds, he's not all that big, but he can hit.

Senior David Tafuna will take over the strong safety, or KAT position. At 6-1 and 216 pounds, he has excellent size and tremendous speed with the ability to play corner if needed. He was supposed to play a big role last year, but he hurt his ankle and missed the entire year. He'll be healthy to start the year, but he'll need time to get used to the full-time starting role.

Projected Top Reserves: With Tafuna trying to get over his foot injury, 6-2, 218-pound redshirt freshman Jordan Pendleton
was prepped for the strong safety job. At 6-2 and 218 pounds he has excellent size and phenomenal upside. Named by one outlet as the best athlete in the state in 2006, he has the potential to be excellent with a little bit of experience.

Pushing for time at the corners are sophomore Brandon Bradley and redshirt freshman G Pittman. The 5-10, 183-pound Pittman has better speed and athleticism as a field side corner behind Howard, while the 6-0, 201-pound Bradley is a bigger option than Johnson on the boundary side. A special teamer so far, he should be a good hitter.


Watch Out For ... Howard. He might not be that big and he might not have much in the way of experience, but the guy can fly. If he can handle getting pushed around by the bigger receivers, he'll be fine.
Strength
:
Corner options. Howard and Johnson will be the starters, but Pittman and Bradley can play. It's only a question of time before the reserves could turn out to be the better players.
Weakness
:
Production against teams that can throw. The overall stats might have been great from last year, but that's partially because the Cougars didn't have to deal with many passing teams. Tulsa was one, and it came up with 490 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
Outlook: The secondary mostly gave up yards to teams in desperation comeback mode, and it's not like the Mountain West was littered with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning clones, but it was a good group. Now some retooling has to be done, but it's not like last year's group was irreplaceable. The corner situation, in time, could be better, while Fowler and Tafuna, after he comes back healthy, should be strong.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters:
Mitch Payne was decent last year hitting 10 of 14 field goals, but he didn't show much in the way of range topping out at just 42 yards. He has a good leg and is strong on kickoffs, but the sophomore could get a battle from recruit Justin Sorensen this fall.

Senior C.J. Santiago is back after averaging just 39.7 yards per kick. However, he has a good leg and nice touch putting 21 inside the 20 and forcing 16 fair catches. He's not a lock to keep the job if he's not consistent, but it'll take a big push from Brian Smith to win the job.

WR Austin Collie was a great kickoff returner last season averaging 25.8 yards per try, while a viable punt returner needs to be found after Bryce Mahuika only averaged 6.8 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... A bit of a challenge for the kicking jobs. Payne and Santiago are more than just decent, but the coaching staff isn't afraid to get some competition going.
Strength
:
Coverage units. BYU has been fantastic at this over the last few years and should be again. The Cougars allowed a mere 18.2 yards per kickoff return and just 5.9 yards per punt return.
Weakness
:
Punt returns. The Cougars were last in the Mountain West in punt return average gaining just six yards per crack. Considering the defense forced 83 punts, the chances are there to do far more.
Outlook: The special teams are solid, but not necessarily spectacular. With all the returning experience in the kicking game, it'll be serviceable and steady, while the coverage teams are fantastic. The special teams aren't going to lose games.
Rating: 7.5