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2009 BYU Preview - Defense
BYU DE Jan Jorgensen
BYU DE Jan Jorgensen
Posted Jul 12, 2009 2009 Preview - BYU Cougar Defense

BYU Cougars

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN BYU Preview | 2009 BYU Offense
- 2008 BYU Defense | 2008 BYU Depth Chart
- 2008 BYU Preview | 2007 BYU Preview | 2006 BYU Preview

What you need to know: After finishing tenth in the nation and ninth in points allowed, the defense took a major step back struggling mightily as the year went on. Everything was great early on with shutouts of Wyoming and UCLA while holding New Mexico to three points, and then came the second half of the year. The D failed to generate any pressure, there weren't enough big plays, and the Cougars lost three of their final seven games. This year, the front seven in the 3-4 is loaded with depth and skill with Jan Jorgensen leading a great looking line and Matt Bauman a strong tackler in the middle of the linebacking corps. The biggest issue is at corner where the depth is thin and there needs to be more production against the better passing teams. The safeties should help pick up the slack with Scott Johnson and Andrew Rich in for big seasons.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Matt Bauman, 108
Sacks: Jan Jorgensen, 4
Interceptions: Jordan Pendleton, Matt Putnam, Andrew Rich, 1

Star of the defense: Senior DE Jan Jorgensen
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Brandon Bradley
Unsung star on the rise: Junior SS Andrew Rich
Best pro prospect: Jorgensen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jorgensen, 2) LB Matt Bauman, 3) LB Coleby Clawson
Strength of the defense: Line, Depth In The Front Seven
Weakness of the defense:
Corner, Production

Defensive Line
rojected Starters
If it weren't for Jerry Hughes at TCU, senior Jan Jorgensen would be getting all the attention as the Mountain West's premiere end. The 6-3, 259-pound senior will be starting for the fourth straight season after making 54 tackles with five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. While he was good, he wasn't the dominant pass rusher he was in previous years making 14 sacks in 2007. He trimmed down a little bit in an attempt to get quicker, and with his quickness, motor, and experience, he'll be the leader of the line and a sure-thing all-star who'll demand double-teaming on every play.

Back on the right side will be Brett Denney, a 6-4, 252-pound senior who came up with a nice year with all the attention paid to Jorgensen. He only made 1.5 sacks, but he made eight tackles for loss and 37 tackles; he has the ability to do more. He should be more of a pass rusher and he should be one of the leaders of the line with his experience. While he might not have star talent, he's good enough to do more.

Adding some mega-bulk on the inside is 6-3, 352-pound junior Rick Wolfley, a true tackle who'll try to clog things up. He only made four tackles last year and now will be used a lot more in pure running downs and against the more physical offenses. Now he goes from being a key backup to the main man in the middle after Russell Tialavea chose to serve his Church mission.

Projected Top Reserves: Former JUCO superstar Bernard Afuiti is built like a smallish nose tackle at 6-1 and 262 pounds, but he can move. Originally recruited by USC and Michigan, among other places, the junior is a speed rusher behind Jorgensen and can be a major factor if the defense goes into a 4-3. Amazing throughout spring ball, he'll be too good to keep off the field ... next year. He was ruled academically ineligible and won't be able to play until next year.

6-6, 267-pound sophomore Matt Putnam spent the last year getting bigger and stronger after being a key contributor last year with 27 tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss. Athletic and able to be used as a regular pass rusher and a good backup behind Denney, he's good enough to start.

The man in the middle that everything was supposed to work around was Russell Tialavea, a 6-3, 286-pound senior who came off a torn ACL to make 17 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as a starter. On the plus side, the injury allowed him to get into better overall shape, and now he's leaner, stronger, and should be better. However, he chose to leave and serve his Church mission.

Watch Out For ... Putnam to make a big push. He's not going to knock out Jorgensen and Denney from starting spots on the end, but he's way too good to be kept off the field. They were strong enough this offseason to warrant a longer look and more time.
The end rotation. With the emergence of Putnam, at least his expected emergence, the ends should be terrific. Jorgensen is too good to have another mediocre year, while Denney has big-time pass rushing ability and the potential to be fantastic. That means there needs to be a lot more ....
Plays in the backfield. The Cougars don't make plays behind the line, at least not enough of them. A problem two years ago, it was a big issue last year, too, coming with just 22 sacks and 71 tackles for loss.
Outlook: Big and talented the defensive front three should be doing far more in all phases. It was mediocre against the run, average when it came to generating pressure, and disappointing overall. There's no excuse this time around, outside of Afutiti's academics and Tialavea's Church mission, with a star in Jorgensen to work around and with the depth to come up with a fantastic rotation.
Rating: 7.5


Projected Starters: Senior Matt Bauman can play just about anywhere in the linebacking corps, and after serving as a great reserve over the first part of his career, he showed what he could do as the main man in the middle leading the team with 108 tackles with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He's coming off a minor knee injury that requires some work, but he should be fine by the start of the year and he should do even more. If last year was about establishing himself on the inside, now he's ready to become a bigger and better leader.

Also returning to a starting spot is Coleby Clawson on the weakside. A good JUCO transfer with excellent range and a good ability to get into the backfield, he was one of the few Cougars who got behind the line on a regular basis with 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks to go along with 55 tackles. Extremely consistent, he should be more explosive with so many good veterans returning on the front seven.

6-2, 232-pound senior Shawn Doman technically started for most of last year but he ended up being a part of a rotation as the fourth linebacker. He was fourth on the team with 60 tackles, but he didn't do enough to make big plays even though he has the athleticism and the speed to be a star at the Buck position. He knows what he's doing.

Sophomore Jordan Pendleton will take over on the strongside and should be one of the team's most interesting defenders. The former safety and corner was named one of the best athletes in Utah in high school and should fly around and be a disruptive force. He beefed up to 228 pounds on his 6-2 frame, but he can still move. A disappointment in his first season, making just three tackles with an interception, he has the motor and the quickness to flourish in his new role.

Projected Top Reserves: Will Vic So'oto ever pay off? A superstar recruit for the program as a tight end, he moved over to linebacker and made five tackles in two games before suffering a broken foot. Out throughout the offseason, he needs to come back healthy to become a major factor on the weakside. At 6-3 and 253 pounds he has the size, and he has the athleticism, and now he has to finally produce and live up to his tremendous expectations. 

6-1, 227-pound senior Terrance Hooks is finally back from a knee injury that kept him under wraps for most of last year. He only made one tackle in his one game of action, but when he's right, he has the speed and athleticism to become a major factor at the Buck position. Expected to be the starter before the injury, now he'll rotate with Doman.

Watch Out For ... the Buck. Hooks might be the best player for the job, but he has to show he can hold up. Doman was too good last year to simply toss aside, or ditch a bulk of his playing time. It's a position that should generate a ton of big plays, so the more explosive, disruptive playmaker will get the gig.
Veterans. This was a bit of a problem going into last year and everything turned out fine. This year the corps needs to be fantastic with four good starters and backups that are every bit as good, if not more dangerous and athletic.
Production. This was a good group last year, but it was hardly special. The numbers will be there again and it should be a nice corps against the run, but with all the returning talent and all depth, there should be more big plays than there were last season.
Outlook: After a year of transition the linebackers should be back to the 2007 form. A star needs to emerge, and that might be Bauman, while it would be a huge help if So'oto and Hooks could be 100% healthy. If they're right, this group goes from serviceable to fantastic. As is it'll hardly be a weakness.
Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: At the moment, Scott Johnson will start at free safety but he could move to corner, his original position and his more natural spot. A special teamer before last year, the 5-11, 188-pound senior came up with 59 tackles and five tackles for loss, but he didn't pick off any passes. He's a good playmaker and a good athlete who needs to do far more as the only returning starter in the secondary.

Junior Brandon Bradley is about to be the new star of the defensive backfield. 6-0 and 200 pounds, he has excellent size with the speed and skills to work either corner spot. He made 40 tackles with three broken up passes, but he appears ready to make a bigger impact. He was dinged up in spring ball, but he also looked good enough to be a shut-down defender against No. 1 targets.

The other corner spot is a major question mark. Redshirt freshman Garrett Nicholson will likely take over on the Field side bringing 5-9, 181-pound size and track star speed. Mostly a star running back in high school, he has the great straight-line speed and the potential to grow into the job. He'll need time and he'll make some mistakes, but he'll make plays thanks to his athleticism.

6-3, 215-pound junior Andrew Rich is a huge hitter with the ability to become a stat-sheet filler at strong safety. He made 26 tackles with an interception as a reserve, but his biggest role will be as an intimidating presence who sets the tone both for the running game and on the short to midrange pass plays.

Projected Top Reserves: Will Brandon Howard be back or not? One of the team's fastest players, and the best cover-corner, he only picked off one pass but he made 35 tackles. However, he left the squad for personal reasons and isn't expected back. He'd have been the starter on the Field side had he been on the team.

With Howard gone, 5-11, 176-pound sophomore Steven Thomas will make a big push for the Boundary job. He spent most of his time on special teams in limited action last year, but now he'll see starting time and he could end up being a key nickel and dime back. He was great in spring ball with Bradley missed time hurt.

Ready to be a big part of the rotation at strong safety and in nickel and dime packages is Shiloah Te'o, a 5-10, 206-pound sophomore who made five tackles mostly as a special teamer. Now he'll work behind Rich and will be a regular part of the rotation to get his quickness and tackling ability on the field.

Watch Out For ... Rich. He's the highlight reel waiting to happen with his hitting ability. The key will be to come up with the routine plays as well as the kill shots, and he'll also have to show he can be consistent.
Safety. Rich and Johnson are great hitters who should be terrific as the last line of defense for the ground game. Te'o is good enough to start if needed, while sophomore Travis Uale will be a key part of the puzzle next year.
Corner. With Howard gone, the secondary has to scramble a bit to find the right players for the right spots. Thomas has been good enough to step up and start, and Nicholson has the basic skills to be fine on the other side of Bradley, but considering the pass defense wasn't a plus last year, the team could use some more production here.
Outlook: The secondary got lit up against the teams on the schedule that could throw, and struggled against some, like UNLV, that were merely average. The big issue is the big play with just nine interceptions as a team while needing tighter corner play to help out the front seven. Everyone will hit and the safeties should be good, but getting a big year out of Nicholson, Bradley and Thomas is a must for the Cougars to have much hope of contending for the Mountain West title.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters:
Mitch Payne has connected on 10-of-14 field goals in each of the last two years, and while he showed off a little more range last year, hitting a 46-yarder against Air Force, he wasn't a bomber. Accurate, he's reliable enough to be counted in key spots, even though he hit a rough patch missing three field goals in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Arizona.

The punting game led the Mountain West averaging 36.51 yards net, and now it'll be up to Tyler Holt to give it a shot early on unless Riley Stephenson takes over right away. Holt was fine in practices, but Stephenson is an elite kicker prospect who's returning from a mission with a big leg and the potential to take over the job if he can be accurate early on.

The kickoff return game was among the best in the nation with O'Neill Chambers averaging 23.1 yards per try and Austin Collie averaging 27.5 yards per attempt. Collie is gone, but speedy corner Garrett Nicholson is good enough to help out. Chambers will also get a long look as the main punt returner again despite a woeful season averaging just 5.9 yards per try. McKay Jacobson was a good option before leaving for a Church mission and will get plenty of chances to help the nation's 116th ranked punt return game.

Watch Out For ... the punting situation. While Holt had a nice spring, the job of Stephenson's for the taking. The punting game was solid last season with C.J. Santiago averaging 41.8 yards per try with 17 kicks put inside the 20, and it's going to take a little bit of luck to get the same production.  
Chambers on kickoff returns. While he stunk it up as a punt returner, he was fantastic on kickoffs. Collie was better, but Chambers should average well over 20 yards per try again and break a few big ones.
: Punt returns. An utter disaster two years ago, BYU finished last in the Mountain West averaging six yards per try. Last year the punt return game took things to a new low averaging 3.7 yards per try.
Outlook: The special teams have been uneven for the last few years. Payne is a reliable placekicker while the punting game was terrific. Now there needs to be more from the return games that were so strong two years ago while the punt return game has to go a long way to get to average.
Rating: 7


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