2010 BYU Preview – Defense
BYU CB Brian Logan
BYU CB Brian Logan
Posted Jun 29, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - BYU Cougar Defense

BYU Cougars

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Jamie Hill somewhat quietly put together a great season. While there were high profile meltdowns against TCU and Florida State, to go along with the shockingly good performance against Oklahoma (especially after knocking out Sam Bradford), the defense ended up allowing just 329 yards and 21.5 points per game. This year, the secondary should be among the best in the Mountain West with three great starters returning, and the linebackers in the 3-4 alignment are athletic and promising. The key to the D will be a front three that loses Jan Jorgensen and didn't generate much pressure from the other two spots. Romney Fuga is a terrific nose tackle and the gaps on the outside will be quickly filled; there won't likely be much of a drop-off, if any.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Andrew Rich, 85
Sacks: Jordan Pendleton, 3
Interceptions: Andrew Rich, 4

Star of the defense: Junior SS Andrew Rich
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Vic So'oto
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman DE Thomas Bryson
Best pro prospect: Junior NT Romney Fuga
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Rich, 2) Fuga, 3) CB Brian Logan
Strength of the defense: Corner, Run Defense
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Proven Free Safety

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Gone is the school's all-time leading sacker, Jan Jorgensen, and in steps junior Matt Putnam on the right side. The 6-6, 255-pounder has been a good backup over the last few years, but he saw his role diminish last season making just six tackles and a sack after coming up with 27 stops and two sacks two years ago. He's extremely athletic and has the ability to become a good pass rusher, but no one's expecting him to be Jorgensen.

Back to anchor the line is junior Romney Fuga , a tough 6-1, 295-pound plugger on the nose. He started seven times last year coming up with 40 tackles, a sack, and three tackles for loss as an active presence both against the run and getting into the backfield. He'll be in a part of a rotation this year and won't have to carry the load by himself, but he's one of the team's biggest linemen and he has to play like it.

Senior Vic So'oto will never be the superstar he was supposed to be when he came to the program as one of the nation's top tight end prospects (he caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a score in 2007), but he has been around long enough to be a solid defensive end working on the right side. The 6-3, 265-pound veteran suffered a broken foot two years ago, and he was limited a bit last year making just ten tackles with a sack and four tackles for loss. This is final chance to shine, and this offseason he showed off the quickness and athleticism that could make him a top pass rusher.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Eathyn Manumaleuna started every game on the nose as a freshman making 25 tackles with a tackle for loss and an interception, and then he left for two years on a mission. Very physical and very talented, the 6-2, 280-pounder from Alaska is back and as good as ever able to start on the nose if needed or work as a 3-4 end on the left side in a rotation with Vic So'oto. Mostly known for blocking UCLA's game-winning field goal attempt to seal the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl, he'll grow into a dangerous lineman

6-3, 275-pound sophomore Jordan Richardson saw a little time making a tackle in four games of work, but he was far better in the classroom earning Academic All-Mountain West honors. Extremely strong and a mauler, he was a superstar Idaho high school wrestler, and he's tough enough to be able to handle himself well on the nose. He's athletic enough to play either end spot.

Freshman Thomas Bryson was going to start last year, but he ended up missing the year hurt. Healthy again, the former star tight end recruit has been terrific in practices and should become a deadly pass rusher on the right side. A tall, rangy 6-5 and 230 pounds, he has a good frame, is smart, and quick for the right side in a rotation with Matt Putnam.

Watch Out For … Manumaleuna. The young, versatile lineman will move back and forth in and out of spots all across the front. He's a big, quick defender who can be an anchor on the nose or can be a pass rusher on the end, and he'll play a huge role.
Strength: Size and maturity. Because of the missions and because of the time logged into the system, the major changes up front shouldn't be all that tough to overcome. The Cougars are great on the nose and have good bulk on the end and excellent upside.
Weakness: Getting into the backfield. The front three was great against the run, but even with Jan Jorgensen, it struggled to get into the backfield on a regular basis. BYU finished 101st in the nation in tackles for loss, and it's not likely to be much better this year.
Outlook: With the expected emergence of So'oto and Putnam as playmakers on the end, and with a rock in Fuga in the middle, the run defense should be terrific. However, So'oto has to finally show he can play, while Putnam will have to be consistent. The reserves should be solid with players like Bryson about to blow up.
Unit Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: Junior Jordan Pendleton took over on the strongside and came up with a terrific year making 52 tackles with three sacks and six tackles for loss. Always around the ball, he was also a good pass rusher always getting pressure on the quarterback when needed, and now he'll be turned loose even more to be disruptive. The former safety and corner was named one of Utah's best high school athletes, and he can fly around and make things happen all over the field. He might only be 6-2 and 228 pounds, but he plays bigger.

Taking over for Shawn Doman in one of the middle spots will be Shane Hunter , a 6-1, 229-pound senior who'll be a part of a regular rotation. He's not all that big, but he's a big hitter making 15 tackles with a forced fumble as a reserve. While he'll get the longest look for the starting job, he'll have to battle hard to keep the job with some great prospects looking to provide a push.

Senior Jordan Atkinson made seven tackles as a reserve after transferring over from Diablo Valley JC. The 6-3, 243-pounder is a strong pass rushing prospect on the weakside, and while his father, Dave Atkinson, holds the school record for career interceptions with 20, he has to show he can be a consistent factor in pass coverage.

5-11, 222-pound sophomore Brandon Ogletree was an Academic All-Mountain West star in the classroom and was a strong special teamer and reserve linebacker making 19 tackles. Working as a fourth linebacker in the system, he'll be a major stat producer with tremendous tackling skills and big-time upside. Recruited by places like Texas Tech, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and others, he had his pick of several BCS schools, and now he should become a major factor with his bigger role.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jameson Frazier had a terrific offseason and will push hard for time in several spots. He's not going to push Jordan Pendleton out of a job on the strongside, but he'll do far more than just be a special teamer again after making two tackles last year. Built like a safety at 6-2 and 201 pounds, he has the speed and the moves to get into the backfield, and he has the ability to move to the weakside if needed.

It's been an interesting start for freshman Kyle Van Noy , who had issues with an alcohol-related incident that has been cleared up, and now he'll be a major factor on the weakside. Far smaller than Jordan Atkinson, the 6-4, 209-pounder is a strong athlete who caught 18 touchdown passes in his senior year of high school and was a sprinter on the track team.

If it wasn't for the signing of QB Jake Heaps, the addition of Zac Stout would've made the biggest headlines this recruiting season. Wanted by most of the Pac 10 schools, and Nebraska, the 6-2, 220-pound option for the middle is a tackling machine who'll battle with Austin Jorgensen and Shane Hunter for time. The 6-3, 230-pound Jorgensen is next-level smart, having been recruited hard by Harvard and Princeton, and very tough. A great athlete, he'll find time somewhere in the corps if he's not the starter.

Watch Out For … the freshmen. Van Noy and Stout will have to work their way up the ladder, but they're among the team's most talented defensive prospects and should play huge roles right away. They're way too good to keep off the field, and they could be starting early on if they play up to their potential right away.
Strength: Active prospects. Only one starter might be returning, but there are several interesting defenders ready to make some noise. Frazier, Jorgensen, Stout, Ogletree, and Van Noy are all going to be good, and they might not even be the starters.
Weakness: Proven veterans. Matt Bauman, Shawn Doman, and Coleby Clawson are gone after combining for close to 200 tackles. There are good players ready to step in, but this could be an inconsistent group until the right foursome is found.
Outlook: The linebackers might take a little while, but they'll eventually be one of the team's biggest strengths. There are some excellent young athletes to mix in with some mature veterans, and the result should end up being great by the end of the season. The 2011 version might be special.
Unit Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: Junior Andrew Rich was a nice reserve who forged a reputation for being a huge hitter, and then he took over the strong safety job, or the Kat, and he led the team with 85 stops with four interceptions earning Second Team All-Mountain West honors. Very smart and very big, the 6-3, 223-pounder will be a tone-setter for the back eight and he should be an all-star both in the classroom and on the stat sheet.

While senior Brian Logan is only 5-6 and 176 pounds, he plays big and physical making 44 tackles with four tackles for loss and three interceptions, and he was one of the nation's leaders in broken up passes batting away 14. The former JUCO transfer has 4.4 speed, is a willing tackler, and can jump out of the stadium. Teams will always pick on him because of his size, but he'll come through.

6-0, 200-pound senior Brandon Bradley started every game last year out the Boundary side and finished fourth on the team with 64 tackles with four broken up passes. More of a safety playing corner, he's a great hitter who doesn't miss plays in the open field, finishing second on the team in solo stops, and he has the ability and potential to become an all-star. Originally a Louisville Cardinal, he has grown into a No. 1 corner with the potential to do even more.

The lone open starting spot in the secondary is at free safety where Steven Thomas will get the first chance to replace third-leading tackler Scott Johnson. The 5-11, 176-pound junior was mostly a special teamer making six stops and returning three kicks for an average of 17.7 yards per try. He was supposed to be a part of the rotation last year, but wasn't and he'll have to shine right away to hold off some other talented options. He could be used like a nickel or dime back and could see more time as a kick returner.

Projected Top Reserves: If it's not Steven Thomas at free safety, it could be junior Travis Uale , a 6-2, 195-pound junior who was an all-star in the classroom and did a decent job on special teams making four tackles. With his size and quickness he's built for the position, and he's being given every shot to grow into the starter.

Former JUCO transfer Corby Eason got a little bit of time on special teams last year making two tackles, but now the 5-8, 174-pound junior will get to see more action on the Boundary side working behind Brandon Bradley. He's fast, active, and should be a decent option with a little bit of time.

6-0, 193-pound true freshman Jray Galea'i was one of the nation's top defensive back prospects and the Cougars will use him in a variety of ways. While he's big enough and strong enough to work at strong safety, or the Kat, he's quick enough to be a corner if needed. With big-time pop, he should quickly become a fan favorite.

Watch Out For … Bradley. Rich and Logan got most of the credit and many of the post-season accolades last year, but Bradley is a great stat producer with the experience to do even more. He has to come up with some picks, and he'll get his chances.
Strength: Veteran starters. The secondary grew into a positive as last season went on, and it should be a major strength this season with three starters returning including one of the best corner tandems in the Mountain West. Everyone can tackle and everyone is sound.
Weakness: Proven backups. There will be a year of discovery to find the right reserves with several position battles for No. 2 spots. The free safety job if far from settled and could end up being a rotation throughout the season.
Outlook: While the Cougar secondary has had some problems against many of the better passing teams over the last few seasons, it has gotten better and was terrific at times. Now it should be fantastic with three good starters and some promising reserves. While the pass rush might not help out enough to allow the secondary to be a rock, this will end up being among the most productive in the Mountain West.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: If nothing else, senior Mitch Payne is consistent. After connecting 15-of-22 field goals as a freshman, he hit 10-of-14 field goal attempts as a sophomore and a junior. Last year he connected on … 10-of-14 field goal attempts. He has a good leg with range just inside the 50 with three of his misses coming from beyond 45 yards, and he's reliable enough to be used in key spots. The nightmare of the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, when he missed three field goals, is well behind him.

Sophomore Riley Stephenson came up with a strong season averaging 41.3 yards per punt, but he could stand to be better on placements putting just eight inside the 20. He earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors and should be a consistent all-star with a great leg that can blast away out of jams.

The team needs a shot in the arm for the punt return game, and that's where true freshman J.D. Falslev comes in. Very quick with the ability to make the first man miss, he should be a dangerous specialist for the next four years and will be allowed to grow into the job.

Junior WR O'Neill Chambers is one of the team's top targets and a star on kickoff returns averaging 25.6 yards per try. J.J. Di Luigi will get his chances as well after averaging 24 yards per try on 11 chances.

Watch Out For … Falslev. The Cougars didn't get much from Chambers on punt returns, and now the pressure is on Falslev to be great right away or else there will be some major changes. Chambers is going to mainly concentrate on kickoff returns, and it'll be Spencer Hafoka if Falslev stinks.
Strength: Kicking. Stephenson will only get better and will be a first or second-team all-star punter, while Payne is consistent and looked stronger at times this offseason.
Weakness: Punt returns. The coverage teams need to do more, but the bigger problem that has to be address, and will be with Falslev, after averaging a poor 6.21 yards per try.
Outlook: The special teams have been a bit up and down in several areas over the last few years, but the kicking game will be consistent and the kickoff return game has the potential to be special. The kickoff coverage team needs to be better and a lot more is needed on punt returns, but overall the special teams will be solid.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2010 BYU Preview | 2010 BYU Offense
- 2010 BYU Defense | 2010 BYU Depth Chart
- BYU Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006