BYU's Howell on depleted secondary: "We will be ready. I guarantee you that."
The first BYU football player to decline an interview request since I started covering the team in 2008 was Nick Alletto, an offensive lineman who played from 2007-2010. Alletto was always polite about saying no, and one time if I recall correctly he said he grew up in Colorado (Parker) and that the Denver Broncos' offensive linemen never talked to the media, either.
Role models, apparently.
Well, Alletto's younger brother, sophomore Terrance Alletto, approaches it differently.
I interviewed little bro (he's actually big, at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds) on Wednesday, and found him to be one of the most well-spoken players on the team.
Go here to read more about the young Alletto and where he fits on the revamped offensive line. Frankly, Alletto saved me because my plan yesterday was to write about the offensive line as a whole, but OL coach Garett Tujague and OC Robert Anae were not available for interviews.
Of course, the big news out of Wednesday's practice revolved around the cornerback positions. Freshman Dallin Leavitt is out for up to seven days with a strained hip flexor and receiver Eric Thornton has been moved from the offense to the defense. He will now play field cornerback.
"I was definitely surprised, because even when I got called up to meet with coach Anae and coach Mendenhall, I had no idea what that meeting was about. I didn't do anything wrong, as far as I knew. Hadn't done anything significantly right. So I had no idea. When they asked me to play field corner, it was a total surprise," Thornton said.
After Mendenhall announced the switch, reporters converged on defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator Nick Howell in the football office lobby as he sat on a bench with his son, Dakota, whom he had brought to practice. The young boy looked on in amazement, and pride, as a dozen or so reporters with television cameras and tape recorders crowded around his father.
And Nick Howell delivered, almost to the point of giving a rah-rah speech about how the Cougars will recover from the injuries to Jordan Johnson (season-ending) and Leavitt.
"The lights are going to be on in that DB room here until late for the next couple of weeks," Howell said. "We are going to get ready. We are going to be ready. We are going to play good and we are going to play great. So I am confident. ... Our mindset is we are getting ready for the fight. We are going to walk out there and fight. We will be ready. I guarantee you that."
Howell said that if the Virginia game was today, Robertson Daniel would start at field corner (Johnson's spot) and Skye PoVey (his brother-in-law) would start at boundary corner. Asked if Leavitt would be starting if he was healthy, Howell shook his head.
"No, I don't think so. Skye has a lot of experience, and Dallin is kind of coming along. Not that that can't change, but I would see Dallin right behind Skye. Those two, right there."
Howell said that when spring camp began that cornerback was one of the deepest positions on the team. Now it is hanging by a thread.
"Yeah, I mean, we had, I believe, more depth than BYU has ever had a corner -- healthy bodies, good players. But things change fast, and so you better adjust on the fly, and you better go.
So that's what happens."
One of the junior college corners that BYU was counting on was Sam Lee, out of College of the Canyons. He hasn't practiced yet, though, because of a back injury.
"It wasn't a previous injury. It was something that happened here in summer conditioning," Howell said. "He just kinda aggravated his back, and now we are just waiting for it to heal up.
All those guys came in healthy -- Trent [Trammell], Rob, Sam. There are three JC corners that you throw on top of Jordan Johnson, Skye, Mike [Hague] -- there are seven or eight really good corners right there. But that changed really fast."
I asked Howell whether Eric Thornton played defensive back in high school.
"No. He did not. But when I look down the roster and we are thinking about creating depth right there, I am thinking two guys -- Jamaal Williams and Eric Thornton -- as far at the quick twitch, change direction, recovery, speed, who can actuallly play that position.
The best move for our team is to move Eric over there when you have got depth with JD there and other guys in the slot.
It is not concrete yet, but from what I have seen the last two days, if he was playing corner and I was recruiting him, he has everything I would look for to recruit a guy ... He is really smart, so I think he can pick it up. What I have seen so far of him, I think he is going to be able to pick it up."
Did Howell really think Mendenhall and Anae would let Williams make the move?
"I said it, knowing that I wasn't going to fight for it, and just athletically, you look at the roster, and we are talking quick, athletic guys, and his name came to mind."
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