More Watch List recognition for BYU football players on this lovely Monday morning in Utah, as linebacker Uona Kaveinga made the watch list for the Butkus Award (nation's best linebacker).
Also, offensive lineman Braden Hansen and linebacker Kyle Van Noy have made the watch list for the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation's top offensive or defensive lineman, or linebacker.
The Biletnikoff Award (receiver) watch list comes out Tuesday; Obviously, BYU junior Cody Hoffman is a candidate to make that list.
At BYU's media day last month, I was able to talk for quite awhile with defensive backs coach Nick Howell. During the season, Howell is intense, focused and a bit on edge when he talks to reporters. He acts like a man with a bus to catch. But at media day he was relaxed and easygoing, chatting easily about a variety of topics.
Of course, I asked him if this BYU defense will be as good as many folks are saying it will be.
"That's our goal, to be as good as we can be. So we will find out when the season starts. I am excited about the kids that we have and if they put in the work and train like they are supposed to, I think we will be happy with the results," he said. "We are very, very comfortable in our system right now. We are a quarters-based zone [defense in the secondary]. The common fan will say, 'you never play man-to-man. But we are a match zone team. There are so many man-to-man principles in it, though. We don't get up and get in your face, but there are a ton of man to man principals in it.
We are very comfortable in our scheme, we have recruited the right kids to play in it, and it is a proven scheme. You look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Houston Texans, the Green Bay Packers -- some of these 3-4 NFL teams out there. It is a proven system."
Howell said that four guys are battling to be in the rotation at safety -- Joe Sampson, Daniel Sorensen, Mike Hague and returned missionary Craig Bills -- but Sorensen and Sampson are the starters heading into fall camp.
"It is between four guys," he said. "Obviously, Daniel [Sorensen] is a guy who is going to be solid for us, a guy that played every game last year.
And then between Joe Sampson, who made a million plays for us last year, and others, we should be solid. Joe comes out of spring as the starter at free safety, and Daniel as the starter at Kat. No question they are capable. I think they are as good as we have had. No question. Both of them. Behind Daniel and Joe we have Mike Hague, a guy who can play there. Then one we add in is Craig Bills, off his mission."
Howell said Chase Pendley and Skye PoVey will add depth to the position and will be ready if and when injuries occur.
The coach said Bills "looks good physically, looks great," after returning from his mission.
"He's running around well. He's one of those kids that is hungry and spends a lot of time in the film room, asks a lot of questions. He played before his mission as a true freshmen, started one game and is just a big, athletic body. He and Daniel Sorensen are very, very similar."
Howell said Sampson, who will be a senior, has a chance to do some special things.
"If he continues to do what he's been doing, I think he will get an opportunity to play in the NFL," Howell said. "That would be awesome for him."
What about the cornerbacks?
Howell said Preston Hadley and Jordan Johnson are the starters heading into fall camp.
"Mike Hague rotated at boundary corner at spring camp and is kind of a utility guy, kind of how we used Joe Sampson last year in a variety of spots. Then we got Robbie Buckner who has done a good job for us. Then you got O'Neill Chambers, who athletically could fight his way into a spot very easily. We've been playing him at corner. So those kids have done a really good job."
What has to happen for this secondary group to stamp itself as one of the better units in the backfield in the Bronco Mendenhall era?
"Between Preston and Joe and Craig and Daniel, those four guys have got to stay healthy," Howell said. "Preston is proven. That dude is a warrior. He's going to make a ton of plays. Daniel is proven. That kid is as good a safety as we have had here. Then Joe, ability wise, and the plays he made last year, he needs to stay healthy.
Then somebody has got to emerge as the field corner. Right now, there is as much talent there, if not more, than we have ever had. Someone has got to emerge. Between Jordan and Robbie and O'Neill, someone has got to emerge and play like they are capable of playing.
This system that we play allows them to be successful. It is a thing where they have to understand concepts, and understand how to play with each other, and understand each other's abilities and when they all play together, we are going to be hard to beat. We are going to be hard to be thrown over the top of.
Last year, we didn't give up a lot of touchdown passes. If you can keep the ball in front of you, and keep the score down, and give your offense the chance to score and win, that's what we need to do. So we need to play together, stay healthy, and eliminate the big plays to give our offense a chance."
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