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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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BYU defensive backs eager for season to start

It is a cool, breezy morning in Provo as the Cougars get set to practice, their sights already set on the opener Aug. 30 against Washington State. WSU's Cougars are practicing in the afternoon, because classes have already started in Pullman.

One of the pair of stories I wrote for Wednesday's Tribune is about how BYU plans to defend WSU coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. All along, it has been assumed by most that Jeff Tuel will be WSU's starting quarterback against BYU, but Leach apparently isn't making that official, according to this report.

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Whether it is Tuel, a senior, or sophomore Connor Halliday, BYU's defensive backs will be tested mightily by the pass-happy attack, which is the focus of this article in today's paper.

Defensive backs coach Nick Howell and starting boundary corner Preston Hadley say the Cougars should be ready.

While we are passing along links, here's an interesting column by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star that urges the Colts to cut concussion-prone former Cougar Austin Collie loose, for his own good.

Knowing Collie the way I do, I will be stunned if he walks away from professional football on his own. We will see.

I mentioned in the article on the secondary that the Cougars will play a lot of nickel defense this year, especially against the likes of Washington State.

"It just depends on whether we can get them in third-and-long, and stop the run. If we are getting spread [out], then we will go to some variation of nickel, whether it is five defensive backs, or five linebackers," Howell said. "So, less of our three-down stuff if they are in a spread offense. I mean, we are going to try to stop the run first. If you can't get to third down, then you can never control the game. So you gotta be in control before you go to nickel."

Howell said walk-on Skye PoVey will be the first cornerback in off the bench, somewhat of a surprise since most are pegging senior DeQuan Everett in that role.

And the fourth guy in, after starters Preston Hadley and Jordan Johnson, and PoVey?

"Right now, that would be Micah Hanneman," Howell said. "Micah is a freshman from Lone Peak. We were going to greyshirt him, but he came in and he's played really well. Jacob Hanneman [Micah's brother] has also looked good. They both got a good chance."

Howell said that senior free safety Joe Sampson is back on track after missing four early practices for disciplinary reasons.

"Joe is smart. He just had to get back acclimated. He has really taken on a communication role, which is good. Joe is instinctive. If he can communicate what he knows and what he is thinking to our team, that's going to be good," Howell said.

I asked the secondary coach if he shared Mendenhall's optimism regarding the depth and athleticism of this year's secondary.

"Oh yeah, always," he said. "We are going to fly around, make plays. We won't back down to anyone, I can guarantee you that. The mentality on defense is to fly around and play as hard as we can. We feel like we are going to be in better shape. We feel like we are going to be more physical. We feel like our kids are going to know the game plan better, and we are going to go out there and try to get their offense to break in the game.

"We got to wait until next Thursday. We are ready. We want to go. These guys want to go. I can't wait for them to cut loose. We are going to be physical when the ball is in the air, and we are going to make plays and we are going to run around.

If we do what we are supposed to, we know what the outcome will be, so we are excited."



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