2014 Outlook: BYU Defensive Backs
This is the final installment of our look ahead to the 2014 version of the BYU football team. Today, we focus on the defensive backfield.
The Cougars lost three of their top corners last year, before the season even got underway.
Projected starters Jordan Johnson (5-10, 185 Jr.) and Trent Trammell (6-0, 190 Jr.) both went down with ACL tears, while projected key back up Sam Lee (6-1, 180 Jr.) was forced to sit out the season with a back injury.
The hope is that all three will be ready to go by the time BYU kicks off the new season on Aug. 28 at Connecticut.
The injuries forced head coach Bronco Mendenhall to play multiple safeties at cornerback in 2013.
The most notable was junior college transfer Rob Daniel (6-1, 198 Sr.), who was a late addition to the program. Daniel turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and his performance exceeded all expectations as he held down the starting field corner job throughout the season. He had two interceptions, broke up nine passes, and made 66 tackles. His play allowed BYU to avoid disaster in the defensive backfield.
Assuming that Johnson is close to 100 percent this fall, expect him to reprise his role as the starting field corner. His return could allow the Cougars to start Daniel at free safety and move Craig Bills to strong safety to replace the graduating Daniel Sorensen. Bills was the starting free safety last year out of necessity, but his physical style of play is more suited to strong safety in Mendenhall’s defense.
Trammell should be ready go at the boundary corner spot, seeing that he will have had almost 18 months to heal up. Trent was penciled in as the starter at the boundary from the moment he stepped on campus. Unfortunately, the promising JUCO transfer blew out his knee on day one of spring camp last year. Assuming he’s healthy, Trammell should win the starting job and help the Cougars field a much improved secondary, allowing Bronco more freedom in what he can do with his defense.
Lee’s situation is more up in the air after undergoing surgery on his back just a couple of weeks ago. He’ll miss spring camp while he recovers and the hope is that he will be able to play when fall rolls around. He’ll be a good insurance policy at either corner position if he is healthy.
Dallin Leavitt (5-11, 198 So.) and Skye PoVey (5-11, 200 Sr.) both contributed at boundary corner last year. Leavitt has a bright future at BYU at the boundary or at either of the safety positions, but that future could be put on hold if he leaves for a mission, as has been rumored. If he does return next season, he should be able to find a spot in the two-deep.
PoVey is a former walk-on who saw a lot of time on the field and started multiple games at the boundary. He doesn’t possess great speed, but he did record five pass break ups, an interception and 47 tackles. He’ll be back next season as senior and will help provide depth at both corner and free safety.
One of the questions next year is where Michael Davis ends up. He converted to cornerback from wide receiver last year to help provide much needed depth. He played in nine games and had his ups and downs. Michael has terrific speed and could develop into a great cornerback, however he may have more value on the offensive side of the ball where that speed could help stretch opposing defenses.
Another player that was added to the secondary last year was Notre Dame transfer Chris Badger (6-0, 197 So.), who appeared in two games at safety. He should be more of a factor after he’s been in the program for a year. He was a highly-recruited player when he came out of Timpview High School, but it remains to be seen if he can live up to the expectations.
Other defensive backs currently on the roster that will have a chance to make contributions next season include Trevor Bateman (5-9, 178 Jr.), Drew Reilly (6-1, 183 Jr.), Michael Wadsworth (6-1, 205 Jr.), Jordan Preator (6-0, 190 So.) and Khalil Bell (5-8, 168 Fr.). The Cougars also expect to add newcomers Michael Shelton (5-10, 170 Fr.) and Kavika Fonua (6-0, 203 Fr.) to the program in the 2014 recruiting class. Shelton will join the the team next season, while Fonua plans to first serve a mission.
Defensive backs currently serving missions include Matt Hadley (Brazil – March, 2015), Rhett Sandlin (Tennessee – January, 2015), Micah Hannemann (California, – February, 2015) Johnny Tapusoa (Samoa – September, 2015) and Morgan Unga (Virginia – January, 2013). Garrett England, a grayshirt in 2013, also expects to serve before enrolling.
In addition to Sorensen, BYU loses Mike Hague, Blake Morgan and Adam Hogan to graduation. The Cougars also expect to lose Kai Nacua (6-1, 205 So.) to a mission. He saw action in eight games as a true freshman last year.
Though there are some health questions to be answered for next year, it appears as if the defensive backfield–usually a weakness for BYU–could actually become one of the team’s strengths in 2014. Despite the loss of some key players in the front seven, the defense could still be formidable if the back four are solid.
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