August 31, 2006

BYU Preview: Defense

The Arizona Wildcats take on their first opponent of the 2006 season this Saturday against the BYU Cougars, and while the talk has been how Arizona will stop their offense, here we will focus on the Cougar defense.

BYU's defense was the weak point of the Cougars' team in 2005 and until they prove otherwise it looks to be weak again this season. The biggest area of concern is the Cougar secondary who last season gave up 269.3 yards per game in the air. Their pass defense ranked last in the Mountain West in 2005.

In order to remedy the pass defense, BYU is switching to a 3-4 defense utilizing four linebackers to help cover the pass. The linebackers are definitely the strong suit for the Cougars and so the 3-4 could have a huge effect for BYU.

To start things off, senior linebacker Cameron Jensen could cause a lot of problems for the Wildcats. He is one of the more talented linebackers in the country and was recently named to the Butkus Award watch list awarded to the nation's best linebacker.

Last season Jensen totaled 84 tackles, six tackles for a loss, one sack, and had four pass breakups. Although he is extremely talented, he was one of the only defensive players to have a starting spot locked up heading into Fall Camp.

Jensen will be joined on the inside by junior Markell Staffieri. Staffieri was a key backup last season and is expected to play a big role this season. The outside linebackers will be juniors Bryan Kehl and Chris Bolden.

Although the Cougars lost two starting linebackers there is plenty of depth and talent to fill the position and it will definitely be the strong suit of the defense.

Not only were opposing teams able to throw the ball on the Cougars, but teams also racked up 147.8 yards per game on the ground. To make matters worse for BYU, all three starting defensive linemen graduated, however the position is not left completely without experience.

Senior defensive tackle Halo Paongo, 6-foot-2 285 pounds, started in the Las Vegas Bowl and could be a force for the Cougars this season.

The two defensive ends will most likely be sophomore Kyle Luekenga and redshirt freshman Jan Jorgensen. The lack of experience on the defensive line should really help Arizona in its first game.

Arizona's big questions in the off-season have been the play of the offensive line and the running game. Arizona's weakness could possibly become a strength against the three BYU linemen. The opportunity will definitely be there, the question is whether or not Arizona takes it.

Finally, BYU's secondary struggled last season and if there is not improvement the quarterback Willie Tuitama should have a big day. BYU returned its two starting cornerbacks in Justin Robinson and Kayle Buchanan.

Robinson is impressive in coverage and led BYU with ten pass breakups, however he is only 5-foot-7 and 154 pounds and thus Arizona's short receivers will not only rely on speed but will also be bigger and more physical.

If the offensive line can give Tuitama time then Arizona should have a lot of success throwing the ball against the Cougars. With the talent Arizona has at receiver and the lack of a stellar BYU secondary there should be a huge advantage for the Wildcats.

Arizona's 5 Keys to
Offensive Success
1. Exploit the secondary:
Willie Tuitama has to exploit the weak BYU secondary with the same tools he displayed in his time as the starter last season.
2. Take advantage on the ground:
An Arizona running back needs to step up against the 3-4 defense.
3. Protect Willie:
The offensive line should use its numbers to contain the pass rush and protect Willie Tuitama.
4. Hang onto the ball:
BYU's linebackers can hit and winning the turnover battle in the first game in a season will go a long way towards a win.
5. Find a third receiver: All Fall, Anthony Johnson was a serious threat and if he continues his play into the season then the Arizona offense will be tough to stop.

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