COLLEGE. FOOTBALL. IS. HERE.
Is there any sweeter combination of words in the English language? I think not.
It's Christmas in August, and BYU's season-opener is only 4 days away at the friendly confines of Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA.
But before we retreat to our man caves for the weekend, let's quickly review the one area that might cage the Cougars week one against Virginia--the defensive secondary.
BYU boasted the nation's 3rd-ranked defense last season--one of the best in program history. All-world linebacker Kyle Van Noy passed on the NFL draft to return and play his senior year with another promising Cougar D, but a litany of off-season injuries in the secondary have put a tear in Zion's Curtain.
Both projected cornerback starters from last Spring are now caged on the sidelines. Highly touted JC transfer Trent Trammell tore his ACL in the Spring. Jordan Johnson followed with his own season-ending ACL surgery in August during non-contact drills of all things.
But Wait ... There's More:
College of the Canyons transfer Sam Lee hurt his back soon after arriving in Provo. Adam Hogan tore his quad muscle. Multiple dings sidelined veteran Mike Hague most the off-season. And last of all, talented freshman Jacob Hannemann lit up the diamond in the Spring and left the football program after being drafted in the third round of the MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs.
What was projected to be one of BYU's deepest secondaries in recent memory unexpectedly transformed into Swiss cheese.
How Bad Is It? :
The loss of Trammell and Johnson was huge. They were the projected starters in spring ball, and Johnson was the most athletic, confident, and experienced DB on the roster.
The depth chart became so thin that wide receivers Michael Davis and Eric Thornton migrated to the defensive side of the ball. Even freshman rugby phenom Jonny Linehan now laces up with the BYU secondary. Maybe he can transfer some of his magic from the pitch onto the gridiron.
But with Great Challenge Comes Great Opportunity:
Robertson Daniel has been a silver lining. Injury fallout gave him an opportunity to step-in and prove himself when he would have been otherwise buried in the depth chart. He's risen to the challenge and showcased speed, size, and athletic ability throughout the fall as highlighted by his acrobatic interception during the last scrimmage. Skye PoVey is another tough veteran jumping into the fray, and freshman Dallin Leavitt fought off his own injury bug and has impressed head coach Bronco Mendenhall with an Austin-Collie-like tenacity.
The health and performance of BYU's secondary will be a key storyline to follow throughout the 2013 season. A young offense with a new coordinator and scheme might have to rely on the defense to keep them in games, especially early on.
But the Cougars are approaching the task at hand as a challenge, not a setback. BYU still has one of the best front-7's in the country and will depend heavily on their pressure and disruption to prevent teams from attacking the untested secondary.
And if all else fails, there's still one remaining hope:
KYLE. VAN. NOY.
Here's to a great season.