While the BYU offense bore much of the deserved criticism for its inconsistency last season, the BYU defense again went unheralded. Provo is an offensive town (this phrase has never been composed before in the history of the English language), and the folks only seem to care about the Cougar offense. Dig a little deeper. Bronco Mendenhall is an elite defensive coordinator whose scheme has allowed BYU to be one of the nation's most consistent units since his first season managing the defense in 2003.
And the 2012 defense can be one the best in school history. The 2011 squad was ranked in the Top 25 nationally in both points surrendered and total yards yielded. Despite a more rigorous schedule in 2012, the Cougars have the personnel in place to surpass those totals and deliver a dominating style of play that can only aid an offense which will continue, in my mind, to be plagued with inconsistency.
Just one underclassman (CB Jordan Johnson) will enter 2012 in the starting lineup. And just three more (LBs Alani Fua & Zac Stout, and FS Craig Bills) will see meaningful snaps this season. Shockingly (not shockingly to Rocky Long), experience and maturity are brimming Happy Valley. Suffice it to say, the BYU defense is as primed and ready as it will ever be.
Even with the unfortunate retirement of DT Jordan Richardson, the Cougar defensive line is big and experienced. While the group lacks the pass rusher (Ezekiel Ansah doesn't count until he actually plays and shows consistently), the running lanes will be plugged as they were last season. Ian Dulan, Russell Tialavea, and Eathyn Manumaleuna, who have a combined 37 (?) years at BYU, are stables in the first line of defense.
Kyle Van Noy anchors a deep linebacking corp. With the aid of fellow returning starters Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga, and experienced backer Spencer Hadley, the Cougar middle half will be able to effective run sideline-to-sideline as well as fill the gaps in the running game. BYU is one of the few teams that uses the 3-4 scheme, and much emphasis is placed on the linebackers to stop the run. This much talent and depth will be a boon to that goal.
The secondary is going to be as athletic as any since the days of Omarr Morgan and Tim McTyer. Preston Hadley, Daniel Sorenson, Joe Sampson, and the aforementioned Johnson will give BYU a look in the back end that will raise some eyebrows across the country. In fact, you might not see a 5'9 corner from Orem, Utah on the field at any time this season. Hallelujah.
The board is set and the pieces are ready to move. Just over three weeks until we see just how good this group can be.