Look, I think we can all be forgiven if we broke out the sackcloth and ashes tonight. The news that Jordan Johnson will be out for the year thanks to an ACL is bad news, perhaps some of the worst news BYU could get, short of Kyle Van Noy missing the season. Johnson started 12 of 13 games last year, broke up 15 passes, wracked up 48 tackles, and, has been pointed out numerous times, provided critical leadership and depth at a position group where BYU is probably the weakest. Let's not beat around the bush. It's a big deal, especially since Trenton Trammell is also out.
But it isn't necisarrily a catastrophe. BYU can still have a successful season this year, and even if they can't, they aren't going to cancel the season out of pity. Let's take a look at what happens next.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune's Jay Drew, 3 star true freshman Dallin Leavitt and junior college transfer Robertson Daniel will battle for Johnson's spot, with Daniel the likely favorite for now. Another JUCO transfer, Sam Lee, could find himself in the mix, but he's currently injured and has yet to practice with the team.
BYU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Nick Howell had positive things to say about other members of the defensive backfield at Media Day. "Mike Hague is a guy that I trust completely and we need to keep him healthy. Skye (PoVey) is a guy who was injured last year who, similar to Mike, I trust him. He’s got to get healthy."
He also said "I’ll walk around the running back room or the receiving room and ask if they want to compete and get a spot. Come over to boundary corner position because we’re going to have some competition. Someone will step up — or maybe it will be a couple of guys. I don’t know what it will be but there is definitely talent." The idea of somebody stepping up to provide depth from another position group isn't something we've heard about yet specifically, but probably isn't outside the realm of possibility.
There is some good news. First, Johnson should be granted a medial redshirt, and should be around for another two seasons. Second, BYU knew that their secondary wasn't going to be a strength heading into the season, and presumably have drawn up defensive schemes to help hide that, perhaps emphasizing their strength in the pass rush. If QBs are not able to get comfortable, they won't be able to take advantage of possible matchup advantages at cornerback.
Also, of BYU's first four games, only the Texas game is against a team that projects to have a particularly strong passing attack. Games against Virginia, Utah and Middle Tennessee could help give the unit a little time to mesh before the stiffer tests later in the season. Also, if we're being TOTALLY honest with ourselves, BYU was going to be an underdog in that Texas game even if Johnson was healthy.
So is this an optimal situation? No. Could it cost BYU a game? potentially. The way everything sets up though, it's still possible for this team to win 8 games or so and head to a respectable bowl game, which, against this schedule, would be no small feat.