BYU announced Wednesday morning the hiring of new Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Jay Hill, former Head Coach of Weber State.
It is a new era of BYU football. Not only are the headed to the Big 12 Conference next season, but they will do so with a defense that will be completely re-tooled with a new philosophy.
It’s safe to say that the defense cost BYU dearly in 2022. If the defense is even just average, they probably beat Arkansas, East Carolina, and maybe even Liberty and Notre Dame. The defense cost BYU a chance at three straight double digit-win seasons.
Now that is over and done with. There is nothing to be done about the spilled milk that is the 2022 regular season. Aside from the upcoming bowl game, it’s time to think about what the defense can do in 2023 under Jay Hill.
He has already hinted that big changes are in store.
"I will blitz. I will put every guy at the line of scrimmage rather than just sit there and let people pound us."@CoachJayHill shares his defensive philosophy and what he means when he says the defense will be "aggressive," "attacking," and "confusing."#BYUFOOTBALL | #BYUSN pic.twitter.com/vF5UNSYoWk— BYU Sports Nation (@BYUSportsNation) December 8, 2022
That being said, here are three ways that BYU must improve on defense in 2023.
The lifeblood of any solid defense in football is harassing the quarterback. If a defense can consistently pressure the opposing quarterback, everything else usually falls into place. That causes more turnovers, less conversions on third downs, and less long, sustained drives.
BYU was atrocious at rushing the passer in 2022. A lot that can be blamed on scheme. It’s hard to sack the quarterback when you have three rushers against five offensive linemen and sometimes a running back helping as well. That’s being out-manned two-to-one in any pass rush situation.
The Cougars were 130th in total sacks. Only Colorado, who went 1-11, had fewer sacks among FBS programs. They got four against Baylor alone and then just nine the other 11 games combined.
Even just being average in sacks would be a huge turnaround.
This has been the biggest source of pain, anguish, swearing, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, etc for BYU fans for several seasons.
For the last two seasons, BYU has ranked no better than 114th in third down conversion rate allowed. The Cougars were 120th this season.
Allowing a first down on 3rd and long is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience during a football game. It gives the offense confidence, it makes the defense question themselves and get on their heels, and it extends the drive, exhausting the defense. Plus, it keeps your own offense on the sidelines getting colder and colder while not scoring any points.
When BYU gets a team in 3rd and 5 or longer, they need to execute. They need to finish the job and get off the field.
Any good defense thrives at creating turnovers. As mentioned before, a pass rush is a good ingredient to creating chaos and opportunities for turnovers. BYU was 94th in interceptions this season and 124th in overall takeaways. A turnover or two can change the entire football game in your favor. It can stop the bleeding and create momentum out of thin air.
Offenses never felt nervous or pressured against BYU’s defense. They felt safe.
That needs to change.