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"Cougar Tracks" caught up with a pair of BYU linebackers after Tuesday afternoon's practice in Provo, the last media session prior to the Cougars' Friday night home game with Utah State.
The game with the Aggies comes 52 weeks to the day USU handed BYU a 31-16 shellacking--a setback that prompted the firing of then-defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, who was replaced as play-caller by head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
On the changes that have been made since the last matchup against Utah State, ILB Brandon Ogletree said, "I think you adopt the personality of your coach. We're more hard-nosed, more gritty. I think we're a lot smarter and we're playing a lot more physically. It's been a 180-degree turn since the last Utah State game."
Utah State's biggest weapon coming into this Friday's game is its junior Running Back Robert Turbin, who has rushed for 365 yards and scored eight touchdowns in the school's first three games this season.
Of Turbin, Ogletree said, "He's probably the best running back we'll play all year. I don't know whom he compares to; he's the total package. We respect him a lot."
BYU OLB Jordan Pendleton added, "He's a great runner. We played against him in 2009. He runs hard, he's physical, he's patient, he finds his holes, and when he hits his holes he hits them hard. Nothing but respect for (Turbin)."
That being said, BYU seems to have the tools to combat Turbin and the other members of USU's impressive fleet of running backs. During his Monday press conference, Aggie head coach Gary Andersen raved about BYU's defensive line: "The linebackers are very active. They're so big inside. I've talked to the people they've played and you're not going to move the A and B gaps. Not going to happen. They go against 330, 330, 330, 330, 330, and they're big, physical young men. They're going to knock out our run. Nobody moves them."
Ogletree explained the defensive line's key to stopping the run, saying "Everybody has to fit in their gap. (USU's) running backs can hurt you if you're not playing the gaps sound. When one person doesn't fit in his gap they can break for 60 yards. Really it comes down to playing gap-sound football."
On the defense's attitude coming into this game, he continued: "(USU) is a huge challenge for us. It's a slap in the face for them to come onto our field and to expect to run the ball on us. We're getting pretty hyped for it."
Three defensive keys to Friday's game, according to Ogletree and Pendleton:
1. Stop the run
2. Get USU's true-freshman QB Chuckie Keeton to make mistakes
3. Don't give up third-down conversions
You can hear the complete post-practice interviews with Ogletree and Pendleton in "Cougar Cuts," above.
Kick-off for the Utah State game is Friday at 6:00 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Tune into KSL Radio 1160 AM, 102.7 FM or ksl.com, starting with pregame coverage at 4:00pm.