PROVO — If the BYU defense felt slighted or offended by the offense’s performance in the first scrimmage of fall camp last week, it didn’t hide it much.
“There are a lot of guys on that side of the team that were fired up, talking some smack, but that’s competition. They took it to us,” quarterback Tanner Mangum said. “It wasn’t our best practice, but that’s going to happen. You can’t get too down on one practice. The defense made a lot of good plays today. We’ll just have to learn from it.”
The defense shined with turnovers, interceptions, stellar coverage and a swarming style of play that made every yard hard for the BYU offense during Thursday’s second scrimmage of fall camp at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
After last week’s opening scrimmage, head coach Kalani Sitake had plenty of choice words for his defensive players as he heaped praises on the offensive scheme.
They took it to heart, capping a furious afternoon with Zayne Anderson’s interception to end the day as a few showers briefly fell on Provo.
“They felt like we called them out, and they responded since the last scrimmage,” Sitake said. “They’ve been on a mission, and held up. If we play like we did today as a defense, I’ll be really happy.”
Mangum knows those days will happen as he prepares for his junior season. The starter-to-be saw limited action during the scrimmage, but didn’t miss some of the menacing hits put on some of the younger players by defenders who clearly had something to prove.
“It was good for our defense to come out and have a good day,” Mangum said. “There are some guys on that side of the bar who are, in my opinion, some of the best players in the country.”
Chris Wilcox’s pass breakup brought the defense to a jolt while facing one of Mangum’s passes, and the secondary proved its depth, making plays even when starting safety Micah Hannemann watched several series from the sideline.
“It’s easy to get interceptions when we’ve got that defensive line. It was fun,” Hannemann said.
“It was just a higher level. Every day, it goes back and forth between the offense and defense.”
Though several starters saw plenty of action Thursday, not every first-string defensive player was on the field.
Linebacker Francis Bernard missed the scrimmage, though Sitake would only say that he “got here a little late” in the afternoon. Other players who did not participate included defensive linemen Merrill Taliauli and Tevita Mo'unga, and running back Ula Tolutau, which opened up more time for emerging running back Kavika Fonua.
“Kavika Fonua is really good at pass blocking while learning a new position,” Mangum said. “His pass block is great.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like Jamaal Williams, an every-down back and a workhorse. The goal is to stay consistent, and keep drives moving.”
Hannemann saw plenty of options in the defensive backfield as guys try to distinguish themselves in earning the vacated starting safety spot left by graduated senior Kai Nacua.
One of them was Anderson, whose athletic interception ended the afternoon, while Matt Handley and Tanner Jacobson also saw action.
“We have so many good safeties right now,” Hannemann said. “Everyone is faster, stronger, tackling, making good plays. It’s just everyone better as a unit.
“We’re going to have to move some safeties to other positions to play. It’ll be fun.”
BYU returns to fall camp Monday with one more week of preseason training camp before game week in anticipation of the Aug. 26 home opener against Portland State.