This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As he was wrapping up his first interview with reporters in about six months last Friday, BYU linebacker Harvey Langi said the Cougars' defense "is going to be a scary, fun thing to watch next year."
That remains to be seen. What isn't in question is that the defense will look a lot different in 2016 under new defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. I detailed that in this spring camp wrap article in Monday's newspaper.
"We have to be conditioned, and we have to be very smart," Langi said at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Alumni Day when he was asked what the defense will do in the spring and summer without coaches and formal practices.
"There are a lot of different schemes we are going to play this year, and we need to all get on the same page and hit the film room hard during this offseason."
Several linebackers have been moved to the outside or to defensive end (Sione Takitaki, Sae Tautu), but Langi said he is "still in the middle" in what will resemble a 4-3 alignment on most downs.
"The change [to a 4-3] just allows me to be more free," Langi said. "The defensive linemen are going to put a lot of the load on their backs, but they can handle it. They are handling it well. For me, it is just, 'go get the ball.' So it is fun … The new scheme is designed to let the linebackers run to the ball, let us go make more plays. So it is fun. That's what I love."
With playmakers such as Langi and Fred Warner, the linebacking corps should be a strength of the defense, Langi acknowledged.
"The inside linebackers are the core of the team," he said. "We lead. Each position and all the different positions, they all lead, and they all help out. I just feel like it is a huge deal for us linebackers to show the culture on this team."
Tuiaki said most of the defensive install is in, although coaches have noticed that "the less we put in, the faster they play." He said they installed a few things late in camp that they probably should have waited to put in until this fall.
"We got to a point where we started to force install, just to get it on film so we could teach for fall camp. But you could see the screws turning out there," Tuiaki said. "Those guys are just getting a little too much. So we will try to keep it simple and just make sure they are playing fast. And I think they are able when they are playing, and everybody is sound. We give up big plays when we make mistakes. … But there is a lot that is in. The base package is in, a lot of the pressures and all that stuff is in."
Tuiaki said all the position groups defensive line, linebackers and secondary improved throughout spring camp, after a bit of a rocky start due to the introduction of new schemes and whatnot.
"There is still a lot of improvement to be made. And we have guys we gotta get back [such as Travis Tuiloma, Kai Nacua and Logan Taele]. But I thought all groups improved," Tuiaki said.
Asked what has been the biggest obstacle in transitioning to the 4-3, Tuiaki pointed to the defensive linemen having to adjust their way of thinking, and playing.
"Probably just teaching the D-line that it is OK to go make a play, instead of just holding up a block. A lot of times, I think what they have been used to is holding blocks the whole time. And I think in the defense that we are morphing to, it is, if you block the backers, the D line has to make the tackles. If you block the D line, the backers have to make the tackles, or the safeties. So it is trying to free them up and know that it is OK to come off a block and make a play. They are getting it, they've made improvements, but there are still a lot of technique improvements to be made. Coach [Steve] Kaufusi is doing a great job with those guys, they are just coming along slowly."
I asked the former Oregon State and Utah position coach what about the defense will keep him awake at night the next five months.
"I think the part that keeps me, as well as anyone else, up at night is if you have got enough depth at certain spots. So we will go out, and we will recruit, and try to make sure that we secure the depth at every position. But depth is always a concern. If you lose a guy, you are playing with a second guy you don't feel comfortable with, that's something that is going to keep you up at night."