Soelberg Cautiously Confident About Boise State

<b>NATHAN SOELBERG</b>

"I love the fact they're (Boise State) undefeated. I love the fact they have a (20-game home) winning streak. It's the best feeling in the world going into a game like this. I still have a sour taste in my mouth from last year (50-12 blowout at LaVell Edwards Stadium). I've been looking forward to this game."

If anyone thought the Cougars would overlook or be overconfident for their payback matchup with undefeated and No. 21 ranked Boise State Broncos tomorrow night after playing No. 1 ranked USC last week, BYU junior cornerback Nathan Soelberg will tell you nothing could be further from the truth.

"They line up more receivers than we've seen mostly," said Soelberg. "They have four wide-outs and they do a lot of fly motion and stuff. We have to make adjustments on the back end. That's what film and practice is for and I think we're getting that down."

The Broncos boast the No. 1 ranked offense in the country, averaging 55 points per game after their first three games, but Soelberg said he is confident the Cougars are capable of upsetting them if the defense executes the way they plan. "As long as we have our assignments down, I think the front line will take care of them."

Without a hint of braggadocio, Soelberg noted, "It's kind of dangerous to say shutout when they score 55 points a game, but that's our goal. My goal is to not let anyone catch a ball. If everyone has that goal, I think we are heading in the right direction."

He knows it's much easier said than done, adding that if each unit in the team set lofty goals for itself, their chances for success Friday improve dramatically. "I'm always hyped for good games like this," Soelberg added.

The 6-0, 172 pound Soelberg has lined up opposite USC, Notre Dame and Stanford twice in two years, facing some of the nation's top wide receivers – USC's Dwayne Jarrett (6-5, 205 pounds), Freddy Davis (6-4, 215 pounds) and Jeff Samardzija (6-5, 215 pounds); Notre Dame's Maurice Stovall (6-5, 227 pounds); and Stanford's Evan Moore (6-7, 235 pound), and commented on the challenges and contrasts.

"They're very athletic and I've noticed the way certain teams work harder. It's nice going up against our guys here in practice because you know they're working hard every time. But the biggest difference I've noticed is the size of the receiver and the athleticism of the receiver (the Cougars have faced). We've got some great athletes here, but we don't have the huge receivers that other schools have. That's been the biggest thing. That Stanford guy who is 6-7, he's huge," Soelberg said.

When matched up against much taller receivers, Soelberg said he has to try and beat them with better technique. "Usually when I see a big guy like I have every game, I focus more on technique because I know I'm faster than them. When you see a little guy, you kind of want to get into position first. If I'm lined up on a tight end, I obviously don't worry about the speed, so that's basically the things I adjust to," he said.

Battle-tested by such a wide array of great athletic talent has taught Soelberg many things, one of which is confidence in his abilities. "It's taught me a lot of things. It's taught me that I need to work on some things. It's taught me that we can hang with these teams if we do what we're supposed to do. Sometimes we're dominating and then other times we'll have a mental breakdown. It's taught me that we're good and we're able to hang with anyone, basically."

Soelberg and senior cornerback Brandon Heaney are often left on an island in their 3-3-5 defense, with little backup, but with the responsibility comes the recognition of what they must do not to let their teammates down. "Last year was kind of scary for me, to tell you the truth, because it was my first full year at corner. I honestly didn't expect to play that much. With the injuries, I got thrown in there and that helped me come along a little faster rather than just watching," said Soelberg.

A BYU track team sprinter, Soelberg noted: "We're pretty capable in our back-five of catching most people, but I love to take (on) their speed guy (opposing teams). That's what I thrive on. I'm really lucky to have that (speed), to tell you the truth. I don't want to rely on that, but it's nice to have," he chuckled.

Soelberg noted also that the BYU secondary does not have the depth of its defensive front, but the situation should improve later in the season as their backups gain more reps in practice. "Basically, we're very young after the first core of five we have starting back there," Soelberg continued. "We're just trying to get a lot of these guys (backups) more reps in practice and get them more comfortable with the defense. Most of the backups haven't really seen much time. There's a lot of redshirt guys behind us. It would be nice to have a rotation because I was cramping up last game and (Micah) Alba had to come in and he did a great job," he said.

Soelberg confided he likes the 3-3-5 alignment most when he is playing zone defense. "We haven't had anything where we (cornerbacks) blitz yet, but I like it when I'm in a short zone position because I'm closer to the play if it's a run and I can see more and drop back into my zone if I need to. The one-on-ones are comforting because of my speed. I don't want to just rely on that, but I think I can catch up if I'm out of position a little better than some people."

Soelberg continued, "If I'm reading a tailback coming out of the backfield or if somebody is coming across the field where I'm waiting for someone to come into my zone. I feel comfortable jumping on it and reading where it's going to come. If I'm one-on-one, I have to focus on him and they could be running the other way. In a zone, I can get a good feel for what the play is and I can go help."

All that aside, Soelberg said he is looking forward to MWC play beginning next week against Colorado State and he is not taking anyone lightly, especially after playing three Top 25 ranked teams in their first four games. "I'm not going to take anyone in the conference lightly. I watched the San Diego State receivers the other day and they've got just as much talent as any of these other teams. It's been nice to go against top caliber athletes and receivers out there. Knowing we can cover them helps your confidence. It's nice having these games early on the schedule too, because later on you can wear down a little bit. It feels good being able to go against these guys," he said.

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