Jameson Frazier came to BYU as a walk-on following a mission to Montreal, Canada. Like most freshman walk-on players, he paid his dues as a whipping boy on the scout team and performed well. Now a junior, the 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound former first-team all-state track star from Alta High School is making plays both downfield in coverage and behind the line of scrimmage.
“Well, last spring was my first year at outside linebacker after making the switch from wide receiver,” Frazier said with a grin on his face. “That was a big change in mindset I had to make. I’ve been working on that side of my game a lot. I had to learn to be physical and learn how to get up on those tight ends and beat them up a little.”
Among the tight ends that Frazier had to go up against in practice after switching to linebacker were Dennis Pitta and Andrew George.
“Those guys were really good,” Frazier said while laughing. “Those guys were big, strong and good and fast. That was really tough trying to contain those guys [while] being new to the position.”
Pitta and George are of course both gone now, but the current group of Cougar tight ends still features some challenging players to defend.
“Some of those guys are doing a great job out there and I don’t think I have to really say much because you can see it for yourself,” said an excited Frazier. “Guys like Mike Muehlmann, who has long strong arms, and [Devin] Mahina, and [Richard] Wilson and [Marcus] Mathews, who can run like a deer, all those guys are doing great. Those guys are tough and are giving me a great look in a variety of ways.”
As for Frazier himself, he is seeing action at both outside linebacker positions this spring.
“He’s playing the Sam and Will linebacker’s spot and getting it down, so he’s making plays at different spots on the field,” said senior defensive end Vic So’oto. “He’s starting to get that instinct down that a lot of the veteran players have, and that’s good to see because we need someone like that.”
“We have a lot of really talented guys at the outside position, so if I want to be able to compete and contribute I have to be able to play both sides,” Frazier said. “I have to be able to adapt and be able to make the change to both sides smoothly to be a help to the team whenever I’m needed.”
Playing both outside linebacker positions requires different abilities and responsibilities.
“When you play on the shorter side of the field it’s a lot easier in your [pass] drops,” Frazier said. “You have shorter distances in your pass coverages, so the drops aren’t quite as far. The Sam side [or field outside linebacker] feels a little better for me. For me it’s a little easier and I feel a little more comfortable playing the Sam side. You have to drop farther on the wide side of the field as opposed to the short side of the field. You’re more involved in the passing game and have a lot more field to cover. I think how one side becomes easier for someone then the other is probably based more on one’s skills and abilities. I won’t say one is more athletic than the other, but rather it takes different athletic abilities. We have some guys that can fill both roles because their abilities are very broad.”
Last Tuesday, Frazier recorded an interception inside the blue zone and a sack from the Will linebacker position. He plays hard, fast and has a motor that simply doesn’t shut off even, if he’s not in position to make the play. But, he is hesitant to take any credit for his on-field success.
“The interesting thing is our success is more of a collective effort,” Frazier said. “If the defensive end isn’t doing what he’s supposed to do in a given play or responsibility, then I can’t come free. If I don’t do what I’m supposed to do, the end can’t come free on his play, so really it’s us working to win in our individual responsibilities to make the whole successful. Sometimes the defensive end has to keep the quarterback contained within the pocket, so the DBs have to make sure they get their coverages right so I can some time to work the situation if I’m pass rushing. If I’m dropping back into my responsibilities, I have to give the other guys who are rushing time to fulfill their responsibilities. It’s really a collective effort and usually when one has success in their responsibilities it’s because someone else did their job right.”
“Jameson is something else,” said So’oto. “He’s been working really, really hard. It’s good to see talent and hard work finally come together. He’s worked really hard over these past couple of years, but he’s kind of been undersized and not quite as strong. Now he’s kind of coming into his body and getting stronger and kind of coming into his own on the defense. It’s exciting to see someone who’s worked really hard in the offseason and work really hard during practice starting to make plays all over the place.”
As for the defense as a whole, the players are working on becoming a cohesive unit.
“How a team becomes more cohesive really comes down to how well an individual knows his assignment,” Frazier said. “As soon as everyone knows what they’re doing on an individual basis, then things begin to come together collectively. As soon as you get the assignment down, then it becomes a communication thing. Then the inside linebackers can work well with the outside linebackers because both will know what to expect even though we may not know everything about the other player’s position.”
A key component of the cohesion Frazier spoke of is trust.
“It becomes a trust issue because there is just too much to know with all the individual parts and positions of the defense,” said Frazier. “So you have to rely on the inside guys to know their position and assignments really, really well, and they have to trust that you know your position and assignments really, really well.
“That way the trust factor can develop among the group as a whole, because what the inside linebackers might not know you know, and what you don’t know the inside linebackers know. Then from that you’re able to work together from everyone’s vantage point, trusting one another and communicating with one another. As soon as everyone gets their assignments down and you get everything going, you can then just play football as a team anticipating and trusting one another. When that happens things just click because all the pieces are working together within their individual assignments. Then you just go out and have fun making plays on the field.”