It was interesting to see two starting Cougar cornerbacks manning the safety positions during Wednesday’s practice. Brandon Bradley and Brian Logan got reps in a pressure package designed to shake up the offense a little. The two cornerbacks-turned-safeties-for-a-day learned of the position switch during group meetings prior to practice.
“Coach Hill told us to do it,” said Bradley. “He came in and said, ‘Okay, here’s what we are putting in today,’ and we came out here and ran it. It was just crazy. We were all man and blitzing everybody else. They put either me or Brian Logan, depending on the formation of the offense, in the middle of the field. We don’t know if it’s going to be that way for next season. I’m hoping it is.”
So is Bradley saying he hopes to play safety next year rather than cornerback?
“No, no,” Bradley quickly said while laughing. “Well, I mean in that situation. In that situation I would not mind playing safety. In that situation, it was perfect and I don’t mind playing that. I don’t mind having the safety job every now and again.”
Whether or not the coaches decide to use or even keep the pressure package in the playbook is anyone’s guess, but the move during Wednesday’s practice was likely done to utilize the defense’s best players.
“I think they did that because of the depth that we have,” said Bradley. “They have Corby [Eason] on the boundary side and Lee [Aguirre] would be better on the field side, and I feel like it’s been a great change for both of them. I think it would be good for them to learn both sides of the field, and they’ve been able to learn both sides of the field and that makes their knowledge of the defense better.”
Aguirre, a senior, comes in at 5 feet 9 inches and 209 pounds and is stockier than Eason, so playing field corner wouldn’t appear to be the right move for him. Playing Aguirre on the boundary side, where the cornerback needs to be more physical, seems like a more natural fit.
Then there’s junior cornerback Corby Eason, who comes in at 5 feet 8 inches and 174 pounds. His size and quickness would likewise seem to be a natural fit for the field cornerback position.
And yet, the two players have had great results after switching from the positions they seemed to be better suited for.
“Once I made that switch I just got better,” Eason said. “Everybody was surprised and Coach was like, ‘Wow, have you been holding back?’ I was just like, ‘No, it’s just a different position with different expectations that I feel fit me better.’ I’m really a lot more comfortable with the defense and know more the ins and outs of it, and I know Lee feels the same way. I just feel more confident at the boundary spot.”
What Eason may lack in stature he makes up in tenacity and physicality, and that’s a qualification needed to play the boundary cornerback position.
“The boundary position fits my skills and my mentality better,” Eason said. “I can be more aggressive and I like being more aggressive, and that’s one thing that can get you in trouble from time to time. I like getting my hands on the receiver and controlling them more. The boundary cornerback [position] allows me to be more physical and that’s why it fits me better.
“I feel like that’s one reason I’m more successful at the boundary is because I can be more aggressive, and that’s a big part of my game. It’s definitely a more physical position and I’m willing to earn anything to try and help this team be better. Since the switch I feel more at home. When the coaches saw me playing more comfortable and making plays, they were shocked.
“Now I get to come in when the tight end blocks down and just fill the hole, and I miss that. I get to be physical and make tackles and that’s what I like to do. I’m really enjoying it and love the change. I’m happy, really happy.”
Aguirre is a cornerback that relies more on cover ability and less on physicality when defending, and so moving him to the field side has also helped him improve.
“Believe it or not, Lee actually plays better on the field side than the boundary side,” Eason said. “I believe from the beginning they probably got us both switched up, and ever since the coaches made the switch we’ve been making a lot of plays. The coaches have liked what we’ve been doing.”
“Lee has done a great job out there,” said Bradley. “He’s been coming along and doing well at the field side, and I think a lot of that was because of the change the coaches made with him.”
BYU fans have talked a lot about moving cornerbacks to establish more depth at the safety position. However, if the team is going to move starting cornerbacks to safety, they better have adequate replacements. Otherwise, they’re simply tearing away a bandage to cover up another cut. What made it possible for Bradley and Logan to practice at the safety position on Wednesday was the seemingly unnatural switch of Eason and Aguirre by Hill and Mendenhall.
“The switch first came during the spring,” Eason recalled. “I remember walking into the locker room and seeing my name at boundary. I was like, ‘What?’ I think it was probably Coach Hill and Coach Mendenhall’s decision, and I think it was a decision they made that was best for me and the team.”
“Those guys have been doing a great job playing those positions,” said Bradley after Wednesday’s practice. “The coaches have done a really good job in recognizing players’ abilities, getting us into the right positions and then teaching us as a secondary how to be successful. With those guys doing so well, we were able shake things up a little bit. Brian [Logan] was playing a little safety today and I was playing a little safety today and it’s a little package we do to shake the offense up a little bit. It worked out good, but I don’t think we would be able to do that if we didn’t have the quality of depth that we have at cornerback.”
The new defensive package provides Coach Hill with another options if needed, but it’s just a question of whether or not he’ll use it in an actual game.
“That’s a good question, because with the depth we have you never know what Coach Hill might decide in how to use it,” said Bradley. “It does give him a look at that possibility and you never know what he might toss out next. I guess we’ll have to see.”