Defensive backfield ready for Hall and air attack

By By Chris Kamrani

By Chris Kamrani

The Ute secondary’s biggest adversary is waiting with arms wide open. After defeating high-caliber quarterbacks such as Brian Brohm and Ben Olson, BYU super-sophomore Max Hall is now a-knockin’.

Renowned for developing quarterbacks, BYU seems to have found yet another heir to its quarterback throne. Hall has already eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark, not to mention his 21 touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 139.86. Hall also recently broke the Mountain West Conference’s all-time sophomore passing record. Not too shabby for a guy who had never taken a collegiate snap until this year.

The question that remains is this: how will Utah’s secondary handle Hall and his receiving constituents? Hall’s targets: receivers Austin Collie, Matt Allen, Michael Reed, and his favorite, 6-foot-5 sophomore tight end Dennis Pitta, who leads the team in reception yardage at 693.

Robert Johnson, the Utes’ starting free safety, said Utah won’t change its approach in facing Hall and his potent targets.

“We’ll have the same game plan, mind-set and work ethic,” Johnson said.

Starting strong safety Steve Tate, a senior, spoke of trying to force the Cougar offense to become “one-dimensional.”

“Offensively, (BYU’s) not that different from last year’s team,” Tate said. “They rely on the quarterback to make plays, a good receiving core and the running back’s (ability to) catch the ball out of the back field.”

The Utes boast one of the best defenses in the country in terms of scoring defense and total yards allowed. Those rankings have much to do with the U secondary. The Utes’ defense against the pass — which now ranks No. 11 in the country — is represented by tremendous speed and athleticism. Cornerbacks Sean Smith and Brice McCain are the speedsters and will have the challenge of covering disciplined Cougar receivers such as Collie and Allen.

Tate stated that the secondary has been able to “reap the benefits” in the back, on account of the starting seven up front and how well they’ve played lately. With the emergence of a strong pass rush defense, Tate and weekly X-factor Johnson have been given the opportunity to showcase their game.

Hall suffered a minor shoulder separation of his right throwing arm against Wyoming on Nov. 17, but head coach Kyle Whittingham expects to see the same unflappable quarterback who’s been there all season at Saturday’s showdown.

“He’s handled everything thrown at him,” Whittingham said of Hall.

When asked about the team’s preparation for Hall and company, Johnson said, “It’s right now, our secondary will be ready. Knowing it’s Max Hall and BYU, we’re going to step up.”

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Jarad Reddekopp

Senior Steve Tate leads the Utes ball-hawking secondary.