BYU will look to kick off its inaugural Big 12 season at home vs Sam Houston State Saturday night at 8:15pm on FS1. Fans will get the first glimpse of a new look defensive unit led by newly named Defensive Coordinator Jay Hill. From all reports out of fall camp the defense should be more aggressive than it has been in previous seasons. One of the biggest factors of that aggressiveness relies on how healthy the unit can remain throughout the season, and with BYU looking to start their third string strong safety Ethan Slade Saturday night, that depth will be tested in game one.
BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake had high praise for Slade in Monday’s press conference being sure to mention that Talan Alfrey was not out for the full season:
“Ethan is a playmaker. He’s a great student of the game. He’s been a surprise for Jay Hill and really taken to the coaching and mentoring Jay’s given him. I feel really good about the safety group altogether. Obviously, it hurts not having Micah [Harper] and Talan but the guys will pick up where they left off. From what I’ve seen from the start of fall camp to now, I feel very confident in Ethan and the others on the depth chart.”
Carlos Zimmerman, the voice of the Bearkats, believes that SHSU has an advantage in at least one area of the field. The linebacker room led by Kavian Gaither, Trevor Williams and Markel Perry, has the ability to hang with the BYU front and run game. Gaither, a 6-0, 215 lb. Junior from Waco, Texas is the returning starter at the position and led the defense in tackles just a season ago, tallying 79 tackles, 12 TFL’s and 3 sacks on the year.
BYU will counter with a solid cast on the offensive side led by transfer QB Kedon Slovis, the biggest questions left to answer for Aaron Roderick’s crew is who is going to step up on the outside. Roderick knows that this SHSU defense won’t be a cupcake team that they will just be able to walk all over though, citing what they were able to accomplish in College Station at Texas A&M last season.
“They were very good on defense last year statistically. You watch the film and they’re athletic, disruptive, aggressive, have a lot of good players and are talented. They are a defense that made Texas A&M look pretty bad last year. If you watch that film, they were disruptive in that game. We’ll have our hands full for sure. We expect their best shot and so we’ll be ready. There’s no one in this program that is looking past anybody.”
The expectation for this BYU team going into game 1 should be to see an offense that will start fast and finish drives and a defense that can hold the Bearkats to 14 points or less to kick off its inaugural Big 12 season in fashion.