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BYU football: Defensive two-deep knowns and unknowns

Photo Courtesy of BYU Photo and BYU Athletics

A lot of new faces are expected to take lead roles within new BYU defensive coordinator’s new system this season, providing several intriguing options on the two-deep roster leading up to the season opener versus Sam Houston State. The good news is that a lot of the new options this season have firmly established themselves as top playmakers and even leaders in just about every defensive position group.

So who are expected to be the primary playmakers and what can fans anticipate with regards to who sees the field and how often come the start of the season?

We do our best to answer those questions here, based on our practice observations, through interview sessions and information gained through other means.



  1. Tyler Batty (6-5, 273 Jr.)
  2. Blake Mangelson (6-5, 260 Jr.) or Bodie Schoonover (6-3, 245 Fr.)


  1. Jackson Cravens (6-2, 305 Sr.)
  2. Caden Haws (6-2, 305 Jr.)


  1. Atunaisa Mahe (6-1, 315 Sr.)
  2. John Nelson (6-4, 275 Jr.)


  1. Isaiah Bagnah (6-4, 235 Jr.)
  2. Nuuletau Sellesin (6-1, 247 So.) or Michael Daley (6-2, 235 So.)

Where’s David Latu (6-4, 300 So.)? Many are probably asking where the big JUCO transfer fits in, and it’s likely he slots in along the defensive tackle rotation sooner rather than later. Latu joined the fall practice session late due to transfer issues, so he got a late start and subsequently needs to make up some work before coaches can depend on him as a ready option. We believe that trust could be established quickly, given Latu’s upside, and fans can expect to see him making plays along the defensive interior in short order.

Defensive tackle coach Sione Po’uha has made mention that he plans on going at least six deep in his defensive interior rotations, so expect players such as Joshua Singh (6-0, 275 Fr.) and Bruce Mitchell (6-4, 300 So.) to see some reps as well.

Options that could rise up and take reps on the outside positions include Aisea Moa (6-2, 245 Fr.), who has seen quality reps during practice sessions and Logan Lutui (6-1, 255 Jr.). The most upside could belong to John Henry Daley (6-5, 225 Fr.), although we expect coaches to be careful with how they employ him due to him having returned so recently from missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the younger of the Daley brothers is to be utilized this season, we anticipate it to come during the latter half.



  1. Max Tooley (6-2, 225 Sr.)
  2. AJ Vongphachanh (6-3, 235 Sr.)


  1. Ben Bywater (6-3, 235 Jr.)
  2. AJ Vongphachanh 


  1. AJ Vongphachanh 
  2. Isaiah Glasker (6-5, 220 Fr.)

As you can readily assume from the above depth chart, coaches plan to use Vongphachanh frequently in a variety of capacities, given the Utah State transfer’s grasp of the system, his playing experience and simply through what he’s shown during practice sessions.

What isn’t immediately known is how often coaches will opt for a 4-3 alignment over a 4-2-5. It’s certain to vary from game-to-game based on what opposing offenses present, among other factors. The goal, as always, will be to field the best combination of 11 players to defend a specific offense or game situation.

We don’t anticipate coaches going deep in their linebacking rotations beyond the four we believe will appear on the two-deep roster, at least not initially. Players that have shown good mobility during practice sessions and could be utilized sooner rather than later include Oregon transfer Harrison Taggart (6-1, 216 Fr.), who has been playing mostly at the Mike position, along with Ammon Hannemann (6-2, 211 Jr.), who has seen most of his reps at Rover. Chaz Ah You (6-2, 220 Sr.) has been used primarily at the Stud position and could certainly warrant playing time as the season wares on.




  1. Eddie Heckard (5-10, 190 Sr.)
  2. Kamden Garrett (5-11, 181 Sr.)


  1. Jakob Robinson (5-11, 170 Jr.)
  2. Kamden Garrett 


  1. Eddie Heckard
  2. Caleb Christensen (5-10, 187 Jr.)

Garrett should be used often as a primary cornerback option when they team employs a nickel package with Heckard sliding inside to play slot corner. The next two options at the outside corner position are Mory Bamba (6-3, 180 Jr.), who saw plenty of first and second-team reps during fall practices and Marcus McKenzie (5-11, 172 Fr.), who received effusive praise from Jay Hill during Tuesday’s interview session. JUCO transfer Jayden Dunlap (6-0, 173 Jr.) is next in the pecking order, currently, along with Jacob Boren (5-9, 180 Sr.).


Free safety

  1. Malik Moore (6-0, 195 Sr.)
  2. Ethan Slade (6-0, 190 So.) or Tanner Wall (6-1, 200 So.)

Strong safety

  1. Talan Alfrey (6-2, 205 So.)
  2. Ethan Slade or Crew Wakley (6-0, 203 So.)

Other rising options include Raider Damuni (6-1, 210 Fr.) and Chika Ebunoha (6-0, 180 Fr.). Both players possess a lot of upside that could be realized later in the season and they continue to progress. Ebunoha will likely be employed at free safety while Damuni could rise to become an option at strong.


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