PROVO — All eyes this spring have been on BYU's revamped offense, and for good reason.
But it was the Cougar defense that attracted the attention during Wednesday's scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
After allowing the first-team offense to score on every possession during last weekend's scrimmage, the defense came out ornery and ready to make amends.
"We were just flat on Saturday," said middle linebacker Justin Ena. "The offense ran and passed all over us. Today, we had some fire and intensity."
"Saturday was disappointing for us," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "We know we're a good defensive squad. We didn't play well at all. Our goal today was to get a little crazy and play like we can."
If Wednesday's performance is any indication of what's in store in 2001, then the Cougars should be just fine defensively.
Anchored by Ena and the other starting linebackers, Isaac Kelley and Paul Walkenhorst, the Cougar 'D' had its way with the offense for much of the afternoon. Early on, Walkenhorst picked off quarterback Brandon Doman and rumbled 35 yards.
And though BYU has lost three starters from last year's squad on the defensive line — Chris Hoke, Hans Olsen and Setema Gali — their replacements were solid. Keisel, as in diesel, recorded a fumble recovery, a sack and batted down a pass.
Brothers John and Ryan Denney and Daniel and Michael Marquardt shined as well. John Denney, a Ricks College transfer, had back-to-back sacks, and the Marquardts produced sacks, too.
In the fall, the D-line will get stronger when Ifo Pili, who recently returned from an LDS mission, will join the squad. Pili started as a freshman in 1998.
The defensive backfield, meanwhile, has a whole new look with cornerback Jernaro Gilford around. The sophomore broke up a pass and had a tackle-for-loss on a screen play. He and sophomore Isiah Joiner will make a major impact, according to the Cougars.
"Last year, third down-and-eight was scary," Ena said. "We'd bring in our nickel package and still wouldn't know if we'd get any coverage. We'll be a lot better this year.
"We have tons of potential," Ena said of the defense. "We're going to surprise people. We always do."
While coach Gary Crowton has conducted a major overhaul of the offense, he hasn't tinkered with the defense. He's allowed longtime defensive coordinator Ken Schmidt to continue to do what he's been doing successfully for years.
"I feel like Coach Schmidt is doing a great job," Crowton said. "I'm happy with what the coaches are doing as a defensive staff."
SCRIMMAGE NOTES: Wide receiver Justin Anderson suffered a stress fracture in his left leg and will sit out the remainder of spring drill . . . Running back Luke Staley, who missed Saturday's scrimmage due to a minor injury, returned to action. He rushed eight times for 48 yards and scored a touchdown . . . Tight end Doug Jolley and receiver Mike Rigell led BYU in receiving. Jolley caught four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, while Rigell had three grabs for 32 yards.