Andy Buh knew taking over the defense at his alma mater Nevada would be a tough task.
For the past few seasons, the Wolf Pack has ranked in or near the 100s nationally in several defensive categories, which has resulted in shootouts and blowout losses.
But during Saturday’s Silver and Blue scrimmage, Buh, the team’s defensive coordinator, was encouraged by the progress his defense made in 15 practices during spring football.
The first-team defense kept the first-team offense, led by star quarterback Colin Kaepernick, out of the end zone throughout the game. The offense still won, 35-14, behind second-string quarterback Tyler Lantrip, who was going against a mixture of the second- and third-team defenses, but Buh had tangible evidence of his defense’s improvement.
“I’m pleased about how hard they worked in terms of their effort,” Buh said. “We really emphasized their effort to the football, their leverage on the ball, their play entry on the ball and their tackling. And I felt like we got really good at those things in particular. When we do that, we give ourselves a chance of not letting the big play happen and that’s basically what I wanted to improve on.”
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the defenses combined for five interceptions, one of which was returned 67 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Kevin Grimes, six pass breakups, three forced fumbles and five sacks.
“For the most part, I think they bought into the philosophy,” Buh said. “Obviously, there were no real live bullets, but I think coming out of spring the guys have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for.”
Buh said he was impressed with some of the junior college players who joined the program this spring, especially linebacker DeAndre Boughton, who came from Fresno City College. He said Boughton picked up the defensive scheme quickly and started impressing coaches.
“Typically with the junior college player you don’t know what you’re going to get until you start practicing and he just really opened my eyes to how he was very, very serious,” Buh said. “You could tell that he came from a junior college that really taught him how to play football.”
While the defense had a good scrimmage and overall spring campaign, Buh is cautious about saying that this fall will be different than the past. Sure, the defense is executing Buh’s scheme better, but Buh said his players are still not working together as a team like he'd like.
“I still think we have a long way to go,” Buh said. “I’m pleased with the improvement that we’ve shown, but we’re not even close to where we need to be to beat the teams that we need to beat in the fall.”