By SAM NEFF
Although most of the attention so far this year has been centered on Rob Morris, cougar linebacker Jeff Holtry has done something most football players will only dream about — he was part of a team that won a national championship.
Holtry played on Michigan’s 1997 national championship team before transferring to BYU in 1998. He said he still has good memories and feelings about Michigan.
“Looking back on that experience, I had a few key roles, a few key plays in that championship,” Holtry said.
Regardless, Holtry and his wife made the decision to transfer to BYU after Michigan’s championship season. Holtry tactfully declined to reveal his motives for leaving Michigan to the media, though he did state that some of the staff members were making decisions he didn’t agree with, and he thought it would be best to remove himself from the situation.
After redshirting last season, Holtry said he should be ready to make BYU’s stingy defense even stingier. After all, He comes from a Michigan team that led the nation in defense two seasons ago as the national championship team.
Holtry said he looks forward to playing with another talented defense, one that includes players like Rob Morris, Byron Frisch, Brian Gray, and Heshi Robertson. “These guys could play for any team and still be major factors,” Holtry said.
“They are as good or better than some of the guys that I played with at Michigan,” Holtry said. Holtry said the major difference between this BYU defense and the Michigan defense he played with is depth. “Michigan had a lot more depth.”
Going from the run-oriented style of the Big Ten to the air-it-out style of the Mountain West Conference has meant a change in defensive style for the linebacker.
“I’m actually really excited [about playing in the Mountain West Conference]. One advantage we have is that our offensive line is really fast, and we have big linebackers,” Holtry said.
That combination should give opposing teams plenty to think about while drawing up a game plan for BYU.
BYU may have another talented defense this year, but talent isn’t the only thing that counts.
“One of the biggest keys is having a group of guys that gels. Before my mission, when I was playing at Michigan, there were a lot of individuals, whereas during the year we played for the national championship, the guys played well together,” Holtry said.
Holtry said this year’s team is getting to that point.
“There is a good feeling about the team,” Holtry said.
Holtry is optimistic about this BYU team.
“Talent-wise, there’s not a team on our schedule we can’t beat. If we play to our capabilities, we can win every game.”