Our safeties have played really, really well. Daniel is more experienced and featured more in our defense, but except for some missed tackles against Wisconsin, Craig has been very good for us as well. —Bronco Mendenhall

PROVO — Throughout the 2013 season, BYU has received exceptional play from both of its starting safeties.

Senior Daniel Sorensen has teamed with junior Craig Bills to form what could be considered the strongest — and certainly most consistent — position group of the entire defense.

“Our safeties have played really, really well,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. “Daniel is more experienced and featured more in our defense, but except for some missed tackles against Wisconsin, Craig has been very good for us as well.”

Solid production from the middle-of-the-field positions of Mendenhall’s defense is critical in his view. Starting with the nose tackle position — which has been manned primarily by senior Eathyn Manumaleuna — to the free safety spot manned by Bills, those central positions have to hold for his defense to be productive as a whole.

Safety serves as the last line of defense, but also as a spot that can shoot gaps along the line of scrimmage to make plays near, or even behind, the line of scrimmage.

Making such plays is something both Sorensen and Bills have proved adequate at doing.

“They’re just playmakers — both of them,” said defensive coordinator Nick Howell. “They’re dependable. They’re both athletic. They’re intelligent. ... They’re both a huge part of what we’re able to do defensively.”

Sorensen’s play this year has largely been expected, given that he's started at the strong safety position since his sophomore season. The senior has been a leader and someone Mendenhall had effusive praise for when asked about his role on the team.

"Daniel is zero maintenance and he's always where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there performing at a higher level than you thought he would or expect," Mendenhall said. "If I could have an entire team of Daniel Sorensens — that would be my ideal BYU team."

As for Bills, he's come into his own since ending the 2012 season as the team's starter at free safety. The former Timpview product has made standout plays, has allowed few plays over the top of coverage, and has risen to be considered one of the top players on a defense full of standout players.

"Craig has been as consistent a performer as we've had this season," Howell said. "He's become completely trustworthy and he's just dang good."

“Craig’s a great player. I’ve always seen it and I think this year he‘s been able to show that and shine,” Sorensen added. “I love having over there to keep things in check, keep the defense in line, and yeah, he’s just a stud.”

Sorensen believes Bills' play has allowed him to be perhaps more aggressive, knowing the junior is back there to correct any of his mistakes.

“He’s probably covering my errors a lot more than I’m covering for him,” said Sorensen. “It’s very comforting knowing he’s back there.”

Email: bgurney@desnews.com

Twitter: @BrandonCGurney