After an impressive 2011 season in which linebacker Kyle Van Noy was the only player in the FBS to notch a statistic in every defensive category, BYU fans were waiting for an encore in the 2012 season. And the junior linebacker hasn’t disappointed.
Van Noy is a fumble recovery away from running the table once again in the 2012 season. His defensive awareness and intelligence has been on full display through the 11 games this year, ruining opposing offensive strategy and halting plays in the backfield before they can get started.
“You got to hit people in the mouth,” Van Noy said. “You’ve got to go about every game with a prepared defense. Preparation has to be stronger and faster and better than anyone else in the country.”
Van Noy has taken that approach over the last two seasons. In 2011, he totaled 68 tackles, 15 for a loss, seven sacks and three interceptions during his sophomore year. During the offseason, he was named a preseason member of two national defensive watchlists: the Bronco Nagurski Award, which is awarded to the nation’s best overall defensive player, and the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker or lineman in general.
This season, Van Noy has recorded significantly less tackles than the previous year, with only 33 tackles through 11 games. However, even with the dropoff in tackles, he has remained consistent with tackles for loss, recording 12 1/2 for loss and 7 1/2 sacks. His lower output in tackles could be attributed to the swarming nature of the BYU defense this year, which is currently ranked third in the country. In other words, Van Noy is often getting beat to the tackle by the many other talented players on the Cougar defense.
“I think they’ve been good for quite a while,” BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “What’s fun is they want to go out and play. They welcome whatever circumstances they’re in. Probably more than I do.”
After a few disappointing defensive performances last season, Mendenhall took over as defensive coordinator, and the Cougar defense has soared through the rankings ever since.
Looking at the BYU defensive roster is like looking over an NFL draft board. Players like Ezekiel Ansah, Brandon Ogletree, Spencer Hadley, Uona Kaveinga, Preston Hadley, Daniel Sorensen and Van Noy, along with the statistics they’ve recorded in 2012 would strike fear into any offensive coordinator in the country. Not to mention the losses of talented players in Eathyn Manumaleuna to injury and Joe Sampson to suspension.
“As a defense, we knew we could be good,” Spencer Hadley said. “To us, it’s like a lot of hard work paying off rather than a surprise.”
According to Van Noy, he has constantly been asked by people if he will make the jump to the NFL, and if he would forgo his senior season at BYU to do so. There is no doubt Van Noy has the talent to make the transition, but the tough question arises of whether Van Noy’s senior season would strengthen his pedigree of an NFL linebacker or potentially hurt his chances at the professional level.
Van Noy has mentioned several NFL players as the models for how he plays the game, and is obviously looking forward to a future in the league.
“I try to take the play-making skills of Ed Reed, the grittiness of Troy Polamalu, the tenacity that Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis and Von Miller bring, and just a little bit of everything,” he said.
Whether Van Noy makes the jump to the NFL after this season, or stays at BYU for his last year, the linebacker will still be chasing down plays and stalling offenses in the backfield during their last two games of the season. They play at New Mexico State on Saturday and then play in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 in San Diego.