Biggest changes to BYU football’s defense this year

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Departing players, changes in coaching and shuffling positions make up a reality every football team must deal with during the off-season, and the defense for BYU football is no different.

Here are the top three changes to BYU’s defense for the coming season.

1. Van Noy out, Kaufusi in

It will be a long time before anyone in Provo forgets the name Kyle Van Noy and all he did as one of BYU’s most productive linebackers. But the coaches and players have wasted no time in moving on and filling the gap he left. Bronson Kaufusi, the 6-foot, 8-inch defensive lineman has been moved from his line position to that of outside linebacker to replace Van Noy.

Kyle Van Noy celebrates a tackle during a game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sep. 21, 2013. Van Noy now plays for the Detroit Lions in the NFL. (Sarah Hill)
Kyle Van Noy celebrates a tackle during a game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sep. 21, 2013. Van Noy now plays for the Detroit Lions in the NFL. (Sarah Hill)

“Kyle was a master at understanding his job,” Kaufusi said. “He could adapt to whatever the offense was doing.”

Van Noy was noted for his quick pass rush, natural football instincts and an uncanny ability to be in the right spot and the right time to make a big play. Kaufusi will now be relied on to replace all that, while Van Noy reaps his rewards in the NFL.

“I look at it more as filling a position,” Kaufusi said on taking over Van Noy’s position. “You can’t really replace players because every player is different.”

Kaufusi really will be different seeing as he is not changing spots in a position but is changing position’s entirely.

“The first thing that was the hardest was learning my responsibilities; when the play call comes in I need to know what I’m doing, where to line up, so that was the hardest thing for me,” Kaufusi said.

But despite Kaufusi being different than Van Noy in that respect, there are a few things that make them similar. “The easiest thing was the pass rush. That’s something I love and playing the run; I love playing the run from that position because you’re attacking.”

2. Mendenhall relinquishing defensive play-calling to Nick Howell

Bronco Mendenhall is known as a defensive guy and loves nothing more than to be in control of his team’s defense.

Defensive Coordinator Nick Howell speaks with reporters during Football Media Day. (Elliott Miller)
Defensive Coordinator Nick Howell speaks with reporters during Football Media Day. (Elliott Miller)

Mendenhall originally released those rights in 2009 to defensive coordinator Jaime Hill but fired him mid-season in 2010 and took over the defense play calling himself. Since then BYU’s defense has been a staple of the football team throughout the nation. Considering the success, it seemed like Mendenhall would never give up those duties again … until now.

Nick Howell was promoted as BYU’s defensive coordinator last year, Mendenhall keeping his own duties as defensive play-caller. But while Mendenhall is reserving his right to change his mind, he believes turning the play-call reins over to Howell now is the right move.

“I think he’s ready and capable,” Mendenhall said of Howell at BYU’s Media Day. “We’ve been in every meeting together, and he knows exactly how the system runs.”

BYU’s defense has been one of the nation’s best under Mendenhall. Will it continue that way under Howell?

3. Nebraska transfer, safety Harvey Jackson

BYU’s secondary is always a question mark coming into every season. But BYU fans can breathe a little easier knowing that Nebraska transfer Harvey Jackson brings talent and experience to the free safety position.

Jackson, who graduated from the University of Nebraska this year and has transferred to BYU with one remaining year of eligibility, will be able to immediately play for the Cougars, adding experience and depth to an important position.

“With Harvey coming in, I’m excited to put him on the field and see what he can do,” Howell said. “It’s like receiving a junior college transfer, but even more experience.”

With his experience, athleticism and maturity, Jackson is a welcomed change to the backfield for BYU’s defense.

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