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2012 BYU Preview – Defense
BYU LB Kyle Van Noy
BYU LB Kyle Van Noy
Posted Jun 12, 2012 2012 Preview - BYU Cougar Defense

BYU Cougars

Preview 2012 - Defense

- 2012 BYU Preview | 2012 BYU Offense
- 2012 BYU Defense | 2012 BYU Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Head coach Bronco Mendenhall took over the defensive coordinator duties two years ago and the production turned around. This year the defense could be his best year despite finishing 13th in the nation in yards allowed. The linebacking corps should be special with Kyle Van Noy a terrific pass rusher and Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga two strong tacklers. The line in the 3-4 isn’t going to get into the backfield, but it’s very big and very tough against the run. The overall pass rush has to be stronger to help out a good secondary that held its own last year and should be even better with almost all the key parts back. Everyone on the Cougar D can tackle, and size isn’t a problem, but now the big plays have to start coming on a regular basis against the better teams.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Brandon Ogletree, 76
Sacks: Kyle Van Noy, 7
Interceptions: Kyle Van Noy, 3

Star of the defense: Junior LB Kyle Van Noy
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior DE Ian Dulan
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Jordan Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Romney Fuga
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Van Noy, 2) LB Brandon Ogletree, 3) S Daniel Sorensen
Strength of the defense: Experience, Size
Weakness of the defense: Pass Rush, Takeaways

Defensive Line

The pass rush needs to be stronger and more consistent, but the run defense was solid last year and should be solid this season thanks to the return of Romney Fuga, a massive 6-2, 321-pound senior who got over a knee injury two years ago to plug up the inside with 25 tackles with two tackles for loss. Extremely strong and tough, he’s a true anchor, even if he doesn’t do too much to get behind the line. He’ll be backed up by 6-3, 266-pound senior Russell Tialavea, a spot starter in 2009 who made 11 tackles with a fumble recovery. Back after spending two years on a mission, he should be ready to produce inside or out.

The pass rush has to start to come from senior Eathyn Manumaleuna, but at 6-2 and 294 pounds he’s more of a tackle than a true end. He made 33 tackles on the season but didn’t make any plays behind the line. A nose tackle who’s used to stop the run, he’s extremely physical against the stronger lines. 6-4, 270-pound senior Jordan Richardson needs to be a pass rusher in the rotation, but he’s a mauler who’s strong against the run. The former superstar high school wrestler out of Idaho is a mauler who made four tackles with half a tackle for loss in his limited role once he gets over a back injury.

Working on the right side will be 6-1, 270-pound senior Ian Dulan became a part of the practice team after coming back from a mission, and now it’ll be his job to get into the backfield. He’s built a bit like a bowling ball, but he’s a quick defender who’s supposed to get to the quarterback. 6-6, 270-pound junior Ezekiel Ansah is a linebacker from Ghana who’ll rotate with Dulan on the end. Mostly a special teamer, he made seven tackles on the season with a quarterback hurry. Quick, he was part of the BYU track team before starting to play football a few years ago. He might be raw, but the tools are there.

Watch Out For … Dulan. The Cougars have to get some semblance of a pass rush from the line, but it’s not going to come from Manumaleuna or Fuga. Dulan and Ansah have to be turned loose into the backfield.
Strength: Run defense. The Cougars basically use three tackles on the front line with size, size and more size. It’s almost impossible to run up the middle at times on this group.
Weakness: Pass rush. That’s what the linebackers are for. The line doesn’t do nearly enough to fly into the backfield, but that’s not really its job.
Outlook: The Cougars might not be spectacular up front, but they get the job done against the run. There’s always a decent rotation, but the starting three should be able to hold up, especially against the run. The stats aren’t going to be impressive with this group needing to hold things down so others can shine. With Fuga in the middle as the anchor, good luck getting physical against the BYU run D.
Unit Rating: 7


Back to be one of the team’s top tacklers after leading the team in stops is Brandon Ogletree, a 5-11, 228-pound senior who came up with 76 tackles with a pick and four tackles for loss. An academic all-star, he has risen up over the last few years showing off great range and athletic ability in a hybrid linebacking role. Recruited by places like Arkansas and Oklahoma State, he had his pick of several BCS schools and now he should start to get an even bigger spotlight.

The defense needs disruptive playmakers, and last year junior Kyle Van Noy was the star of the bunch finishing second on the team with 68 tackles with seven sacks, 15 tackles for loss, three picks, three forced fumbles and en quarterback hurries. At 6-3 and 235 pounds he has packed on a little bit of weight, but he can still move on the weakside. A strong athlete, he caught 18 touchdown passes in his senior year of high school and was a sprinter on the track team.

6-1, 230-pound junior Spencer Hadley spent last season working on the inside making 45 tackles with a pick, and now he’ll play on the strongside where he should be a big hitter who makes lots and lots of big plays. Smart, he was wanted by the Ivy League and could have gone to Harvard. Instead he’ll be one of BYU’s top tacklers this season, while 6-5, 206-pound sophomore Alani Fua will be used as a speed rusher in the rotation after making six tackles and two sacks in a limited role.

Ready to do even more in the middle after starting every game last season is Uona Kaveinga, a 5-11, 236-pound short, thick hitter who was a great recruit for USC before he transferred over to BYU. The team’s fourth-leading tackler making 57 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles is a good force against the run and has the potential to get into the backfield on a regular basis. Fast, tough and talented, he’ll put up bigger numbers, while 6-1, 229-pound backup Zac Stout was a good reserve in 2010 making 20 tackles before going off on a mission.

Watch Out For … Hadley on the outside. He’s built for the middle and he’s able to put up big numbers on the inside, but now he’ll get more room to roam on the outside. He’ll be more of a pass rusher as a strongside defender.
Strength: Productive veterans. Van Noy does a little of everything well and Ogletree is a big hitter who’ll be the one everything works around. Throw in Kaveinga, who might be the team’s most talented linebacker, and the pieces are all there for this experienced crew to be terrific.
Weakness: Pass rush. There’s Van Noy, but that’s about it. Considering the defensive front doesn’t hit the quarterback, someone else needs to step up and improve to help out Van Noy.
Outlook: The linebackers should be fantastic. With a strong veteran front three holding things down against the run, the Cougar linebackers should be able to fly around and do even more. The potential is there for this to be the best corps in a long, long time. If Kaveinga can step up his play a little bit, and if Van Noy and Ogletree can do what they did last year, look out. No one will do much on this group.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Defensive Backs

Considering there wasn’t much of a pass rush, the secondary did just fine but now it’ll have to undergo a bit of a turnover. One of the veteran rocks returning is 6-2, 206-pound junior Daniel Sorensen at the KAT position. After returning from a church mission he finished third on the team with 61 tackles with two picks and six broken up passes. He’s big and active with great range.

Also returning is Preston Hadley a big 6-0, 200-pound boundary corner who made 51 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. While he didn’t come up with a pick, he broke up 14 passes as he grew into a solid cover corner. The former JUCO transfer from Snow College is a big hitter and is better against the run than he is in coverage, but he’s a good veteran to rely on once he’s back from a shoulder problem.

Sophomore Jordan Johnson will play at the field corner spot after making 16 tackles with two picks. At 5-10 and 185 pounds he has decent size and can move. He’s not the most talented corner on the team, but he’s steady and has a nose for the ball. He’ll work in a rotation with 5-10, 176-pound senior Robbie Buckner, a former Arkansas state champion sprinter with the wheels to become more of a lock-down defender after failing to make a tackle and coming up with just one broken up pass. All the tools are there to do far more.

5-10, 213-pound senior Joe Sampson got in a little time as a nickel and dime defender and now will get the starting free safety job. He made 23 tackles with a sack, five tackles for loss and a pick, and now he should be one of the team’s leading tacklers with terrific hitting ability and nice range.

Senior Mike Hague will be one of the team’s most important reserves working as both a boundary corner and a free safety. He only made seven tackles last season, but the 5-10, 190-pounder has good range and the toughness to work in a variety of roles. With Hadley’s shoulder concern, Hague could find himself a big part of the rotation early on.

Watch Out For … Sampson. He showed what he could do last season when given a shot, and now the former JUCO transfer might be a mortal lock to finish among the team’s top five tacklers.
Strength: Size. There’s decent speed across the board, but the real key to the BYU secondary is the bulk. The safeties are large and the corners are big enough to hit. Hadley is one of the better tackling corners in all of college football.
Weakness: Interceptions. The 13 as a team just weren’t good enough. It’s not like the secondary had too many problems, but four of the picks came from the linebackers and the corners didn’t do quite enough when the ball was in the air.
Outlook: The Cougars held up well against good passing teams, for the most part, allowing just one 300-yard passing day. This year’s secondary should be even stronger with Johnson and Hadley a solid corner tandem to go along with Sorensen, a solid producer against the run. The overall results will turn out to be better than the talent, and there might be issues with the early part of the schedule against Washington State, Utah, Boise State and Hawaii.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Kicker Justin Sorensen has a back problem, but he’s expected to be fine. Now the sophomore has to be more consistent after hitting 15-of-25 field goals but missing five of his final eight attempts. He has a big leg connecting on 5-of-8 kicks from 40-to-49 yards, but he missed all three shots from beyond 50. Maturity isn’t a problem, starting out his career in 2008, but he has to hit all the makeable attempts.

The punting game was fine with junior Riley Stephenson averaging 42.2 yards per try and putting 20 inside the 20. With a good leg he’s able to bail the team out of several jams, but he needs to get more air time.

Receiver J.D. Falslev is a terrific punt returner averaging ten yards per try with a touchdown on 22 attempts. It’s his job to himself, while fellow receiver Cody Hoffman is a fantastic kick returner averaging 24.4 yards per try with a 93-yard score after averaging 27.1 yards per try two years ago.

Watch Out For … Sorensen to be better. It’s not like he was bad, but he had too many gaffes on makeable kicks. He’ll connect on at least one 50-yarder, but more importantly he’ll be fine on all the medium-range kicks.
Strength: The return game. The kickers are a positive, but Hoffman on kickoff returns and Falslev on punt returns are special. They can turn around games with one play
Weakness: Punt coverage. Stephenson doesn’t hang it up enough and it kills the punt coverage team at times allowing 10.6 yards per return. The kickoff coverage was fine allowing 20 yards per pop.
Outlook: With all the key parts back the good special teams should be even better. Sorensen and Stephenson need to be consistent, but the return game will be great and the coverage teams won’t be a liability if Stephenson can get more hang time.
Unit Rating: 7

- 2012 BYU Preview | 2012 BYU Offense
- 2012 BYU Defense | 2012 BYU Depth Chart