Bryson Learning the Linebacker Position

Coming in at 6 feet 5 inches and 235 pounds, defensive end Thomas Bryson had been backing up senior defensive end Vic So'oto. However, he's now also learning the Will linebacker position.

While playing for Layton High School, Thomas Bryson recorded an amazing 23 sacks as a defensive end. Now the Layton sack-master will be able to better apply his pass-rushing ability within BYU's 3-4 defense at Will linebacker, where rushing the quarterback on the edge is part of playing the position.

"It's just because our defense is basically centered around the four rushers," said Bryson. "We'll always bring a linebacker up on the line so he's basically one of our rushers. I can put my hand down and basically look like a defensive end, or I can stand up and look like an outside backer. I'm just now trying to get the position and plays down better."

The BYU defensive coaches moved Kyle Van Noy from the boundary position to the field linebacker spot in an effort to match players to positions that better fit their capabilities. Bryson's move is also part of that process.

"Yeah, in high school I had a four-front defense, but here we have the nose guard and the two defensive ends," said Bryson. "The Will linebacker is kind of like a defensive end but he can also go and chase down receivers. I really love the change and it's exciting. It gives me a chance to use what I do best more on the field."

Coleby Clawson played defensive end at Snow Junior College and was converted to Will linebacker at BYU, so there is precedence for what is happening with Bryson. The recent personnel moves also help strengthen some depth issues as the Cougars deal with some injuries.

"I think by moving me to the outside backer also helps with depth because our outside linebackers position isn't very strong," Bryson said. "We've had some injuries and we've had to move Kyle [Van Noy] to the other side. I also have a lot of speed and I think it works well with me at this new position."

There are specific attributes necessary for an athlete to play the Will linebacker position, as Bryson explained.

"It takes a lot of speed and you have to be a smart player too," he said. "You're on the outside so you have to make sure that nothing gets around you out there. The position makes you responsible for forcing things back inside because if it gets outside no one is out there. So you have to have that athleticism to keep things inside as well as the athletic ability to rush effectively on the outside. You have to be physical enough to lock up with offensive tackles and be able to counter that, so there are a couple of physical qualities you have to have to play the position well."

Although he's now being taught the Will linebacker position by Coach Poppinga, Bryson is also still getting defensive line reps with Coach Kaufusi.

"I'm just cross training, and so I'm not specifically a Will linebacker because I'm doing both now," Bryson said. "I'm still with Coach Kaufusi out at practice and still have my package that I'm in, but then I'm also learning the linebackers' position as well."

Bryson contends that learning and juggling the responsibilities that come with the two positions isn't quite as hard as it might seem.

"Well, I'm getting used to it," he said. "I've been here for two years now and so it's getting little easier. What I think has made it easier for me is I already know the defensive end position, so learning the Will linebacker, which is kind of like a defensive end in our system, isn't as hard as it seems. I've been working hard to become a master of my position no matter what. I think I can handle it and have the mindset to learn the defensive end position as well as the outside linebacker position as well. It's coming."

Bryson said he doesn't prefer one of his positions over the other.

"I love them both, so whichever one would get me out on the field more," he said with a laugh. "Whatever gets me out on the field more would be my favorite – whether it's cornerback or safety – I just want to see the field. I guess by learning two positions my chances of that happening just increased."

Because of his speed, Bryson is currently a part of the defense's speed package. He'll more than likely see the field at the outside linebacker position given specific down-and-distance situations.

"I hope so," Bryson said. "I'm starting on our speed package, which is second-and-long and third-and-long. If they don't get a first down, hopefully I'll be getting in there as an outside backer if the situation is right for our speed package."


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