BYU coaches tweaking linebacker group

Next season, Coach Mendenhall's defense will return a very talented, experienced and proven group of linebackers, which will make up the core of his defense. With outside linebackers Jameson Frazier, Jordan Pendleton and Jadon Wagner having graduated, that position just got a little more competitive.

There's no question that Cougar superstar Kyle Van Noy is projected to be one of the starting outside linebackers come next season. He is versatile enough to play on either side of the field, but what remains to be seen is who will join him at the opposite outside linebacker spot.

The middle of the field is solid with returning starters Brandon Ogletree and Uona Kaveinga. Zac Stout, once a highly rated high school prospect, will return after redshirting last season. He will join juniors Tyler Beck – who was once offered by Nebraska – Connell Hess and Oregon State transfer Uani Unga in the middle.

One Mike linebacker that saw significant playing time last year was 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound Spencer Hadley, who spelled Ogletree from time to time. With Hadley being big, athletic, and having a motor that doesn't quit, Coach Popping and the defensive staff felt it would be a good idea to move Hadley from Mike linebacker to the Sam linebacker position next year, where they could put his athleticism to good use.

"They decided that [Spencer] needs to be out there on the field," said his younger brother Matt, an incoming recruit. "They decided to move him from the middle to Sam linebacker, so he'll now be playing on the outside now."

At the outside position, there is also soon-to-be sophomore Alani Fua, who was rated by Scout as the nation's No. 25 weakside defensive end while prepping at Oaks Christian High School. Fua gained some much needed experience at Will linebacker last year. However, his Tongan genes have yet to kick in, as his father George would say, and he's still only about 210 pounds despite being about 6 feet 5 inches tall. Like last season, Fua will receive some playing time this upcoming season but is probably a year away from being a full-time contributor.

There's also soon-to-be sophomore Seth Probert, but at 6 feet 3 inches and 205 pounds, he is much in the same boat as Fua as far as physical development goes. Although Fua plays weakside linebacker, his athleticism – Fua was also a tight end in high school – would suit him well at the fieldside. As of now, no such move to the Sam side has been planned.

Of course, one can't forget 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound athletic specimen Ezekiel Ansah, who will be in the mix at the Will linebacker side. While Ansah might possess a unique blend of size and speed, it's his every-down liability that will come into question, leaving Van Noy the starter to work against the quarterback's blind side.

The question is will Hadley start at the Sam linebacker side next year?

"I don't know, and it depends on how he does during spring and fall camp," said his brother Matt. "I don't know if he's going to start or not, but he's going to compete on the outside at the Sam linebacker position. There's a lot that needs to play out first, but I was told by Spencer that he is being moved to the Sam linebacker side and he's excited about it.

"But anything can happen come next fall, and someone could step up out there and win that starting spot, but my brother will be competing out there next year."

Like with Jordan Pendleton – who played at the safety position prior to being moved to Sam linebacker – the Cougar coaches feel Spencer Hadley has the physical tools to man the position.

"That's one thing the coaches at BYU are very good at," said Matt, who played h-back, running back, strong safety, kick returner and punt returner during his prep career. "They'll move you around ‘til they find the right spot that fits your talents and abilities on the field, and that's what they're doing with my brother. They feel he can play that Sam linebacker position and be very good at it.

"He knows he can do it and he's really excited. He's super pumped up and he can't wait to show what he can do on the outside. He gets that shot to be on the field with Ogletree, Kaveinga and Van Noy. If he does what he needs to do by the end of fall camp, he could be the one out there with those guys. I guess we'll see."

"Flying Sprints"

The team is currently working out in the weight room and doing conditioning drills. Sources told Total Blue Sports that in a timed "flying sprints" event involving wide receivers, running backs and defensive backs, Adam Hine came in first place. The top five times are as follows:

Adam Hine: 1.94
Cody Hoffman: 1.95
Taysom Hill: 1.96
Preston Hadley: 1.99
Mike Edmunds: 2.00

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