“It’s obviously a privilege to play this spot because of the culture and tradition here at BYU,” Heder said. “Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a Cameron Jensen or a Kelly Poppinga-type of a middle linebacker, so to actually be here playing the middle linebacker position makes me truly feel blessed.
“As far as development it’s been wonderful having so many reps over spring camp. I’ve been able to have more reps with the starting 11 and get that chemistry with them and the communication. When the game gets loud you have to be able to trust the guys next to you and make that shift. That’s why it’s so important to play and develop with guys so they know they can trust you when things get tough or loud. By me playing with them they’re learning to trust me that I’ll make the right calls.”
So what makes a good or great Mike linebacker? Well, Heder believes it starts with being able to first recognize the little things and understand how those little things play into an offensive scheme. Then you have to communicate your reads to other players.
“You have to be able to communicate well and have to be able to not focus on one thing,” Heder said. “You have to catch on to every queue and that means you have to put in the extra work beforehand. That’s what I had seen from the guys before me and that’s what I’m trying to do by putting extra time in the film room and understand the defense to make the correct calls.”
In BYU’s 3-4 defense there are two “quarterbacks,” so to speak: the Mike linebacker and KAT safety. The two often work in conjunction one with another to get the players in the right spots based on their reads.
“The secondary is going to be controlled by the KAT and the free and they’re going to make what’s called tags depending on what is the call,” said Heder. “Between the KAT and the Mike, it depends on the leverage or the numbers that we have on each side of the field. The Mike will look at the line, watch for shifts, stunts, slants, or alerts that we’re supposed to pick up and make calls. There’s a lot going on and that’s why I love it. It’s not an easy job but that’s why I love it.”
However, there are times when a Mike linebacker will make the wrong call. That’s when the test of true leadership steps up and takes responsibility.
“You have to be willing to step up and raise your hand and say, ‘That’s on me,’” Heder said. “Hopefully you’ve gotten more right than not and the guys trust you. When you do get it wrong you hope the guys understand and tried to get everything right and still follow and trust the calls you make.
“That’s why it’s so important to have the trust of the players and that comes with playing over time. I like to have guys come with me in the off season to get some work done. I’ll call in some of the DB’s and we’ll meet, or I’ll call the D-linemen and we’ll go over some things. That kind of stuff all winter long develops trust and chemistry. I’ll put in the time and they’re putting in the time and over time that trust develops because they know what to expect from you.”
However, when it comes to help on the inside Heder isn’t alone. He has great chemistry and a bond with Buck linebacker Jherremya Leuta-Douyere who has been having a great spring camp as well.
“I love working with Jherremya.” Heder said. “He’s a quiet guy and doesn’t talk himself up a lot. He just makes plays and goes to work every day. He’s just a good kid and I love working with him. He’s a great friend of mine and I love him. He’s a great player who just works hard and makes plays out there on the field.”
BYU middle linebacker Austin Heder talks about his progression as a middle linebacker. He gives his thoughts on how the middle linebacker position at BYU is coming along and gives an update on the outside linebackers as well. He also gives his thoughts on the defense now that Bronco Mendenhall has taken over the defense once again.
Cougar Cam: Austin Heder