Rather than running over or past people, Francis Bernard will now be asked to stop those looking to do so. Switched to the defensive side of the ball, Bernard is BYU’s newest linebacker and the transition has been a learning process.
“The transition was a little difficult for me at first just trying to get my footwork down and put myself into a position to make a play,” said Bernard. “I worked on that a lot before we got into spring ball, so now that I’m in spring camp the transition has been a lot better for me. I still feel a little sloppy here and there with it being a new position, but as far as the transition and move to linebacker it’s been great. I love it.”
As a ball carrier he went head-to-head against linebackers with a mentality that he would beat down any who opposed him. Bernard now brings that same mentality to defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defense.
“When I was a tailback I tried to be that bruising and punishing runner with the ball,” said Bernard. “When you play linebacker you have to have that same mentality. The difference is now you have to be able to move side to side more with covering tight ends and receivers. It’s been fun.”
Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki are evaluating the personnel on their roster and making changes they see fit for a defensive scheme they feel best fits their coaching style. The position Bernard will play is now called the ‘Bo’ linebacker position.
“The position is similar to a “Buck” in a 3-4 but we call it the ‘Bo,’” said Bernard. “It’s basically the weak side linebacker. I do most of the covering from the linebacker position in our defense.”
The ‘Bo’ linebacker is the weak side linebacker in a 4-3 defensive scheme instead of the 3-4 defense employed under former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Former 3-4 Will linebackers Sae Tautu and Sione Takitaki have been moved up to play rush defensive ends in the new 4-3 scheme.
“We run a 4-3 defense now,” said Bernard. “We’ve moved Sae Tautu and Sione Takitaki to defensive end, which will be more of an athletic end that will be able to get to that quarterback. So, they’ll play more of a pass rushing D-end, which is kind of what they did before in the 3-4 but as linebackers.”
Aside from learning new techniques in a new scheme, Bernard has immersed himself in learning new terminology, which when all put together can cause a bit of confusion from time to time.
“I think with learning any new offense or defense it becomes a little tough,” said Bernard. “You have to learn a whole new terminology and scheme and how it all fits together and who’s doing what and all that. It hasn’t been too difficult, but it has been difficult to where I’ll get stuck sometimes and think, ‘Oh shoot! I don’t know what to do.’ It’s a learning process.”
However, it is a learning process that Bernard welcomes. He has his sights set on loftier goals and feels the move to defense will aid in that effort.
“I think as far as the next level goes, I think scouts saw me as a fullback,” said Bernard. “I’m a big impact kind of guy and want to make a big impact for the team, so I thought that the move to linebacker, where I did play more defense in high school, would help me in that. I think I might be better marketed as a defensive player.”
As spring ball gets under way, Bernard has an arduous road to travel before his new ‘Bo’ linebacker position becomes as natural to him as playing tailback. His goal over spring is to continue taking positive steps down that road till he reaches his destination.
“Consistently get better,” said Bernard. “I just want to continue moving forward and not take any steps back. I want to take more steps forward and that means being more consistent and building upon what I learn every day. That’s what I want to get out of spring ball and what I’m striving to do.”