True Freshmen Linebackers Making Big Impact

Who would have thunk it? In BYU's new and complicated defensive system currently ranked in the top 20 nationally, three true freshman linebackers have shown and shone brightly – <b>KC Bills, David Nixon</b> and <b>Matt Ah You</b>.

Defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall has been as good as his word in rewarding players with coveted game reps based on proven effort during practice.

More impressive is the fact this freshmen trio has not only proven themselves in practice, but has also played impressively during games. Against Air Force, Ah You recorded four tackles in a back up role. Last week, Nixon started and played splendidly in place of injured Levi Madarieta with three tackles for losses and KC Bills registered the only Cougar safety of the season against USC.

BYU head coach Gary Crowton commented on his freshmen linebacking corps. "The way Bronco (Mendenhall) runs his system can be very beneficial for the younger players as he rewards effort. A lot of some players have proven that effort in practice and they're being rewarded for it during games with playing time."

Bills noted that "Coach Mendenhall thought I played real well in spring practice, so I knew I'd get some playing time come fall. It's exciting to play and to be able to prove myself on the field as you never really know how much you'll be able to contribute after serving a (LDS) mission.

"I don't think that I've fully recovered from my mission yet. I still have a lot of things I can work on and I can get a lot better," Bills said.

Chief among the areas of his planned improvement is size and strength. "I need to get bigger and stronger while maintaining or even increasing my speed. I'm only about 210 (pounds) right now. I need to be 225-230 to be an effective, every-down middle linebacker. That's the biggest thing I want to improve upon."

Coach Crowton said he has been happy with Bills' contributions thus far. "KC is a guy that is very intense and very athletic. He's also very versatile. He can play either outside or inside backer and that's nice to have."

A player that Cougar fans should enjoy now before he leaves on an LDS mission early next year is Nixon.

Despite his growing utilization and meaningful contributions as a true freshman, Nixon reaffirmed his mission plan and schedule has not changed. "A mission is something that needs to be separated from football. It wouldn't matter if I was playing every down as a freshman, I'd still serve a mission. It's a goal I've always had and I will put in my papers this coming January."

Crowton's praise for Nixon was effusive after his standout performance last Saturday against San Diego State. "I thought he did a tremendous job filling in for Levi last week. It didn't really surprise us that he's played that well since we've seen that level of play from him in other games where he's had a chance to play."

Nixon came to BYU with lofty expectations as a first-team All-State Texas prep player in that state's highest division.

"I like playing a little more now in college since they're not running away from me as much, so I can get involved in more plays. It seemed as if I was chasing everyone in high school all the time, which helped my backside pursuit, but it's a lot better when they're running it right at you. Hopefully I'm doing a good job at filling in when Bronco needs me to."

Crowton added: "David Nixon is very fast and aggressive. He's a real good blitzer. He can get down the field and move from side to side very fast, which is something we like."

Nixon, for his part, raved about Mendenhall's unique defensive scheme. "I love it. I mean it's awesome. It's not a whole lot different for me since I blitzed a lot in high school, but I love how creative Bronco is with his schemes. During the first half against San Diego State, we were blitzing a certain way and not getting through as effectively as we'd like, so he made adjustments to focus on blitzing up the middle more and disguising the blitzes better and it worked. It's great to have a coach that can recognize what defensive adjustments need to be made and makes those adjustments work during the game."

Last but not least, Matt Ah You was not expected to make as much of a contribution on the field this soon after fall camp. Crowton said he was impressive on scout team duties and promoted himself to coverage teams and back-up linebacker duty.

"Matt Ah You just did an outstanding job on scout teams and we like to reward that. Since then, he's been promoted to back-up and kick coverage duty and he's playing a lot and playing well. We're very happy with the progress Matt has made."

Crowton noted two other former scout team players who have graduate beyond scout team duties on defense are Kellen Fowler and J.D. Haymore. Haymore is a 6-2, 205-pound sophomore from Arizona who walked on after an LDS mission.

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