When Texas takes the field in Provo, they are going to have to try to slow down one of the most dangerous defensive players in college football: Kyle Van Noy.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior linebacker has been compared to Brian Urlacher by head coach Bronco Mendenhall — Urlacher’s defensive coordinator at New Mexico.
Yet he was a relatively low-key player who only scouts and BYU fans took notice of until the Poinsettia Bowl, where his stock skyrocketed.
He outscored both the BYU and San Diego State offenses, returning a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. This performance led many to believe he’d join teammate Ezekial Ansah in the NFL draft, where he was told by scouts he’d be a first- or second-rounder.
Van Noy could have gone pro like Ansah, who went No. 5 overall in this year’s NFL Draft But he didn’t. Despite risks that include injury and his draft stock slipping, he stuck with the team that stuck with him.
He got a DUI in high school, a speed bump for most schools but a deal-breaker for BYU. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall asked he wait a year and then come back while he made amends.
Several schools told Van Noy he could play for them without sitting out a year but he stuck with his commitment to the Cougars.
After sitting out that year, Van Noy thrived. He became the leader of the third-ranked defense in college football this past year and has a bright future ahead of him — one with preseason All-American honors and first-round projections.
And now that he has his future back on track, he isn’t letting it get to his head.
“All the hype he’s had this year?” Corey Shelly, a friend, told the Deseret News. “He’s still grounded, he doesn’t buy into it. He has kept himself a humble person.”
So instead of taking down the Joe Flacco’s and Adrian Peterson’s of the world on Sundays, he will be going after David Ash this Saturday.
And that means Texas is going to have to know where he is at all times.
“Kyle Van Noy is an All-American,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said. “He’s one of those dominant players when you go into the ballgame you better find him.”
Questionable quarterback play
The season couldn’t have started off any worse for sophomore quarterback
His numbers: 13-for-40, 175 yards in an 19-16 loss to Virginia. Yet Hill is still under center for BYU, whose head coach defended him.
“Well, as the game got towards the end, there was a third-and-11 or third-and-12 where he’s taking shots trying to get the first downs, and it’s hard to say don’t do that,” Bronco Mendenhall said. “Everything around him needs to improve so that doesn’t happen, where he doesn’t have that burden.”
And that improvement needs to come from his wide receivers — who had some costly drops.
“We had too many drops that were game changers,” Mendenhall said.
If they get the same kind of production in the passing game Saturday, they may need another Van Noy-manufactured Poinsettia miracle.
So while their defense is one of the best in the nation, their offense is not. The nation’s third-best defense last year was complemented by the 64th-ranked offense.
“We have to nail down our execution,” wide receiver JD Falslev said. “We have to nail down our assignments, and we have to continue to play fast but at the same time we have to play hard.”