Kyle Van Noy is ranked as one of the top linebackers in this year's NFL draft and is projected by some to be selected in the first round. A consistent and talented playmaker, he has been BYU's do-it-all defensive weapon for several years.
Which makes the loss of Van Noy a huge hurdle to leap.
While several players are capable of stepping in at weak-side linebacker, KVN's former position, it's likely that none will be quite as good. That being said, there is definite potential lying in BYU's linebacking corps. Here are a few players that could replace Van Noy.
The logical choice to fill in at weak-side 'backer is Alani Fua. B/R's Brian Pedersen had nothing but praise for the senior-to-be:
BYU won't be able to easily replace Van Noy...but if someone is going to do it from the Cougars' current roster, it will be Alani Fua. [Fua] has good size and performed well opposite Van Noy in 2013. He started nine games and logged 63 tackles, including five for loss and three sacks, while also intercepting two passes.
The biggest problem with Fua is that he is a strong-side linebacker and a nickelback. The transition to the weak side would be possible, but it would force someone else to replace Fua at his natural position.
If Alani Fua needs to stay put at strong-side linebacker, moving backup Jherremya Leuta-Douyere to the far side would make sense. Leuta-Douyere gained decent playing time in 2013 and is expected to be a key player in the '14 defense.
Making the move to Van Noy's former position may benefit Leuta-Douyere as much as it does BYU. He is at his best in pursuit of the quarterback. Coming from the weak side could help display that strength.
Bronco Mendenhall recently announced Bronson Kaufusi's move from defensive end to outside linebacker, per Jeff Call of The Deseret News.
It doesn't seem particularly significant right now, but this change could lead to huge things in the future.
Having a 6'7", 280-pound defender with excellent speed for his size is great. When he is showcased at outside linebacker, look out. Instead of being blocked by offensive tackles, there will be running backs and tight ends trying to stop Kaufusi.
It is unknown how good Kaufusi will be in pass coverage, but he has plenty of time to develop.
Overall, this was a brilliant move by Mendenhall. It will pay dividends this fall.
Despite back-to-back season-ending injuries the past two years, Michael Alisa will be back this fall. However, instead of lining up in the offensive backfield, Alisa will be playing outside linebacker.
This is another big decision from Mendenhall.
Alisa played linebacker during his freshman season at BYU, so he understands the technique and has experience on the defensive side of the ball.
It's unfortunate to see his career at running back end, but I'm sure he'll be just as good on defense.