BYU Cougars Rely on a Pair of Reserve Linebackers
It has been a dark few weeks in Provo, culminating this past weekend in an embarrassing loss to a 1-3 Utah State team, injuries to two more key players on defense, and the firing of defensive coordinator Jamie Hill.
Lost among the despair and gloom in Cougar Town this week is the faint glimmer of the performance of a pair of reserve linebackers who entered the game in Logan and proved to be productive.
Kyle Van Noy and Jadon Wagner have rarely seen the field during their respective careers.
Van Noy is a highly-touted freshman, while Wagner came to BYU as a walk on and is known more for his MMA fighting skills than his prowess on the college gridiron.
Wagner and Van Noy were scheduled to rotate during the game at weakside linebacker in the place of injured starter Jamison Frazier.
However, after strongside linebacker Jordan Pendleton went down with a knee injury in the second half, they found themselves on the field at the same time.
Both of them also had there names called often over the public address system at Romney Stadium as well as by ESPN announcers Joe Tressatore and Rod Gilmore.
On a night that the BYU defense gave up over 400 yards and 31 points to Utah State, while losing Pendleton and Andrew Rich to injuries, Wagner and Van Noy were bright spots for the Cougars.
The tandem combined for 17 total tackles. Wagner had 10 tackles, six of those were solo take downs, while Van Noy recorded seven tackles including four solos.
With Pendleton out for the next two to six weeks and Frazier sidelined for another two to three weeks with a broken thumb, Bronco Mendenhall will need both reserves to continue to step up in the coming weeks as the Cougars look to salvage the season. In an attempt to get bodies on the outside the Cougars have also moved Aveni Leung-Wai from inside to outside linebacker.
While Mendenhall would certainly prefer to be working with his starting outside linebackers as he takes over the duties of defensive coordinator, Van Noy and Wagner do bring some attributes to the table.
Kyle will bring his speed and athleticism to a defense that is expected to raise its level of intensity several notches under Bronco. Meanwhile the unit would greatly benefit from Wagner continuing to show a nose for the football.
They are just two pieces of another defensive shuffling of the chairs this week as the Cougars prepare for a San Diego Aztec offense that will come into LaVell Edwards Stadium averaging 38 points per game.
No word yet on whether safety Andrew Rich will be able to play in Saturday’s game with the Aztecs. On Monday he was listed as “possible” by Mendenhall. He left the Utah State game in the third quarter and never returned. He was diagnosed with an upper arm/shoulder contusion.
If both Rich and Steven Thomas (concussion) are unable to go this week, the Cougars could look to cornerback Brandon Bradley to fill in at one of the safety spots.
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