BYU 2012 Preview: Linebackers

The Brigham Young Cougars linebackers will be the backbone of the defense. The starters for this unit are talented and experienced. They are backed up by equally talented players itching for their chance to play.

Senior Brandon Ogletree is back in the middle to start for the third straight year. The McKinney, Texas native missed the game at Texas last year due to a concussion suffered in the season opener at Ole Miss, but he still managed to lead BYU in tackles with 76. He suffered a fractured foot during spring practices, but should be ready to go when camp opens this week.

Senior Uona Kaveinga joins Ogletree in the middle. The transfer from USC quietly made a lot of plays for the Cougars in 2011. He finished fourth on the team with 57 tackles, and first with four forced fumbles. Kaveinga also registered 4.5 tackles for loss, one pass breakup, 2 quarterback hurries, and one fumble recovery.

Both Ogletree and Kaveinga are considered by many to be among the top 20 middle linebackers in the country.

Junior Spencer Hadley was a back up middle linebacker in 2011. In Ogletree’s absence at Texas, Hadley exploded for 12 tackles to lead the team. Although a reserve, Hadley finished the season eighth on the team with 45 tackles. Late in the Idaho game, Hadley ended a scoring threat with an interception near the goal line. Boxed in by the sideline, Hadley used his athleticism to stay in bounds while dodging would-be tacklers on his way to a 48-yard return.

The BYU coaching staff noticed Hadley’s athleticism and play-making ability. In a move to get Hadley on the field more and take full advantage of what he can offer, the coaches moved the Connell, Washington product from back-up middle linebacker to starting outside linebacker.

The final starter will be junior Kyle Van Noy—Mr. Do-it-all. Last year, he was all over the field making plays for BYU. No matter how big the moment, Van Noy found a way to deliver. He was second on the team with 68 tackles, and first in tackles-for-loss (15), sacks (7), interceptions (3), and quarterback hurries (10). He also had three pass breakups, three forced fumbles, one blocked kick, and one fumble recovery. Van Noy turned that fumble recovery into the game-winning touchdown at Ole Miss.

That touchdown against Ole Miss gave the Reno, Nevada native a touchdown for the second consecutive year. He is the only BYU defensive player to score twice. Van Noy has said he wants to score a touchdown every year. Will KVN get TD 3 in 2012?

Van Noy missed spring practices recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. He may be limited in what he does during fall camp, but he is not expected to miss any game time. 

Behind the starting four there is no shortage of quality replacements.

Senior Austen Jorgensen has made 53 tackles over the last two seasons. He can play both inside and outside linebacker.

Sophomore Alani Fua is another athletic outside linebacker who has the coaches excited. He made six tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and two sacks last year. As he gains experience, he needs to add some weight to his 206 pound, 6-foot-5 frame.

Redshirt sophomore Zac Stout will be back in action this year in the middle. He missed the 2011 season due to injury, but as a freshman in 2010, the Moorpark, California kid had 21 tackles, including 2 tackles-for-loss.

Junior Tyler Beck led the team with six tackles against Hawaii in 2011. He is battling for a middle linebacker spot on the two-deep roster.

Redshirt freshman MLB Manoa Pikula got everyone’s attention during the spring, and Oregon State transfer Uani Unga is eligible this year.

Just as is the case on the defensive line, senior Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is, again, a wild card player for the linebackers. Rather than rehash what was explained in the defensive line preview last Friday about what makes Ziggy a wild card, just click here to be redirected. It would be nice to have 6-foot-6 Ansah on the field at Notre Dame to rough up and cover the Fighting Irish’s 6-foot-6 tight end Tyler Eifert.

Other linebackers on the roster are freshman Kevan Bills, sophomore Riley Bushman, sophomore Tanner Cox, freshman Sean Dyhre, senior Connell Hess, freshman Teu Kautai, freshman Lene Lesatele, sophomore Seth Probert, freshman Creed Richardson, and sophomore Matt Shirley.

Three additional linebackers who signed with BYU last February should be in camp: Butch Pau'u, Jherremya Leuta-Douyere, and Rhett Sandlin. 

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. Forget Ansah on Eifert. Have Ziggy rush the QB and have KVN of Fua pick up the ND TE. The are almost as tall and significantly better coverage guys. Ziggys not bad, but pass rushing is a better use of his abilities.


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