Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

BYU football: Who will be tougher to replace, LB Kyle Van Noy or WR Cody Hoffman?

By Brandon Judd, Deseret News

Published: Sat, March 29 9:00 p.m. MDT

 Brigham Young Cougars receiver Michael Davis is tackles by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Manoa Pikula (22) during the BYU Blue and White game in Provo Saturday, March 29, 2014.

Brigham Young Cougars receiver Michael Davis is tackles by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Manoa Pikula (22) during the BYU Blue and White game in Provo Saturday, March 29, 2014.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Tasked with replacing a pair of dynamic, record-setting Cougars in Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman, the BYU football program has brought in several athletes and moved others around.

Of these two former Cougars, who now have their sights set on the NFL draft and a professional career, which former BYU player's production will be tougher to replace this season?

Through the early part of the offseason and three weeks into spring camp, the early indication appears it would be easier to replace Van Noy, who played his way into the discussion as one of the best BYU defenders of all time by being a ball-hawking defender with a penchant for big plays.

This offseason, the Cougars moved a pair of veteran players to fill in Van Noy's position at outside linebacker and line up opposite returning starter Alani Fua. Junior Bronson Kaufusi transitioned from defensive end and senior Michael Alisa switched sides of the ball, returning to linebacker where he played in high school and as a BYU freshman after spending the past three years at running back.

That, combined with Manoa Pikula and Zac Stout emerging as the leading candidates to start at the inside linebacker positions, and it appears BYU will be able to successfully plug the holes that Van Noy will leave. While it will be difficult to replace Van Noy's ability to harass opposing quarterbacks and create game-changing turnovers, these returning players have enough of a track record that there is confidence that the middle of the BYU defense will again be a strong point.

On offense, the Cougars brought in several newcomers to try and fill the void of Hoffman, who broke several BYU career records, including receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, 100-yard receiving games and all-purpose yards. The biggest question is how effectively a new set of receivers, including UTEP transfer Jordan Leslie and junior college receivers Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon, could pick up on the Cougars' "go fast, go hard" offense.

During Saturday's spring scrimmage, though, the wide receiving crew showed that, collectively, it could have the tools to replace the versatile Hoffman. While Kurtz is the only newcomer on the Provo campus (Blackmon and Leslie will be around for fall camp) other players with more than a year in the Cougar system (Kurt Henderson, Michael Davis and Terenn Houk) stepped up and made plays in the 102-play scrimmage.

Yes, it's just a spring scrimmage — where results are difficult to gauge — but five receivers had 40-plus yards receiving to help starting quarterback Taysom Hill throw for 307 yards and three touchdowns. There was an apparent chemistry between the receivers and the passer that wasn't always there last season when the Cougars struggled to finish drives.

A 53-yard pass from Hill to the speedy sophomore Davis, who spent last year as a cornerback to fill in gaps on the defensive end caused by injury, was among the highlights from Saturday's scrimmage. Also, Houk made a handful of nice grabs and Henderson appeared ready to increase his involvement in the BYU offense.

Kurtz, the lone newcomer currently practicing with the Cougars' receiving arsenal, showed an ability to get himself open and make solid plays on the ball. At 6 feet 6, he is a strong candidate to replace the over-the-top production the 6-4 Hoffman provided BYU since 2010.

While Blackmon and Leslie have yet to arrive on campus, there is optimism that the group of receivers BYU will have in 2014 will help the Cougars improve upon their No. 71 passing offense numbers from last season.

The Cougars' linebacking corps has more in-program game experience, giving it the inside track to better handle losing a certified star player.

But if the BYU wide receivers can mesh and create a cohesive unit there is a possibility that they can collectively overcome the loss of the Cougars' all-time leading wide receiver, make the offense more effective and better transition from the loss of a program record-setter.

Email: bjudd@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd

BYUSN spring football Taysom Hill

BYUSN spring football Bronco Mendenhall

BYUSN spring football Zac Stout

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1. rhappahannock
Washington, DC,
March 29, 2014

Hoffman made tough catches, and he did it consistently. I really wished they tracked the number of 1st downs a player makes, as Hoffman had a bunch and it is a useful statistic. The new receivers have some wheels, but can they make the tough catch consistently?

I think what Van Noy did better than any other college defender I've seen is score game-winning TD's. That's technically not the main point of the defense, but it really contributes to victories. There are plenty of defenders that can clog the middle, slow down the offense, and get the occasional turnover. However, how many defenders have scored 3 defensive TD's in the 4th quarter, let alone doing it in a single season? That is a feat I don't think I will ever see repeated at the college level.

Props to both Hoff and Van Noy. Fortunately, I think the receiver core is a little deeper this year, after being very thin last year. Defense will have defenders at LB, but don't expect points from the D.

2. Chris B
Salt Lake City, UT,
March 29, 2014

With as weak of a schedule, byu shouldn't worry too much about replacing them.

3 power conference teams on the whole schedule?

Hoffman and van noy are good players

But most power conference teams second string players would do well with byu's schedule.

And 2 of the power conference teams are dead last in their conferences.

3. poyman
Lincoln City, OR,
March 30, 2014

Actually chrisb I think the Cougs schedule is tougher than you think... We won't have Idaho State or Utah on it this year.

You claim that the Cougs only play 3 power conference opponents this year and therefore the schedule is easier... Those teams are Virginia, California and Texas (only Virginia at home)... But, they also play UConn, Houston, and UCF who were all AQ teams last year... Only one of those 3 teams didn't qualify for a Bowl game (like the utes) and that was UConn... The other two played in significant Bowl games... Houston lost to Vanderbilt (who had a good team last year) and UCF finished in the top 10 I believe and beat a power house Baylor team in the Fiesta Bowl...

2 other noteworthy opponents are Utah State with Chuckie Keeton back at QB (which would be more than the utes would be able to handle) and Boise State who have never lost to the utes... So that sounds like 8 pretty solid games to me...

The Cougs will be better this year and I fully expect them to have an outstanding W-L record which should land them in a pretty good Bowl... But we'll see...

4. Tom in Tooele
Franklin, IN,
March 30, 2014

I don't think either will be missed. BYU has way too much talent every year! Plus our legendary coach could take 22 Beehives to the Poinsettia Bowl standing on one foot with his eyes closed. He is that good!

5. eastcoastcoug
Danbury, CT,
March 30, 2014

Thanks to Chris B for the careful analysis and breakdown of BYU's players and strength of schedule. I barely have a few minutes to write a few comments once in a while and this fan of our rival is so generous with his time. Sounds like he knows a lot about power conferences, too.