“I felt it was like fall camp my first time coming in from junior college the past two days," said senior cornerback Brian Logan about Coach Mendenhall taking over the defense. “He’s working us, that’s for sure. It seriously feels like we’re starting fall practices over again and that’s a good thing since we all need a fresh start.”
“I’ve never been worked this hard ever," added true freshman linebacker Kyle Van Noy. “It’s a good thing though. You don’t like it probably when it’s going on, but after you know you need it. We need more intensity, more fire on defense and I think that’s going to be the biggest thing you’ll see from this.”
The news of Hill being fired came as a big shock to most players. Logan had grown very close to him through his time at BYU, and the news wasn’t easy to swallow.
“I got the call Saturday morning and I was completely shocked," he recalled. “I talked to Coach Mendenhall first and then shortly after that Coach Hill called me and just wished me the best. Coach Hill told me that I could contact him anytime if I needed help, but he really wants me to finish strong here, which I’m determined to do.”
Logan is like most fans in that he still doesn’t know to this point why the move was made. He said that anger wasn’t his chief emotion, but rather confusion and shock, which were eased a bit after more conversations with Mendenhall.
“I trust Coach Mendenhall 150 percent, and that’s really it," he said. “Obviously he was seeing something we weren’t and if he was seeing something, then I have all the confidence in the world that he did the right thing. It’s hard not knowing exactly why, but I do believe Coach Mendenhall when he tells me that it was for the best.”
Logan was a key person to convince that the move was a correct one, as he’s taken upon himself the leadership mantle among the other defensive backs on the team. As one could well imagine, he was fielding a lot of calls on the subject over the weekend.
“Oh, I’ve had long, good conversations with guys like DeQuan [Everett], Jordan [Johnson] and especially with Joe [Sampson], who was really concerned about it," he related. “I just told him that Coach Howell knows what he’s doing and that he’ll be in good hands with whoever Bronco chooses because he’s a great coach that you can fully trust.”
Van Noy, meanwhile, has now gone through three different position coaches since he first signed to play for BYU. Coach Lamb gave way to Coach Howell, and now it’s Coach Poppinga who he’s taking orders from. While it’s a little hard to adjust to, Van Noy feels he’s already built some good trust with his new coach.
“I’ve been joking around with the guys that it seems like we get a new coach every week," he said. “But seriously, I love K-Pop [Poppinga]. I know that he was a beast when he played here, and that’s what he’s bringing. There’s no finesse in him and that’s how he coaches, and I think that’s what we need.”
As one could well imagine, Coach Mendenhall has made himself extremely involved with the defense over the past couple of days.
“I love it because he’s the best in my mind," said Van Noy about being coached more intently by Mendenhall. “I love having him involved more. I mean, I loved Coach Howell and Coach Hill for sure, but Coach Mendenhall, there’s just something different about him that I think the defense has already responded well to.”
Mendenhall addressed the team as a whole and asked everyone to raise their hands if they trusted him fully as a coach with the moves he’s made. According to Van Noy, every hand shot up immediately.
“We’re ready to go and we’re going to get this thing right," he said. “He’s all about more effort and that’s what you’re going to see from us. We felt that in the second half against Utah State that we started going a bit more and just playing. I think that will continue and fans will again see what they expect from BYU football.”
Van Noy will be taking a lot of reps at the Sam position due to Jordan Pendleton being injured, and while he’s still trying to take to the opposite Will position, he’s anxious for the challenge.
“Sam is definitely more difficult to play than Will," he explained. “I was just beginning to get the position down and now the switch, but that’s cool. I’ll help out wherever they need me and that’s the same for everyone. This is the time when people need to step up. We need to use the shock we feel and use it to get going. We should be shocked at how we’ve been playing and we’ll use this as motivation to be sure.”
Chambers sort of back
O’Neill Chambers has been practicing this week and looks to play this weekend against San Diego State. He gave an interview with the media and had some very interesting things to say about his suspension.
According to Chambers he was suspended for being “competitive,” without any other reason being given.
“It feels real good, just came out and didn’t lose a step," he said. “I’m on the right track and I’m going to play on Saturday. We’re 1-4 right now.”
It hasn’t been easy for him to watch during the time he’s been out.
“It was tough," he said about watching the team play from the sidelines. “I didn’t see any enthusiasm and I’ve seen a lot of fear out there. I feel that we’re going to come back with some sting and we’re going to go out there and fight.”
Chambers doesn’t feel as if he’s changed due to his suspension.
“I’m coming back the same guy," he said. “There’s no playmakers, so I’m going to step up. I’m going to be the guy who leads the team because there’s no leaders, so I’m going to go out there full speed and hurt somebody.”