"I think that's been a plus for us in that a lot of the older guys are helping some of the younger guys to get that mature culture and depth for the future," Kyle Van Noy said. "For where we're at, I think we're progressing really well. For me, I'm never satisfied with where we are at, and I see the potential of us to be really good. And I want us to be really good and won't settle for anything less."
While competitors like Van Noy might not be satisfied with where they're at, the unity, experience, knowledge and chemistry among the defense as a whole are stronger than any tiny flaws. This is an aspect of the game Van Noy understands very well.
"I think everyone feels they always need to work on position mastery and get better individually," Van Noy said. "With that being said, I think the defense is stronger as a whole because we know that each of us understands what to do. We have a lot of experience on the team and that really binds us all together to be a stronger as a whole."
No player is ever going to be perfect 100 percent of the time, and that's something Van Noy understands. Along with experience the and bond between them, the friendship among the players has build a lot of chemistry.
"We have a friendship and a special bond that goes deeper than anything, and because of that we can do things that are different than if we didn't have that connection.
"You take that and put that on the field and we play for each other and have each other to trust and for support. It's that core that we have, with that deep friendship as its core, that we're trying to teach to the younger guys so they know the culture here. It all starts with that and once you have established that bond and build that chemistry, everything else follows. That's the goal to find balance and I think Coach Mendenhall is doing a good job of managing that."
In speaking of balance and Coach Mendenhall, BYU's head coach has walked a fine line this fall camp between team development and protecting his players from injury. The move to trade physical play for greater team health is a risky one, but a risk that Coach Mendenhall – and Kyle Van Noy for that matter – feels will be beneficial in the end.
"It's a good balance," Van Noy said. "Keeping guys injury-free and helping everyone out is better in my mind. Just to stay on top of each other, stay focused and on task from the senior leadership is where I think things will be made up in regards to the physical side of things."
With the defense having so many seniors, and the position-mastery side of their game already well defined, having less full-contact is feasible.
"Where other players are trying to gain what most of the guys on our defense have already gained, we can spend a lot of time doing other things," said senior cornerback Preston Hadley. "Because we know what to do, how to do it, and what it takes to do it, we can now spend more time doing other things such as studying our opponents to get a head start.
"So by the time our coaches come out with their schemes and are coaching us on what to do and what to look for, we already know. We can just jump right into already ahead of the game. That's just one example, and so that's kind of how it is out here on the practice field. When you spend so much time doing things over and over, once you've got it you can put a greater focus in other areas."
Having played on the field together for many years, practiced together for many seasons, and grown together because of it, the players have formed a lot of chemistry. Where most are trying to gain that level of play, this defense has it.
"I think with all of our senior leadership, Coach Mendenhall sees that we have these things already," said Van Noy. "We understand the culture here and what's expected of us, so I think he has the trust in us to know that we can come in and play at a higher level when called to do so."
It does make more sense why some of the younger players received so many reps during the full-padded scrimmage on Thursday. It appears Coach Mendenhall is finding that balance between teaching physical play to his younger players and preserving the health of his older players by trusting that they will be able to turn it on with the flip of a switch.
"Yeah, I think he's being really smart about it and that's how he's finding that balance," Van Noy said. "We taking advantage of where we are in regards to everything we have to allow us to find that balance I think."
When Coach Mendenhall puts all of his defenses pieces together, and the call to play a physical game is the charge, the results should be a healthy team that's hungry to play.
"I think once we get everything in place, it's going to be like the synchronized swimming in the Olympics," said Van Noy with a smile. "It's going to be like that. When you see this defense play, with all the pieces in place, you're going to see something special. We can all look at each other and without saying anything, we know what to do."
It's hard to think Coach Mendenhall can go wrong, knowing he has players like Van Noy on his side.