BY BRANDON GURNEY
PROVO — Just about everything is new on the defensive side of the ball for BYU football, which lends a lot of intrigue to this year’s spring practice session.
First-year Defensive Coordinator addressed the media following Monday’s practice session, providing indication of the challenges ahead, which players are making initial impressions and ultimately what he’s working to accomplish.
“It’s been phenomenal so far,” Hill said. “That was part of the reason I was so intrigued by the job — coming back to work with Kalani (Sitake), (Aaron Roderick) and some of the other guys, and then the ability to build the staff like we did with coach (Sione) Pouha and coach (Justin) Ena, coach (Kelly) Poppinga and then Jenaro Gilford — I really love the defensive staff and I’ve been honest and open about that. It’s a great staff and I feel we have the opportunity to be really good here.”
Spring is about identifying talent and putting forth a solid plan moving forward to the fall practice session, among several other initiatives.
“Right now we’ve got to solidify a depth chart. That’s going to be critical,” Hill said. “And then, obviously, the players learning the new scheme is going to be critical. We’ve got to have mastery by the time that spring is over.”
Hill has been generally impress
“I like the buy-in right now,” Hill said. “I think they’ve bought into us as a new staff and the way we’re coaching. There’s some changes we’re doing in the weight room (that) they’re buying into as well. The cream is going to rise to the top as we go through spring.”
One player who certainly has bought into the new defense is defensive end Tyler Batty. The 6-foot-5, 273 pound Payson product was a featured player last season and hopes to enhance his ability playing off the defensive edge in Hill’s new defensive system.
“They bring a lot of energy and a lot of excitement to practice,” Batty said of the new defensive coaching staff. “I’m just excited for the opportunities it’s going to bring for me on the edge. It’s a bit of a different philosophy…We’re going to get after it.”
So what type of coach is Hill?
“I’m passionate about football and I want things done the right way,” Hill informed. “Discipline and detail I think are big, and I’m also not afraid to get excited and geeked up and chest-bump a player. But I’ll also be the first one to get in their butt a little bit and rip them when I need to. And they know that.”
Of all the defensive position groups, linebacker is perhaps the group featuring the least amount of returning experience considering the absence of both Max Tooley and Ben Bywater, due to injury. When asked which linebackers have stood out to him thus far, Hill mentioned Isaiah Glasker, along with two players holding a very familiar last name.
“Two that have stood out right now are Ace Kaufusi and Maika Kaufusi,” Hills said. “Those guys look really good right now, but it’s probably unfair to single out too many of them…It’s going to be a major competition.”
Glasker is a 6-foot-5, 220 pound athlete from Bingham High School while Ace (6-3, 205) is from Kahuku, Hawaii and Maika (6-4, 210) prepped at Alta High School in Sandy, Utah. All three players are freshmen.
STRENGTH AT DEFENSIVE BACK
While most defensive positions appear to feature varying personnel with the 1s this spring, defensive back likely won’t follow suit with a group of four frontline players bringing a lot of experience and upside.
During the first day of spring practices saw sophomore Micah Harper (5-10, 192) and senior Malik Moore (6-1, 195) manning the safety spots with junior Jakob Robinson (5-11, 170) and Weber State transfer Eddie Heckard (5-10, 190) playing at corner.
As for Heckard, he comes to BYU with a wealth of experience and a lot of familiarity with Hill, who coached him at Weber State.
“I have a couple of plays on the top of my head that he looked outstanding on,” Hill said of what he said from Heckard during his first practice session. “Eddie Heckard is going to be a good player in this defense. The (players) that have been around him know it. He’s tough and he’s played a lot of football.”
Hill plans to feature varying formations in his defensive backfield throughout his tenure as BYU’s Defensive Coordinator.
“I think a lot of it depends on what the offenses are doing,” Hill said of when he’ll vary defensive formations. “If they’re going to spread us out…then we’ll probably have five (defensive backs) in the game. But if they’re going to play with two tight ends or a tight end and a fullback, then you’re almost always going to see three linebackers.”
PROVO IS THE PLACE
Hill comes to BYU after logging 12 years as an assistant coach at Utah and then eight years as the head coach at Weber State. As for BYU, Hill believes the potential is big and is excited to be a part of realizing the program’s upside.
“I’ve really grown to love this place in a short amount of time,” Hill said. “The more I see what BYU can offer, the more I get excited about what the future can hold.”
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