When asked if they would prefer BYU replace Jeff Grimes with an offensive or defensive coach, ESPN 960 listeners were split almost down the middle, with 51% of more than 600 respondents to Ben Criddle’s Twitter poll saying they would prefer an offensive coach.
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) January 4, 2021
One possible option for BYU is linebackers coach/defensive coordinator Kevin Clune. Clune is currently the linebackers coach for the Memphis Tigers, but volunteered for the BYU program during the 2020 season. He also has ties to the state of Utah and with head coach Kalani Sitake, who he replaced as defensive coordinator at Oregon State.
Clune got his first start in college coaching as a graduate assistant for Utah, in 2001-02. He then served as the defensive coordinator for Southern Utah in 2003-04, holding opponents to 22.5 points per game and 296 yards per game in ’04. Clune left SUU for a defensive coordinator position at Weber State, then jumped to Utah State where he coached linebackers from 2009-13.
This was during Gary Andersen’s first stint with the Aggies, which culminated with an 11-win season in 2012 — after which Andersen left for Wisconsin. Clune’s initial time in Logan was highlighted by the development and performance of Bobby Wagner, the 2011 WAC Defensive Player of the Year who was a second-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks. Wagner is still widely considered one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
In 2014, Clune served as defensive coordinator for Hawaii, under head coach Norm Chow. The Rainbow Warriors finished that season at 4-9 and Clune’s defense allowed 26.8 points and 418.2 yards per game.
One guy to keep an eye on through this BYU football hiring process is Coach Kevin Clune.
He’s been a defensive coordinator at Oregon State and Utah State.
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) January 5, 2021
Clune returned to Utah State in 2015, this time as their defensive coordinator. The team finished with a 6-7 record, but were solid defensively, allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game. Although it was just for one year, Clune oversaw Kyler Fackrell’s senior season at Utah State — the linebacker would go on to play for the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants.
Following the 2015 season, Sitake left Oregon State to take the helm at BYU, leaving open the defensive coordinator job with the Beavers. Clune ascended to that role, coaching under Gary Andersen again from 2016-17. Neither year was particularly impressive for the Beavers as they went 4-8 and 1-11, although the defensive numbers were respectable in 2016.
Since then, Clune has been with Memphis, as their senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach. He served as the interim defensive coordinator for the 2019 Cotton Bowl Classic, a 53-39 loss to No. 13 Penn State.
With Clune’s pedigree and connections to the BYU program, he is an attractive candidate for a role with the Cougars, but the question still remains as to what that role would actually be. The promotions of Aaron Roderick to offensive coordinator and Fesi Sitake to passing game coordinator, there is an open position for an assistant on the offensive side of the ball, but BYU’s defensive staff remains largely intact. Ilaisa Tuiaki seems stable as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach and Ed Lamb is currently serving as linebackers coach, as well as assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.
Still, Clune’s specialty with linebacker development could be a perfect fit for BYU’s growing reputation as “Linebacker U,” and he will be a name to watch as the Cougars fill out their 2021 staff.
Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko
Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.