NCF Nation: Spencer Hadley

Brigham Young season preview

August, 21, 2013
Today we're looking at Brigham Young, which is ready to put its elite defense to the test against tough FBS Independent schedule.

Brigham Young Cougars

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (74-29, 8 seasons; 74-29, 8 seasons at BYU)

[+] EnlargeBYU's Kyle Van Noy
Douglas C. Pizac/USA TODAY SportsKyle Van Noy had 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and two interceptions last season.
2012 record: 8-5

Key losses: DE Ezekiel Ansah, QB Riley Nelson, LB Brandon Ogletree, OL Braden Hansen, DT Romney Fuga, LB Uona Kaveinga

Key returnees: LB Kyle Van Noy, WR Cody Hoffman, S Daniel Sorensen, RB Jamaal Williams, LB Spencer Hadley, TE Kaneakua Friel, OT Ryker Mathews, WR Ross Apo

Newcomer to watch: Junior college transfer cornerback Robertson Daniel appears to be the favorite to replace Jordan Johnson in the starting lineup. He hasn’t played in quite a while after sitting out the entire 2012 season to work on academics, but he’ll need to contribute.

Biggest games in 2013: Even with some powerhouses on the schedule this season, the Sept. 21 matchup with Utah still has to be priority No. 1, especially after BYU lost a heartbreaker last year with two missed last-second field goals.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The Cougars have questions marks at a few positions, including nose guard, corner and on the offense line. The big-picture question is this: BYU has one of the best defenses in the country, but just how good can its offense be in 2013 after finishing 65th nationally in scoring last year?

Forecast: Make no mistake: Van Noy is as good as advertised and makes this BYU defense a formidable problem for an opponent.

The preseason All-America candidate racked up 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and two interceptions. BYU is replacing its starting defensive line, two linebackers and now both corners after Jordan Johnson (torn ACL) was lost for the season in fall camp. And yet, with Van Noy leading the way, this unit can still go down as one of the nation’s best.

It’s the Cougars offense that has to take the next step. New offensive coordinator Robert Anae is pushing a “go fast, go hard” mantra with faster tempo, and he inherits one of the better receivers in the country in Hoffman, who put up 1,248 receiving yards last season. Taysom Hill will be trusted to run the faster scheme and has recovered from a knee injury that cost him the final seven games of 2012.

BYU is in for another challenging schedule in its third year as an FBS Independent, with trips to Virginia, Wisconsin and Notre Dame and home games against Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State on the slate. That could prove brutal if Hill and the Cougar offense don’t rise to the occasion, but a defense this good can go a long way.

Notre Dame weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 22, 2012
One last look back at the weekend that was for Notre Dame.

The good: Notre Dame is 7-0 for the first time since 2002. It rushed for 270 yards against what was the nation's No. 3 rushing defense, as BYU entered allowing just 67.9 rushing yards per game.

The bad: No one would flat out say it was a "trap," but the Irish certainly lacked the punch they had a week earlier against a ranked Stanford team. Look at NBC Sports' Alex Flanagan's description for further evidence. Notre Dame had just enough in the end, feeling more relief than elation after its seventh straight win to start the season.

The ugly: Troy Niklas is lucky he wasn't ejected after a post-whistle blow to the head of Spencer Hadley. Matthias Farley had a late hit that he certainly would like to have back. Kyle Brindza's two missed field goals almost proved costly, too.

Nice to see you again: Andrew Hendrix entered in the second quarter Saturday, rushing for 14 yards on his first play and hitting Niklas for 2 on his next play before leaving for good. The appearance marked the redshirt sophomore's first action since garbage time in the opener against Navy. "If we were throwing the ball around more and spreading it out and now you have a quarterback that could run the football, maybe he would have seen some more time," Brian Kelly said afterward. "But the way the game played just didn't play into him getting any more reps."

Next up: The undefeated Irish travel to No. 8 Oklahoma to take on the one-loss Sooners. "College GameDay" will be on the scene, and the game will kick off at 8 p.m. ET. The setting will prove the ultimate test for a Notre Dame squad with national title aspirations.

Irish look to avoid 'trap' vs. BYU

October, 17, 2012
The "GameDay" trucks and the chance to finally knock off a rival are gone, and so Brian Kelly now faces the opposite problem of last week's: With far less "noise," as he called it, the third-year Notre Dame coach must have his team as focused for BYU this week as it was for Stanford last week and surely will be for Oklahoma next week.

BYU's defensive humbling against what is now a top-10 team has the Cougars eyeing an upset this weekend, with the Irish stuck in the middle of what amounts to a classic "trap" game.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
AP Photo/Al Goldis"I think it's a trap game each week if you think that you can take a breather," Brian Kelly said.
"It's college football each and every week," Kelly said. "Look to the North Carolina State/Florida State game; go to West Virginia vs. Texas Tech. Why does that happen? Well, you forget how you got here. They are trap games if you forget how to go to work and do those things. We've already talked about it with our team, and we'll make sure that we do everything to prepare the right way."

Fall break doesn't make matters easier, either, as the football players are among the few remaining students on campus for a week that will leave them with plenty of free time outside of practice.

Kelly won't change the routine.

"I think it's a trap game each week if you think that you can take a breather," he said. "If you think you can go: 'Ah, I can take a breather now, it's midsemester break.'

"We are screwing things down tighter. If that locker room is a mess, there's going to be a long practice today and they know that. If the game room looks like a pigsty, it's going to be a long practice today.

"My point is this: I think they are all trap games, every single one of them, if you take a breather. But if you just stay on the course, continue to do what you're doing, we'll be fine."

One big similarity to last week is the defense they will be facing. Like the Cardinal, the Cougars strung together a masterful early-season performance, surrendering less than 9 points per game, before unraveling in a 42-24 loss to Oregon State.

"In reviewing the film, it was all about our execution, our precision, our concentration," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "The plays were defendable. They executed their plays at a higher level, but we were not sharp in the secondary. Concentration. Precision. And, really, execution. There was maybe a little overconfidence, defensively, from all the accolades. I think there was a little edge that was missing."

Its pride wounded, the nation's No. 7 scoring defense is optimistic about a rebound in a venue unlike any it has seen.

"It’s cool. I don’t really get sucked into the hype of it all," linebacker Spencer Hadley said. "It’ll be fun to go to South Bend and play there. Fans get to approach it that way but as players we don’t really get to look at it like that.

"It’s a business trip. It’s not like we’re going to Disneyland. We’re going to play a football game and we’re preparing as such. As far as it being historic, I don’t get into it so much."