The news hit on Saturday that top linebacker recruit Vince Biegel committed to his hometown favorite Wisconsin. It was a tough pill to swallow for BYU fans as Biegel was considered by Cougar coaches to not only be the top linebacker prospect on their board, but their top overall defensive prospect.

Biegel is the son of former Cougar linebacker Rocky Biegel, which led to a lot of mutual interest, but in the end, BYU proved to be his second choice. It was a close call as he consistently mentioned BYU as being in his top two choices, along with Wisconsin.

Despite the loss of Biegel, 2012 could still see a lot of top linebacker prospects signing with BYU. It’s imperative for BYU to consistently attract top linebacker talent, given the tenants of the 3-4 defense that the Cougars employ as their base formation.

In 2006, Bronco Mendenhall switched to a 3-4 defense from his base 3-3-5 defense in large part due to his existing strength at linebacker that year. The 2006 season included such standout player-makers such as Cameron Jensen, Aaron Wagner, Bryan Kehl, David Nixon and Kelly Poppinga, among other players.

Mendenhall assessed that he should fit his defensive system around the strengths of his existing players. Linebacker was the strength of that defense and has proven to be the strength of most BYU defensive units since that time.

There is very good talent in the program currently at both inside and at outside linebacker, but it’s of the utmost importance to keep that talent flowing in from year to year. So what is on tap for 2012 at the linebacker position?

Prospects

Adam Ah-Ching, 6-1, 215, Greer, S.C.: BYU was on Ah-Ching very early and extended a verbal offer to him when he was only a sophomore. Since that time, he’s attended BYU’s summer camps and kept in close contact with the Cougar coaching staff.

Ah-Ching holds offers from BYU, Utah, Colorado and Georgia Tech currently, which speaks well to his credentials as a top linebacker prospect. BYU is in a very strong position here, considering his ties to BYU’s program already and the fact that they came through with his first offer.

Quote: “I want to go to a place with high morals, that’s the most important thing for me. I want to go to a school with a good atmosphere where I can progress and reach my goals and a school that respects my plans to serve a mission. I’m definitely serving a mission, and the school I sign with will have to respect those plans.”

Jared Afalava, 6-3, 210, South Jordan, Utah: BYU was the first school to offer Afalava a position, and he lists it as one of his favorites along with Utah, which made him an offer soon after BYU did. He recently garnered an offer from Washington and should be receiving even more offers over the summer.

This one looks to be a dead heat early on between the state’s top two programs. Afalava has stated a strong desire to play in the PAC-12 conference but also likes the unique, spiritual environment at BYU.

Quote: “I’m a strong Mormon kid, and my faith is very important to me, so I really like that BYU is a Mormon school with high ideals and a good environment. They also have a good Polynesian community down there like Utah does. I’m very good friends with Manoa (Pikula), Baker (Pritchard), Mo (Moses Kaumatule) and Kesni (Tausinga.) They all are real excited to go to BYU, and they want me to go down there with them, obviously.”

Butch Pau’u, 6-0, 215, Anaheim, Calif.: Pau’u holds offers from BYU, Iowa State and Washington, with many more offers likely on the way. BYU is in a very strong position here, considering the family ties he has with the program.

He’s also very good friends with Ah-Ching, and both of them have talked about how they’d love to play inside linebacker together while at BYU.

Quote: “BYU is my top school. I think they’re the school that I’m leaning toward the most, I would have to say. I have a lot of family up there, and BYU is my church school. I want to go on a mission and all that stuff, and I’ve talked to a couple of the coaches up there.”

Chase Hansen, 6-3, 210, Alpine, Utah: Hansen has the option to play either defense or at quarterback at the collegiate level. He was a standout performer for Lone Peak High School this past year and is easily one of the state’s top 2012 prospects.

So far, both Utah and BYU are competing furiously for his services, making multiple calls and visits to his school. Should he choose to play linebacker in college, he’ll undoubtedly provide some of the best prospects on BYU’s or any other college’s recruiting board. It also doesn’t hurt that his father, Brian, played for BYU back in the early 1980s.

Quote: “I like BYU’s environment. It’s obviously a unique place, but I’m LDS, and I like that unique environment and what it has to offer. We’re obviously a BYU family, so there are a lot of ties with my dad playing there. Right now, I like both BYU and Utah, and I’m considering them both as they’d both be great programs to play for.”

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Troy Hinds, 6-5, 225, Kaysville, Utah: Hinds is the in-state prize for 2012. He’s already received offers from BYU, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State, with many more likely on the way.

While most schools are looking at him as a defensive end, BYU sees him as a perfect fit playing Will linebacker in their 3-4 alignment. His offers obviously speak for themselves as Hinds would be a huge asset for any program.

Quote about a recent BYU visit: “I liked it a lot, actually. I went down with my dad and I really liked it and I really like to watch them play. I’ve already been down there a lot, and I like to go down just to be down there. It’s not really to find out anything about them, because I already know what I need to know. I just like to go down there.”

There are obviously more linebacker recruits that will rise up as top targets for 2012 during summer camps and through other means, but those listed above look to be the top linebacker prospects on BYU’s board for 2012. Given their collective credentials, the picking looks to be very ripe at the linebacker spot despite the loss of Biegel to Wisconsin.