BYU football: Junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy is on the fast track toward greatness
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
PROVO — As good as junior outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been the past two seasons at BYU, he is constantly looking for ways to get better.
Despite undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Van Noy has worked tirelessly to elevate his game.
What is he looking to improve on this season?
"When you go back and look at the film, you can always find something you can do better," said Van Noy. "It's playing harder every play and making less mistakes and making more plays. I hold myself to a high standard and a lot of people hold me to a high standard. When I put that pressure on me, it gives me a boost to keep working harder than someone else would."
Last season, Van Noy was No. 1 on the team in unassisted tackles (50), tackles-for-loss (15, for minus-93 yards), sacks (7), interceptions (3), quarterback hurries (10) and blocked kicks (1). He was No. 2 in total tackles (68) and forced fumbles (3).
While Van Noy's value to the BYU defense is difficult to overstate, BYU's outside linebackers coach, Kelly Poppinga, said there's plenty of room for improvement.
"There's a ton of stuff he needs to work on. He needs to master his pass rush — that's one thing I can tell that he's made improvements since last year. Certain moves that he had from last year, he's made better. And he's kind of perfected two new moves that he hasn't even shown yet, which will be fun to see once we get into game situations. So he has about four moves that will be fun to watch. They'll keep (offensive) tackles on their heels and hopefully will give him more sacks than he had last year."
If Van Noy turns in another outstanding season, he could opt to leave BYU and declare for the National Football League draft next spring. But right now, the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder from Reno, Nev., is focused on the task at hand.
"The NFL pops up in my mind every once in a while when the question is asked," Van Noy said. "At the end of the day, I'm still in college, hanging out with my friends. I enjoy college football and I'm focused on winning here."
There's no doubt in Poppinga's mind that Van Noy will be playing in the NFL someday.
"He will play in the NFL for a really long time," said Poppinga, a former Cougar linebacker who spent one season in the NFL. "That's my evaluation."
BYU has not had a player drafted since 2010. What makes Van Noy an NFL-caliber linebacker?
"His size, his speed, his strength, his instincts, his love of the game, his passion for the game, all those things," Poppinga said. "Man, I've been here a long time and I haven't seen a player, honestly, with all of that to the level that he's at, which is very impressive because there have been some really good players that have come around here. That guy has a deep love for the game. He's very talented, he's very physical. Add it all up and it equals NFL."
Van Noy, who has been limited in his practice time so far, said his shoulder "is getting better every day. I'm getting more reps every day. It's all about staying healthy, progressing, and listening to the doctors."
And he's eager to play football again.
"I haven't put on pads since the Tulsa game (in the Armed Forces Bowl last December)," he said. "You can only imagine."
Poppinga is confident that Van Noy will be ready for the season-opener against Washington State on Aug. 30.
"He's looked good in team reps," Poppinga said. "We're just going to be really cautious. We know he can play. We know he's in good shape. He passed the conditioning test with flying colors. I have zero concern about that. He'll be 100 percent by the time we play Washington State. We're just going to limit him for about two weeks, then he'll be good to go."
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