PROVO Since the 2003 season, Bronco Mendenhall has served as BYU's defensive coordinator. On Thursday, the Cougar head coach announced he is relinquishing that title and handing it to secondary coach Jaime Hill.
Yet, both Mendenhall and Hill acknowledged that not much will change as Mendenhall will continue to call the defensive plays on game day. "At some point, I won't be involved at all," Mendenhall said. "But I'm not ready yet to take that step."
Hill, meanwhile, will continue to oversee the defensive backs in addition to his expanded role. "It will be very similar to what we've done in the past," Hill said. "We've collaborated for the last two years on what we do defensively, so nothing will really change in that regard."
On game day, while Mendenhall is calling the defensive plays, Hill will maintain the responsibilities he's had since he arrived in Provo two seasons ago.
"I'll be looking at the whole defense as I've done the last two years," said Hill, who is the first black coordinator in the program's history. "I'll do all the game time adjustments and all the different schemes we do within the game. I do all the adjustments anyway. Nothing's really changing. It's really pretty much the same."
Hill was hired at BYU before the 2006 season, when Mendenhall installed a 3-4 defense, switching from a 3-3-5 scheme. Hill played an integral role in that transition.
In recent days, Hill has been approached by other schools to fill job openings, but ultimately he decided to remain at BYU.
"I had some other opportunities. But this is somewhere I wanted to be," he said. "My family's here. Moving is not fun. I told my wife that I'd stay for a while and that was part of the process. I talked to other places and told them I wasn't ready to do that right now."
Before coming to BYU, Hill spent two seasons as the co-defensive coordinator of the Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League. He also had stints as the defensive coordinator at Humboldt State (2002); defensive coordinator for the XFL's San Francisco Demons (2001); a defensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers (1997-98); defensive coordinator at Portland State (1993-96); and defensive coordinator at the University of Chicago (1992).
Certainly, Hill has put his mark on BYU's defense. In his two seasons as the defensive backs coach, the Cougars are averaging 17 interceptions, 50.5 pass breakups and giving up less than 208 passing yards per game. Meanwhile, the improved secondary coverage has resulted in an average of 28 sacks per season the past two years.
BYU finished the 2007 campaign ranked No. 10 nationally in total defense and No. 9 in rushing defense. The Cougars were No. 32 in passing defense and No. 9 in scoring defense, yielding 18.5 points per contest.
"Coach Hill has made a tremendous impact on our defense in the time he has been here, and this is a way for us to recognize him for his contributions," Mendenhall said. "This promotion gives coach Hill the formal responsibility of handling the day-to-day duties of running the defense, allowing me to focus my attention on other aspects of the program. I have a lot of respect for coach Hill and the work he has done, and I am confident this will give our defense the opportunity to continue to improve."
BYU'S OPENER: BYU is expected to announce today its opponent for the 2008 season-opener.
Mendenhall declined to comment Thursday until the announcement is made. He did say about the season-opening opponent, "I think it's the exact right thing for what we need."
The Cougars were originally scheduled to face Nevada in Provo in the season-opener, but the Wolf Pack backed out of the contract.
ALL-SPORTS RANKING: BYU finished No. 16 in the U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup standings, a national ranking of all the fall sports. California finished No. 1.
The U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup was developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and USA Today. Points are awarded based on each institution's finish in up to 20 sports 10 women's and 10 men's. Complete standings and the scoring structure can be found on NACDA's Web site at www.nacda.com.
PRO PROSPECTS: His BYU eligibility exhausted, linebacker Bryan Kehl will play for the West team in the East-West Shrine game on Jan. 19 in Houston.Kehl is the only Cougar player to receive an invitation to the NFL scouting combine held in Indianapolis on Feb. 20-26.
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